February is Black History Month, and this gives teachers an opportunity to celebrate great leaders and share important moments in history through Black History Month lessons. From science and art to everything in between, there’s lots of different ways to incorporate black history into your classroom. Here’s some great lessons and resources to help create meaningful learning opportunities with your students—and most of them are free!
Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with MLK lessons.
There is so much great content and free lessons already out there that celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy. You probably saw lots of options around MLK Day in January—check out a handful of ideas right here. However, these resources aren’t just for one day. They’re great to use anytime of the year, and they can especially come in handy when you’re looking for curriculum to use during Black History Month. Of course, there are so many other great leaders and historical moments to teach students in addition to MLK. So use those materials as a starting point, and then keep your lessons growing and expanding.
Hang up art and posters to honor black leaders.
Strong visuals can go a long way in helping students learn about important topics. They can also be helpful in showing kids that these topics matter. If you have wall or bulletin board space, consider using it during Black History Month to honor great leaders. You could either have students do research and write facts about these leaders, or find a set of existing materials and posters you can use. Kadeen is a teacher-author who works hard to make her black history material authentic and genuine. You can check out her poster set available on Teachers Pay Teachers, which features the Ruby Bridges poster shown above.
Discover great black artists with your students.
Encourage students to seek out and learn about great writers, poets, artists, and other creators during Black History Month. It’s the perfect opportunity for students to do some research and read about someone completely new to them. If you’re doing a poetry unit, or have students who love poetry, consider this Langston Hughes digital assessment from Teachers Pay Teachers creator, Kristen. While this month is a great time to learn about black artists, use it as a reminder to seek out diversity in all your material throughout the year. Sometimes you have to dig a bit more to find resources, but it’s worth it, and it helps give your students a well-rounded, diverse view of the world.
Learn about great inventors and scientists.
Here’s another chance for your students to learn about great inventors and scientists that maybe they’d never heard of before. You can assign students to study a specific person or challenge them to find someone on their own. For lessons, you might want to check out La Nesha Tabb’s store on Teachers Pay Teachers, which is filled with black history material. She has this black history inventors printable, which is also available in digital files. She also has a social studies unit on Uncovering Hidden Figures, which is a great way to teach your students about the incredible black women who worked at NASA. No matter who you study, this is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the great accomplishments of black inventors and scientists with your students.
Find books featuring black authors and characters.
Students read books that are available to them, so as a classroom teacher, you have a great opportunity here. Introduce your students to black authors and books that feature black characters by finding them and putting them out on your shelves. Here’s an amazing resource created in part by Marley Dias (above) called 1000 Black Girl Books Resource Guide. This list was created from such a simple, worthy request from Marley who wanted to read books that featured people like her. It’s not a fancy list, but you can search it or sort by reading level. It’s a wonderful way to discover new books and a reminder that there’s a lot more options than we might realize.
Listen to great music and get free lesson plans.
The African American History Month website features several great resources, including lesson plans from Smithsonian Folkways’ Network of Music Educators. Get a link to those and get other great resources right here. Music is a beautiful way to bring people together. Plus, there are so many great black artists and musicians to learn about and listen to. You might consider listening to a new black musician every day of the month in all different styles. The lesson plans themselves have important themes like Singing for Justice and Protest Songs. While not all of the lessons will be about pop culture or easy topics, they are still great opportunities to talk to students about the power and impact of music.
Teach students how to go to the source when learning history.
This is a lesson in and of itself. When learning about any historical topic, the source material is really important so you know you’re receiving quality information. Talk to your students about how to find good sources and disseminate information. For instance, with Black History Month, you can find real Freedom Movement posters right here. You can also tap into resources like the National Archives to get a first-hand look at black history. Again, the material you find, see, or read won’t always be flattering or fun information. However, it’s still a good opportunity to talk to students about this material and broaden their knowledge.
Black History Month is an opportunity to expand your students’ understanding of black lives and how they helped shape our country. Definitely use this month to feature black creators and leaders. Then work to incorporate more learning opportunities throughout your school year.