Black History month can be a little tough to teach in a public elementary school in the South. I want to be sensitive and acknowledge the inequality of the past while still celebrating the positive cultural differences. Yesterday I blogged about how I focus on music to teach about African American history. For my older elementary grades, 3rd through 5th grade, I am more comfortable focusing on a prominent African American from our turbulent history: Harriet Tubman. This lesson corresponds to others around the school, namely our Character Education program and the Fine Arts special classes.
I start out with my favorite biographer for the elementary set, David A. Adler’s A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman. We read and discuss and I usually ask a few comprehension questions to make sure they were listening (and stickers don’t hurt to boost participation!).
Afterwards, I bring out a copy of Jacob Lawrence’s Harriet and the Promised Land. We have an audio version in the library, and before starting I did a picture walk to preview the paintings on each page. I gave a brief introduction of Jacob Lawrence as a famous African American artist known for his distinctive folk-art style. The audio book does a great job of lending significance to the verses with background music and soulful narration. The story is serious but uplifting, with a spiritual influence–very powerful.
After the two stories and discussions, I introduced the craft– chalk drawings. Same materials as the younger grades, but different content: draw Harriet Tubman as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. We talked about how she was usually disguised and had to use the moon and stars to light the way. Again, I didn’t think to take a pic with my phone, but the results were pretty good!