- Study the definition of what a “barrier” is
- Discuss different obstacles people face in life
- Read and discuss an informational text on professional baseball player Jackie Robinson
- Discuss how character traits displayed by Jackie Robinson can be helpful in facing and overcoming different kinds of barriers
- About My Father printable
- Optional: About My Father Digital Interactive
- Optional: Computers for student use
- Optional: Breaking Barriers Essay Contest printable
Make a class set of the About My Father printable.
Step 1: Start by asking students what a “barrier” is. Guide them to define it as: A challenge or obstacle that makes it difficult for you to move forward. 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.
Step 2: Ask the class to think of different barriers that people face and how these barriers make it difficult for people to move forward. Create a list on the board. Ask students: What are some ways that people overcome their barriers?
Step 3: Divide the class into small groups and distribute the About My Father printable. You can also have students read the digital version by loading the About My Father Digital Interactive on student computers or assigning the reading as homework.
Step 4: Have student volunteers read passages from the story. Then have groups discuss the story using text evidence to respond to the following questions:
- 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?
- Explain how Mr. Rickey’s interview with Jackie Robinson gave him the confidence to sign Robinson to play with the Montreal Royals.
- Describe the character traits (aspects of a person’s behavior and attitudes that make up that person’s personality) Robinson displayed that gave Mr. Rickey the confidence to sign Robinson to play for his team.
- What evidence in the article suggests that Jackie Robinson succeeded in breaking barriers in Major League Baseball?
Step 5: After students finish their discussions, ask various groups to share their answers with supporting information from the text. Then instruct students to write a paragraph about what made Jackie Robinson a good candidate to break the color barrier. Have them refer back to the About My Father article as they write and cite evidence from the text to support their point of view.
Step 6: From the list created in Step 2 above, 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 any of Jackie Robinson's character traits might be helpful to overcome the barrier and explain why.
Step 7: Divide students into small groups to share their paragraphs and sentences. Then have them share their writings with the entire class.
Step 8: Move on to Lesson 2: Learning How Values Help Us Face Barriers to teach students about how Jackie Robinson used values to face challenges and barriers.
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. Students can enter their essays in the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest.
Distribute copies of the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest printable to students for contest guidelines.
Use the Breaking Barriers Essay Organizer: Writing About Your Barriers for Grade 9 lesson plan to help guide students as they write their essays.
Video Extension Activity
- “The Color Line in Baseball and Society”
- “The Negro Leagues”
- “Major League Baseball Integration”
- “Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey”
You can also read synopses of the video clips.
After students have viewed the clips, ask them to 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?
Additional Extension Activities
- 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. Have students conduct research on the event and write an essay describing how these ball players were chosen for the All-Star Game and why this was an important event for Major League Baseball and for the nation.
- 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). Have students write essays that describe the social and personal barriers they faced when they stood up to racism and how they met that challenge.
- Imagine you are Branch Rickey and you’ve just interviewed a young prospect named Jack Roosevelt Robinson (Jackie Robinson). Write a summary of that interview. Review the topics you discussed and write your impression of Jackie Robinson and the expectations you have for him both as a baseball player and a person.
- Teach the Learning About the History of the Negro Leagues for Grades 4–9 lesson to build student understanding of important milestones in the history of the Negro Leagues.