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February 5, 2015 Black History Month Top Picks at Your Fingertips By Lindsey Petlak
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    February is here, and along with Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, Chinese New Year, parent/teacher conferences for some schools, and more, February is Black History Month. I’m always searching for the best, fresh, most relevant ways to immerse my students in black history in order to make the experience most impactful for them. Sometimes, searching for the perfect resources can be overwhelming. This is not always because of a lack of materials, but just the opposite. It seems like there are too many materials on this subject, not all of which are top-notch.

    I’ve searched and scoured, and discovered that Scholastic has rounded up a plethora of top quality teacher and student resources for this month honoring black history. See their Black History Month main page for everything you could ever want or need for you classroom, not just during the month of February, but to expose and immerse students in black history throughout the school year.

    Even though this is an AMAZING collection of perfectly curated resources, including books, movies, interviews, articles, simulations, and more, the reality is that sifting through it all might be too time consuming and/or overwhelming for you. So, I’ve done the dirty work for you and rounded up my top picks from the Scholastic treasure trove of Black History Month gems.  


    The Underground Railroad Simulation

    Much like the Ellis Island and Plimoth interactive online simulations from Scholastic, this immersive experience guides students from plantation to freedom through authentic interactions with the online activities. Even better, the resource includes great primary sources, book recommendations, teacher lesson plans, printables, and much more. This expands student awareness about African American history and struggle beyond more contemporary figures they may be more familiar with and exposes them to the struggles and hardships of black Americans in the time of slavery.


    Scholastic Book and Resource Collection

    No matter what grade you teach, or whether you’re hunting for a picture book, realistic fiction chapter book, or biography, Scholastic has gathered top teacher tools for integrating literature into your Black History Month studies. I love perusing this list of books and other resources because: 1) I can quickly order or use my teacher points to order books I think I might need 2) It reminds me of great books and resources on the topic of black history that I already own and need to gather to use for instruction or student choice options. (See below for image and link.)

    "13 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month" from Scholastic Teacher 

    If you’re looking for one place to stop and find a variety of instant-use activities and ideas across multiple subject areas, this is the page for you to visit. I love this article because it gives a cross-curricular list of activities that you can use at several different grade levels. Suggested activities integrate the arts, sports, government, history, and literature. It’s a quick read, with additional resource links, and endless possibilities that you really should check out!




    Ruby Bridges: Everything You Need

    Ruby Bridges is such a wonderful figure to use to teach black history in early elementary school because we are able to learn through her eyes, from the perspective of a young child. Over the years I have discovered so many great resources for teaching through Ruby, from books to movies, and more. Scholastic has done an excellent job of curating loads of Ruby goodies into one area, making it your one-stop-shop for all things Ruby. You could teach an entire unit on this amazing young lady, or pick and choose activities to weave into your larger black history unit instruction.


    "Contemporary Images for Black History Month"

    Fellow Top Teaching blogger (who I have a major teacher crush on), Christy Crawford, wrote a stunning post last year for Black History Month, where she highlighted the Because Of Them, We Can campaign. Her post discusses and shows examples of contemporary images for Black History Month. This is not to take away from imagery and lessons focused on important historical figures in African American history, but rather, its purpose is to extend and expand upon black history to “refresh history lessons with culturally relevant images that will excite and inspire.” We NEED this. As teachers, we respect the struggle and history behind this month so much, that we often forget to honor the more recent past and/or present. Check it out. I know you’ll be inspired to put this fresh spin on your classroom activities this year!


    Teach With Rock and Roll

    My mouth dropped open when I saw this awesome interactive learning experience for students in grades 6–12, because I’m a huge rock-and-roll (plus many other genres) music fan. What a great way to capture student attention! Music plays such an integral role in black history, present, and future. Not only are historic African American musicians featured, but super cool contemporary figures and music genres are also given the spotlight. Take a closer look at the description from Scholastic below and then dive into the web page. Your students will thank you for it!

    Inspire your students with this free online curriculum that covers the history of rock and roll and examines major social and cultural movements in American and world history. Created by Steven Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, the program includes a variety of lessons, videos, audio clips, a professional development area for teachers, and more.



    How will you celebrate Black History Month and continue that learning throughout the school year? Will you highlight more distant history with a focus on the Underground Railroad? Will you focus on the Civil Rights Movement? Will you entertain your classroom with contemporary artistic images and creations representing the meaning behind Black History Month? Will you rock the socks off your students by listening to and studying the relevance behind amazing music history from talented black musicians? I’d love for you to share, and hope this list has introduced you to some new ideas for your class learning experiences!

    Thanks for reading and see you next week!



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