I’ll say this louder for those in the back. Black History should be celebrated all year. Things like National Muffin Day should get a small period of time. But something as important as celebrating the bravery and accomplishments of African American men and women should be mainstream, and not taught in schools six or seven months into the year. These Black History Month Activities can be used throughout the school year. Why wait until February? And why limit this to only one month?
How Do You Begin?
I am a 6’ 1” blonde woman with very Dutch heritage. My skin is so pale that I wear sunscreen on my face daily. Even in February. Why does this matter? Because my students need to hear how important this issue is from someone WHO LOOKS LIKE ME.
This is 2021. We’ve had a tough year with racial injustice. It’s a tough time and this is a touchy subject. But I am going to unapologetically state for the record that I am an ally for my students. I taught in a predominantly African American population, and I loved it. My students are my kiddos and will be for the rest of my life.
But it was hard to teach Black History Month activities. How does someone who looks like me, tell these children about horrible things from history caused by someone who looks like me? Or heartbreakingly, how do I explain current events with racial injustice to my students when I am white?
With little kiddos, I think parents should call the shots as far as current events go. My teenagers here at the Hull Household have had discussions with their teachers, but my little first graders aren’t going to be fully aware of what is happening and the impact it has on us. Let’s be honest, that takes off some of the pressure.
But it’s important to teach your younger students about Ruby Bridges, and Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. But where do you start?
“I Believe And Know They Were Wrong”
Like this. “I believe and know they were wrong.” I tell them that I can not imagine telling a little girl like Ruby Bridges that she could not go to school. Or tell a woman where she wasn’t allowed to sit on a bus. I tell them that there were a lot of people that looked like me that marched WITH Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I believe I would have been one of them. I tell them that I will never believe that they can’t do something because of the color of their skin, and my job is to make sure that they believe it too.
Take Your Black History Month Activities Further
A common concern that I’ve heard often is that teachers teach about Martin Luther King Jr. and call it a day. Like we “ticked that box” and we can move on.
I would agree with this statement, but since the amazing life of Martin Luther King Jr. paved the way for civil rights today, it’s a great place to begin. Especially when you’re teaching young students.
So it’s okay to start with Martin Luther King Jr., just don’t end there. Tell your students how Jesse Owens and Wilma Rudolph changed the face of sports. Or how Guion Bluford Jr. was the first African American in space. Play Marion Anderson’s opera songs…
Or my personal favorite: Wear pearls and Chuck Taylors and celebrate Vice-President Kamala Harris!
Black History Month Read Alouds
Here are my favorite books to add to your collection. I’m pretty picky when it comes to my classroom library, but I’ve had these three books for so long they’re held together with a LOT of tape. You can get yourself a copy through Amazon by clicking on the pictures. These are affiliate links, so there is no extra cost to you at checkout time.
Black History Month Activities For Your Literacy Stations
Here are some Black History Month Activities you can do with your students. Which can be used ANY time, not just February!
- Black History Month Fact of the day
- Start your morning meeting with these facts.
- Play “Guess Who”
- Research African American people who have made an impact either in the world, or in your community.
- Students give clues about each person, and the rest of the group guesses who they are.
- Use a reflection journal.
- Sure, you could use a notebook, but my favorite thing to do is use a program called Seesaw to do video reflections.
- Give your students prompts and they video tape themselves telling what they’ve learned about the people they’re studying and why it’s important to them.
If you’re short on time and need some activities that are ready to go with little or no-prep involved: check these activities out. There are traditional paper-pencil activities, as well as digital resources for your Seesaw library or Google Classroom. I assign them to my literacy stations for both my reading comprehension station and my listening stations.
Where To Continue In A Time Like This?
Read books by African Americans. Read books about African Americans. Let your students know that you’re doing this. Open your hearts and ears and minds. Be an ally.