We asked our 25 Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board members what advice they would offer to fellow educators about Black History Month. Each of these experienced educators offers a wealth of expertise, especially when it comes to bringing multicultural topics into the classroom.
For openers, don't limit the teaching of African-American history to February. Keep in mind that "black history is a part of U.S. history," says Razia Kosi, cultural proficiency specialist in Maryland. So incorporate it into the curriculum of math, science, social studies, P.E. and other subjects all year long.
Also, remember that "black history did not begin with slavery," says Cameron Calland-Jones, a Georgia teacher of first- and second-graders. "Look into the history of Africa and see how the cultural influences impact our American history."
Many of our teachers suggested providing diverse resources and including authors of color. Also be mindful that book illustrations represent diverse characters.
Here are a few activities that might provide inspiration:
- Incorporate a black history "Fact of the Day" during morning announcements. Post facts or quotes from famous African Americans daily in classrooms.
- Offer extra credit to high school math students for research on an African-American mathematician or scientist. With this information, students can complete a summary of the person's life or design a postage stamp.
- Teach texts by black authors, like Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes or PUSH by Sapphire.
- Use Howard Zinn's Voices of A People's History book and its companion performance series. This audio series includes celebrities reading pieces written by famous Americans like Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois. Students can watch several performances and create a similar format.
- Have students explore the accomplishments of African-American inventors. Assign each student to a group and then have that group research one of the inventors.
- Create a living history museum for the civil rights era. Students can read speeches and documents from key figures and later perform these pieces. The Museum of the African Diaspora offers many resources.
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