March Is Women's History Month! Celebrate with Art, Literature and Ruby Bridges
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
Make the transition from Black History Month to Women’s History Month smooth by revisiting your lessons on Ruby Bridges to learn more about her courage, strength, and impact on education at such a young age.
Make the transition from Black History Month to Women’s History Month smooth by revisiting your lessons on Ruby Bridges to learn more about her courage, strength, and impact on education at such a young age. With the teachings from last month set as the groundwork for this lesson, ask your students to step into Ruby's shoes as they paint a scene from her life and give her a voice. Get out the watercolor paints and celebrate this great woman in history!
Ruby made her mark on history at a very young age. She grew up to be an incredible woman who continues to celebrate diversity while teaching children that there really is no place for racism in our world. Her famous journey into first grade at the Frantz Elementary School had a huge impact on education and continues to help children and adults get past racial differences. I think she is the perfect person for us to focus on as we march into Women's History Month.
Share The Story of Ruby Bridges
The Story of Ruby Bridges is a beautifully written and illustrated book that will allow your students to imagine what this time in history was like for Ruby Bridges. I read this book to many of the classes I work with and find that it is a great fit across grades K-5. It always has a huge impact on students, regardless of their age.
Each time I sit down to read this book to my students, who come from such diverse backgrounds, I point out my auburn hair, blue eyes and fair complexion, trying to take students back to a time in history when people were treated differently because of the color of their skin. By the time segregation ended, people were so used to being separate that they didn't know how to be together! Students are amazed by Ruby's bravery and do their best to put themselves in her place while they listen to her story.
You'll find that there is dialogue on the very first page of the book, giving Ruby a voice that explains why her family must relocate. As we read on, we get a sense of what she experiences, but we never hear her talk again, until the very end of the book when she explains to Mrs. Henry that she has been praying for "those people, because even if they say those bad things, they don't know what they're doing."
After reading the book, ask your students to step inside of Ruby’s shoes to imagine what she might have been thinking as she went through these experiences. They should think about what Ruby might have said if the author had written dialogue on the pages.
Take A Picture Walk And Create A Work Of Art!
Conduct a picture walk by turning the pages of the book and have students retell the story as you review the illustrations. Give students an opportunity to select a scene from the book to recreate by thinking about the page that gives them the most feeling.
Set up the students' desks with pencils and white drawing paper and let the drawing begin!
Add A Little Music To The Mix. . .
I always turn to Pandora to provide background music while creating works of art with my students. Get your students singing and tapping their feet as they draw. Here are my favorite kid-friendly stations:
- Jack Johnson (Children's)
- They Might Be Giants (Children's)
- Justin Bieber
- Dan Zanes
- The Wiggles
- Radio for Kids
- Kid's Rock!
Note: If you go into your account settings, you can control explicit content and make every station kid-friendly!
Start With A Drawing
Have students take the time to sketch out their scene. Encourage them to make their drawings big enough to cover the whole page -- background and all!
Take a look at these first grade artists at work!
Time To Paint!
Watercolor paints are really easy and fun to use. The first photograph below shows how Lennin made many different colored puddles in his case instead of constantly dipping back into the paint supply, which can cause the paint to be used up very quickly. (Super job, Lennin!) Below that you can see that Daniel is really enjoying his time spent painting. Kids are going to want to dig their paintbrushes right into those colored paint dots. Be patient and teach them how to make these little puddles, just like Lennin did. With enough practice, your students will become watercolor professionals!
I always pair up two artists to one palette. This helps students learn how to take care of art materials while sharing the responsibilities with a partner.
Give Ruby A Voice
While the paint dries. . .
- Have your students write a sentence that would match what Ruby might say if she could speak in the scene they created. (Depending on the grade level and abilities of your writers, you can ask for much more than one sentence.)
- Type up the students' work. (Older students can type up their own sentences.)
- Print out your students' writing.
- Cut and mount each strip onto black construction paper and attach it to the student's artwork.
Sound like a lot of work, but if you have a paper trimmer, like the one I bought from Staples and can't live without -- you're good to go!
Add A Few Finishing Touches
Once the artwork is fully dried, go over the pencil drawings with a black sharpie marker to outline their work. I find that this little detail makes it all come together.
Bulletin Board Display
Finally, put together a mini art gallery to proudly display your students' artwork.
Thank you for being so brave, Ruby!
If you're interested in finding out more about Ruby Bridges there are many resources on the Internet to help you plan out future lessons. Ruth Manna put a nice collection together in her post,"Ruby’s Courage." Visit it to find links to songs and videos as well as printable resources.
Last November, The Huffington Post wrote an article and shared a CBS News video of Ruby Bridges revisiting the Frantz Elementary School 50 years later. It's incredible to watch real footage of Ruby walking up the stairs of the school through the angry mob.
Resources For Women's History Month
Looking for primary sources to use in the classroom? Visit The Library of Congress for lesson plans and student activities.
In addition, check out Scholastic.com's collection of resources on Women Who Changed History.
Next week we'll look into honoring the amazing women in our own lives. Until then, have some fun with art and literature as you tap into some of these resources to celebrate Women's History Month!