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Black History Month: Getting Beyond Dr. King

I Have a Dream -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
Refused to give up her seat -- Rosa Parks 
The Problem We All Live With -- Ruby Bridges 
The Peanut Man -- George Washington Carver 
- Black History Month 
End Scene.

Black History Month is upon us, and I am reflecting on how to celebrate progress while engaging with key issues plaguing the African American community. Last year I jotted a few thoughts here, and I am back with a few bloggers sharing their opinions. I asked one of my 6th graders "What does BHM mean to you?" Her unfiltered thoughts: 

“When black history month comes around, what do we think of? Usually it’s always Rosa parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, etc. They are important, but this is a whole new generation. We appreciate all the things they have done for the black community, but we should start recognizing the young black men and boys that are killed on the streets everyday. This is a big issue in the African-American community and we need to start celebrating and recognizing that their lives matter. It started with Emmett Till who was killed with no justice, and it continues with other black boys. If we can prove to the world that this is important, maybe the injustice will stop. On the news there is always violence going on because of the pain people are feeling. These young boys should have statues, memorials because as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks are important so is their memory.”
6th Grader & Thinker

From the mouth babes! Abiba's response reminded me that the children are watching! I certainly don't want to cultivate students who view black history month as praise for past heroes. I also don't want to use black history month as a history cram. I am fortunate to have a district curriculum that includes diverse perspectives and an opportunity to celebrate African American history throughout the year, but this hasn't always been the case, and isn't the case for teachers throughout the country. For any topic, especially this one, I think it's critical to share the past in relation to the present and future. It is my hope that students will not come to me tired of the(ir) past, but rather inspired and poised to have an impact.

The Past (Africa - 1970s):
The list to the left is by NO means all inclusive. Creating a "list" was difficult because there are so many ideas and pathways to celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of Africans and Americans(I purposefully separated the terms). I tried to pull out time periods, influential people, and events. To engage with topics, I've compiled some project ideas which include:
- Create mini-timelines for a time period.
- Provide biographical information about important people.
- Draw or paint portraits of important people and events and write a short bio
- Research the key contributions of Divine Nine fraternities and sororities.
- Create a mini-documentary about a time period. 
- Pick a decade in history and in addition to the music of that time period, research its significance to politics and culture, the social justice context of the music and the genre’s influence on dance and clothing styles.

The Present (1980s- Today): 

- Compare and contrast the philosophies of people during a specific time period (e.g. Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B Dubois).
- Organize a black film festival for the school. Create a program and a schedule and show films throughout the month of February and beyond.
- Discuss bias and stereotypes in films and clips.
- Read articles about a topic (Black Lives Matter) with different view points and analyze which author presents a stronger argument
- Review census data, collect and analyze statistics and create graphs and infographics which illustrate housing patterns (Chicago is a great start).
Be the Change: 
I wholeheartedly know that our country has made tremendous progress. I know that I am standing on the shoulders of giants, and value their contributions to the movement to end inequity. That said, anyone who believes that we live in a post-racial period is not paying attention. If you're not paying attention, you're not learning. Regardless of the population that teachers serve, we must present multiple perspectives and expose students to current events. If not I wonder how we'll ever move forward, and get beyond Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The active participants in the Civil Rights Movement set the charge and got the ball rolling and we can't be passive. The list to the left provides ideas for taking an active approach during Black History Month so that students think about the world we live in. There is so much we can learn from that past to prevent history from repeating itself. Watching the news is a real testament to the need for more relevant ongoing conversations and reflections about race and class with our students. If not, I fear we will continue to see incidents like this, this, this and this.

Hit Reset After a Break...And a Giveaway

I am joining in with a few of my blogging friends from the Middle School Mob to share a few quick tips on resetting after break. We've all been there before! You know that point when you come back from an extended break well rested and ready to pick right up, but your students have other plans! Below are a few (quick) tips on how to hit reset and quickly build momentum with your class! 

1. Reestablish key Rules and Procedures: Simply put, I remind students of expectations and practice as necessary. It might be me, but there's something about practice that establishes the tone and sense of urgency around getting started right away. I give students strong rationale and try to get keep practice quick, positive, and lecture free. This means no, "you guys forgot the expectations so we are going to practice until we get it right!" Instead I say something to the tune of, "If you are like me you gave your full attention to the break! Let's make sure we are all on the same page with expectations. We might practice a few if we're rusty."

2. Change Seats - Nothing says reset like a good seat change, and one of the best times is after a break. I market it as a fresh start and a chance to get to know another teammate. 

3. Let them Share - Last, but not least, I advise giving students a change to share about their break. This doesn't have to be long, but sometimes students come back after having an AH-MAZING, or AW-FUL break. In either case, students sometimes just need a minute to vent/talk it out, and then move on. This can be done in the form of a turn and talk, or in small groups. In my experience when I just mowed on to the next topic without taking 5-10 minutes for students to chat, we lost time because I had to continually address students talking about their break. 

Well, that's all I have for now! I'd love to learn more strategies for resetting after break in the comments, and be sure to click the links below for more strategies and resources for the new year! 

In addition to our linky, we're giving away 12 of our best-selling resources. We've even included some products that are perfect for bringing in the New Year with your students! Make sure to enter using the Rafflecopter below.

Lit with Lyns - Argumentative Writing Process & Task Cards
EB Academic Camps - New Year's Unit & Activities for Middle School
Caffeine and Lesson Plans - PROBE Notebook: A Creative Yearlong ELA Research Project
Just Add Students - Poetry Analysis - "A Day" by Emily Dickinson
Raising Rigor and Readers - Winter Reading and Writing Activities
Anchored in Reading - ELA Text Dependent Analysis Questions - Author's Craft Task Cards
Teach Inspire Change - Student Behavior & Parent Communications Binder
Mrs. Spangler in the Middle - The Giver Reading Comprehension Games - Four in All!
Tori Gorosave: A Middle School English Teacher's Journey - Expository Close Reading: The History of New Year's
Edison Education - Multiplying and Dividing Integers
Koch's Odds 'N Ends - Student Worksheet for Self-Review / Analysis of Test Results
The Marvelous Middle - Looking Back Looking Forward New Year's Activity

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