“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela
As teachers, we have the responsibility to not only educate, but inspire our students to make positive change. Since 1976, February has officially been recognized as Black History Month. Schools and communities nationwide pay tribute to the achievements of significant Black figures and recognize their central role in history.
Here at NexGen News, our mission is to cultivate a civically and socially active future generation by creating and sharing resources for educators. Continue reading to discover six ways to celebrate Black History Month with your class and set in motion conversations about Black representation, identity, and diversity. We hope these activities not only allow you and your students to honor and celebrate Black History Month, but to recognize and understand the importance of actively supporting the Black community today.
- Research exceptional leaders and historical events in Black history
Whether your instruction is held in person, online, or hybrid, your students can research and write about exceptional leaders and events in Black history. Check out our Epic! Black History Month Collection here, which includes nonfiction biographies, narrative accounts, and videos for grades 3-8. If you are looking to add to your personal collection, Vashi Harrison’s Leaders and Dreamer series introduces students to powerful Black figures through one-page biographies for every day of the month of February. These one-page resources can be used for:
- read alouds and discussions (K-2)
- independent reading and writing tasks (3-5)
- a starting point for independent research projects (6-8)
- Explore new literature using windows and mirrors
Teach literature with intention and help students build their identity by introducing stories that act as mirrors and windows. A mirror is a story that reflects a students’ own culture and helps them build their identity. A window is a resource that offers students a view into someone else’s experiences.
The 2021 Black History Month theme will be The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. Use books as mirrors in which your students can find themselves, their families, and their communities reflected and valued in the literature discussed. In addition, use books as windows to introduce them to different cultures, religions, and lifestyles. In both cases, provide plenty of time for students to reflect on their prior thinking and new learning. You can build student identity while still meeting the standards year round. Check out the Celebrate Black History Month with 13 Middle Grade Books and The 2018 Ultimate List of Diverse Children’s Books to inspire your next read aloud, novel study, or literature circles.
- Say, Mean, Matter Quote Analysis
Your students can use the Say-Mean-Matter strategy to search for deeper meaning and make meaningful connections to inspirational quotes, lyrics, or stanzas. Use this free anchor chart and template here to define and give an example of this strategy. Students can analyze quotes from different Black figures. Start by trying out these examples:
- Langston Hughes’ Poem – I, Too
- Victoria Monet and Ariana Grande’s Protest Anthem – “Better Days”
- Kamala Harris’ – 2020 Acceptance Speech
- Kobe Bryant’s – Dear Basketball
- Engage with Black community leaders
Invite guest speakers or have students write a letter to community business owners, religious leaders, teachers, or activists to start discussions centered around family, gender, race, impact, and social injustice. This is a perfect opportunity to highlight the often-unacknowledged contributions that people of color make every day. Brainstorm a list of questions with your class or use this list of discussion questions to help guide a Q&A or students’ letters.
- Plan a field trip or explore virtual museum exhibits
The California African American Museum website continually posts articles, videos, images, and art workshops for students to explore in the classroom or at home. Click here to preview their “Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.” exhibit and here for the related art workshop. In this workshop, students explore the profiles of revolutionary activists (Muhammad Ali, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Kendrick Lamar), learn the traits of an activist, and follow the outlined steps to become one themselves. Students then create a self-portrait of themselves standing up for a cause that is important to them using the listed materials and steps.
- Connect issues and events in Black history to current events year round
NexGen News offers a bi-weekly newscast that delivers current events and world news to students through an engaging video format. The video newscast is created for young people, presented by young people to empower students to get informed, get involved, and contribute to society. Each current event includes ready-made lessons and student materials differentiated for grades 3-8. Check out the latest newscast and lesson plans on the NexGen News website:
- “Senator Warnock & Black Representation in Congress”
- “Senator Warnock & Black Representation in Congress”
- “Athletes Use Their Platform for Change”
- “Young Gymnast Raises the Bar”
If you would like to find more educator resources for Black History Month check out The Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Black History Month and Teaching Tolerance.
Written by NexGen News staff member, Brittany Acevedo.