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MLB Breaking Barriers

LESSON 1: What Are Barriers?

PRINTABLE 1: "About My Father" — Printable 1A (grades 4–5) or 1B (grades 6–8)

DIGITAL Version: "About My Father" — contains vocabulary and critical-thinking pop-ups.

ADDITIONAL TOOLS: Follow the printable Additional Tools document to support and enrich the lesson. This document features:

  • Suggested answers to lesson discussion questions
  • Academic and domain-specific vocabulary lists
  • Writing prompts
  • Paired-text reading suggestions
  • Grades 4–8 higher standards chart

TIME REQUIRED: 45 minutes

LESSON OBJECTIVE: Students will understand what the concept of a barrier means, and how Jackie Robinson faced and overcame barriers in his life.

LESSON STEPS:

  1. Open by asking students what a barrier is. Guide them to define it as: a challenge or obstacle that stops you from moving forward.
  2. Discuss with them that some barriers can be seen, such as a fence, a disability, or an event, while others cannot, such as fear, inexperience, or lack of skills.
  3. Ask the class to think of different barriers that people face and how they prevent people from moving forward. Create a list on the board.
  4. Divide the class into small groups and distribute Printable 1A (grades 4–5) or 1B (grades 6–8): “About My Father.” (Teachers can also distribute the digital version of "About My Father" to be used in class discussion or independent study.) Have volunteers read passages from the story. Then have groups discuss the story, using text evidence to respond to the following questions:

    Grades 4–5:

    • Based on the first paragraph, why do you think Sharon Robinson wrote this article?
    • What is the main idea of the article? Provide details from the article to support your answer.
    • How did the color barrier prevent black baseball players from playing in the Majors before 1947?
    • What did the scouts tell Branch Rickey to convince him Jackie Robinson could be successful in the Major Leagues?
    • Why did Mr. Rickey describe to Jackie Robinson the rough conditions he would have to face?
    • The article says that “Rickey hoped my father would have the strength of character to fight back with his bat and not his fist.” What does this mean?
    • How did Jackie Robinson respond to the racism he faced in baseball?

    Grades 6–8:

    • Based on the first paragraph, why do you think Sharon Robinson wrote this article?
    • What is the main idea of the article? Provide details from the article to support your answer.
    • How did the color barrier prevent black baseball players from playing in the Majors before 1947?
    • Why were Jackie Robinson’s college statistics at UCLA and his accomplishments with the Kansas City Monarchs important information for Branch Rickey?
    • Why was it important to Mr. Rickey that Jackie Robinson had strength of character?
    • What evidence in the article suggests that Jackie Robinson succeeded in breaking barriers in Major League Baseball?

  5. After students finish their discussions, ask various groups to share their answers.
  6. Optional: Consider incorporating the video extensions at this point (see "Video Extensions" section below).
  7. Referring back to “About My Father” (and optional video clips), instruct students to write a paragraph about what made Jackie Robinson a good candidate to break the color barrier.
  8. Then, from the list created in Step 3, ask students to choose one of the barriers (or assign one barrier to each student). Instruct students to write a couple of sentences about how Jackie Robinson's character traits might be helpful to face this barrier.
  9. Ask students to share their paragraphs and sentences in small groups.
  10. Move on to Lesson 2: “Values and Barriers” to learn about how Jackie Robinson used values to face challenges and barriers.

VIDEO EXTENSIONS:

Incorporate some or all of the following video clips:

For synopses of the above video clips, click here.

After students have viewed the clips: Have students discuss the questions below in small groups. After students finish their discussions, invite various groups to share their answers.

  • How did the color barrier—the so-called "Gentlemen’s Agreement"—prevent African-American baseball players from playing in the Majors before 1947?
  • What barriers did Jackie Robinson and other African-American players face while playing in the Negro Leagues?
  • Why was it important to Branch Rickey that Jackie Robinson have strength of character?
  • How did Mr. Rickey test Jackie Robinson’s character and what was the result?

WRITING EXTENSIONS:

  • In 1949, two years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, he and three others (Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, and Larry Doby) became the first-ever African-American players selected for an MLB All-Star Game. How is this achievement a result of Jackie Robinson’s earlier achievement? (Answers might include: Breaking barriers can open doors for others to follow.)
  • Have students research a figure from the civil rights movement of the 1950s–1960s (e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, or Melba Pattillo Beals) and report on barriers he or she broke.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Mini-Poster: "Jackie Robinson's Nine Values": Download this printable featuring Jackie Robinson's Nine Values.

Essay Contest: "Breaking Barriers Essay Contest": Encourage students to write essays about barriers they have faced in their own lives, and how they have used Jackie Robinson's values to face those barriers.

Supplemental Lesson: "History of the Negro Leagues": Use this lesson to build student understanding of important milestones in the history of the Negro Leagues.

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