Every February, schools across the nation embark on a journey to celebrate African Americans in history during Black History Month. Students will dive into biographies of leaders from the civil rights movement, explore the era of desegregation, and reflect on more recent movements like Black Lives Matter. Although this content is rich with educational opportunities, navigating this complex and multifaceted history can be a challenge for teachers and students. To address this, News-O-Matic has compiled a list of engaging activities and stories that teach students a wide range of Black history topics. And we’ve aligned our articles with this year’s Black History Month theme: African Americans and the Arts.
The origins of Black History Month trace back to 1926 when Dr. Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week. He believed everyone’s stories should be told, ensuring a comprehensive history rather than a selective one. Over time, this event evolved and expanded. In 1986, the U.S. Congress officially designated February as Black History Month. Let’s seize the opportunity to celebrate and honor the profound influence of African Americans on American culture, as they have often served as the driving force behind influential movements that produce positive societal changes.
Explore how educators can intentionally teach Black History and examine the ongoing impact of African Americans in shaping our society.
Biographies of African American Art Influencers: This activity offers flexibility, allowing teachers to tailor it to their desired level of simplicity or complexity. News-O-Matic provides a wealth of articles highlighting influential African Americans in the realm of art. Explore our piece on legendary music icon Tina Turner, affectionately crowned “The Queen of Rock and Roll” by her fans. Alternatively, dive into the inspiring journey of Misty Copeland, who overcame struggles early on in her career to become one of the world’s most renowned ballerinas.
For upper elementary students and beyond, encourage them to take a more interactive approach with their biographies. Task them with creating a social media page for their chosen artists, prompting them to craft posts that authentically capture the individual’s thoughts, personality, and perspectives. This hands-on activity not only asks students to explore the lives of these influential figures, but also fosters a creative exploration of their unique voices and contributions.
Write a Speech: In this activity, students conduct research, gaining insights into pivotal issues that have profoundly affected influential African Americans throughout American history. By exploring these impactful issues, students will gain a deeper understanding of how they have shaped our contemporary way of life. Encourage students to identify a passion or interest that personally resonates with them, prompting them to craft their own speech.
Not only does this activity foster the development of research and writing skills, but it also provides a platform for students to enhance their proficiency in public speaking. As an alternative, students can leverage online video or recording programs to capture and share their speeches, further honing their communication skills. Whether delivered live or recorded, this exercise empowers students to express their thoughts on important issues, contributing to their overall academic development.
Analyze Paintings and Make Inferences: Immerse students in the world of art by exploring masterpieces from famous African American artists, such as Horace Pippin, Jacob Lawrence, Kerry James Marshall, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Lead a class discussion, prompting students to describe each artist’s creations using concrete words and phrases. Take the discussion a step further by encouraging them to delve into the artist’s color choices, and the placement of objects, or even identify what might be “missing” from the painting.
Challenge students to make inferences about the influential movements of the time period based on their analysis. This activity enhances their ability to interpret visual elements and encourages critical thinking about the historical context reflected in the artwork. As a follow-up activity, complement their exploration with a News-O-Matic article, such as Black History: Art to provide additional context and further extend their learning.
Shared Reading: Embark on a collective exploration of famous African American influencers in the Arts by engaging students in one of News-O-Matic’s captivating and informative articles. Discover the transformative impact of poet Langston Hughes, who reshaped American culture by depicting the lives of Black people in Harlem during the 1920s. Students may also enjoy reading about Toni Morrison, a beloved author whose words inspired millions.
News-O-Matic’s articles are thoughtfully crafted for shared reading experiences. Their optimal length makes them suitable for short read-aloud sessions or a close-reading activity. The content is tailored to be age appropriate, ensuring alignment with the needs of both students and the unique dynamics of your classroom culture.
Create a Timeline of Events: Highlight the contributions of African Americans throughout the years by engaging students in the creation of a comprehensive timeline. Encourage students to spotlight significant figures in various fields, including artists, dancers, writers, and other visual and performing artists renowned for their impactful contributions. Gain insight into the world of music with this article, Hip Hop Hits 50!, where students can learn about the rise of hip-hop music and its enduring power and influence on American culture today. Students can add as much detail as needed to fully understand the influence on contemporary American culture.
While a specific month is dedicated to Black history, it’s crucial to emphasize that history should be taught all year long. Integrating peoples’ history, free from bias, into the classroom, allows students to acquire the knowledge essential for making informed decisions as they navigate through life. Black History Month isn’t just a time to acknowledge well-known icons like MLK Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Ruby Bridges, and John Lewis; it’s an opportunity to recognize and honor the stories of individuals who continue to shape and influence our world today.
For more resources, visit our Black History Month dedicated page with free article samples, ranging from inspiring biographies to compelling stories and memoirs. Use News-O-Matic's upcoming and past content to initiate discussion!
If you would like to receive more information on how News-O-Matic can be the perfect solution to teaching history, culture, and current events in your classroom, please visit us at www.newsomatic.org or email us at email@example.com.