Teachers around the country are thinking of ways to connect black history to their own disciplines. Black History Month often creates a drive – whether enthusiastic or forced – for teachers to relate the history of African Americans to the individual subjects in which they teach.
Some lessons are done authentically and meaningfully and students leave the classroom not only having a better understanding of the plight of African Americans, but of a specific skill in math, science, or reading. However, other cross-curricular black history lessons are planned poorly, perhaps by slapping a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on a math worksheet or coloring a picture of Rosa Parks for art.
Black Americans played a significant role in the making of the United States and the way we teach African-American history should reflect this. Parents can integrate black history into math, science, and language arts. Regardless of whether your child’s teacher teaches black history meaningfully, here are four lessons that will enrich your child’s learning.
Work with your child to create a survey, or a sheet of questions, that relate to the welfare of black Americans. Possible questions could include, How many African-American politicians do you know? Do you think racism still exists? and How many black-owned businesses are in your area? Then have your child distribute the surveys to a group. He could anonymously poll individuals at his school, at his church, or in his neighborhood (before distributing them at school, make sure he has permission from his teacher).
After collecting the completed surveys, he can transfer the information into one or more statistical graphs. Choose from bar graphs, line graphs, pictographs and many other types of graphs that display numerical data in a way that is easy to understand. (For information on various types of statistical graphs and how to create one, see the National Center for Education Statistics website, nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph/.) Finally, arrange the opportunity to reveal his organized data to a captive audience. For example, he can present his data and what he learned from it at your next family meeting.
African-American entertainers, sports figures, and civil rights leaders are often showcased, but how many black scientists does your child know? Doctors Benjamin Carson and Patricia Bath are two black scientists who have made significant achievements in their field, but there are many others. Have your child research notable African Americans from different fields of science, such as biology, chemistry and engineering. Then have her select one of the black scientists in whom she is most interested and create a timeline of his or her life. Completing this activity will not only allow her to see what factors helped these scientists achieve notable success, but she will also discover what he can do to become a scientist as well.
Your children can utilize their reading and thinking skills by analyzing the speeches and lyrics of famous African Americans. Speeches by leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and President Barack Obama utilize figurative language, such as repetition, metaphors, and alliteration. While reading these speeches, have them underline the different types of figurative language used in the speech. Then have them transfer this skill to other forms of black history writings by identifying figurative language in the lyrics of protest songs of the Civil Rights Movement.
As your child learns about black history this month, have him express his feelings and opinions through haikus, which are three-lined, unrhymed poems with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Although haikus are often about nature, elicit your child’s insight about black history by having him write a haiku about African-American historical content. You can learn how to write haikus and read examples of them at the KidZone website, www.kidzone.ws/poetry/haiku.htm.
Use these lessons throughout the year to provide your child with authentic and meaningful learning experiences.
China Hill is a curriculum writer for KIPP Ascend Charter School on the West Side.