6 Black History Month Activities

Black History Month is observed every February to honor the accomplishments of Black individuals and to recognize the important roles they played in the United States, from the past to the present.

At the beginning of this school year, when I polled my class to see what their favorite concept, holiday, or idea to learn about was, several said Black History Month. My students really looked forward to this month of history every year, and I was thrilled to learn that!

Every February, I like to do some additional activities for Black History month to honor this special time. Here are just a few!

1. Instagram Biography Project

Using Who Was or Who Is books and a variety of other biographies from the library, I like to have students complete an Instagram Biography Project. Students are responsible for picking out a person they would like to study by perusing the books provided. Then, they are responsible for skimming and reading this particular book over a course of a couple of class periods. Next, they utilize the Instagram Biography Project template to create a timeline of their famous person’s accomplishments.

Students copy and paste photos in the boxes and provide a caption for each picture. The caption must be 2 or more sentences and should explain what is going on in the picture and why it is significant. Next, students must make sure their photos are in a sequential timeline as well. I encourage the students to use hashtags to add that Instagram feeling to their post. Finally, students present their Instagram Biographies to the class and everyone learns a little something about each famous person.

2. Honor Lesser-Known Individuals through Books and Media

Every year, I like to bring up lesser-known stories of Black individuals who should be recognized. 

Claudette Colvin is a young girl I especially like to teach about as many students do not readily know her name like they do Rosa Parks. A book I recommend to students to read independently is called Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. 

Claudette Colvin was a fifteen-year-old teenager who did the exact same thing that Rosa Parks did, except nine months prior. On March 2, 1955, Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Colvin didn’t receive as much attention because she was younger and there were other issues. Based on in-depth interviews with Claudette and other pivotal people, this book makes history come to life.

Paerdegat Library: Kids in Black History

Here is a video all about Claudette Colvin: Paerdegat Library: Kids in Black History

Other people that are not as widely known are Lewis Latimer, who developed a filament that helped extend the life of a light bulb. Thomas Edison may have invented the actual light bulb, but his invention did not last extremely long. Enter in Latimer, an inventor, and son of escaped slaves, he developed the key to allowing the light bulb to last. 

Check out this video about Latimer:

Bessie Coleman is another hidden person of Black History. She was born in 1892, and became extremely interested in flying after hearing about the war stories from pilots in WWI. Although female and African-American, she did not let this hold her back. She became the first African American woman to get both a national and international pilot’s license after traveling to France to become trained.

A wonderful picture book about Bessie Coleman is called Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman

To incorporate these individuals into your school schedule, you can do a “Person-of-the Day” highlight, in which you read or teach about that individual or even simply show a video, which would open the floor up to discussion about the hidden figures of Black History.

3. Explore Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, but that shouldn’t stop you from incorporating the poetry of famous Black writers into your lessons. 

Just like you can incorporate a “Person-of-the-Day,” you could also utilize “Poet-of-the-Day,” and read about a Black poet and a poem they have written. Students can then write a paragraph response to it, or you can utilize the time for discussion of symbolism and in-depth meaning of the poem. 

Students can even illustrate the poem after they visualize it while reading it.

Some wonderful poets and poems you can highlight in your classroom that are favorites among my middle school students are below:

Upper Elementary and Middle School:

Langston Hughes-The Weary Blues

Langston Hughes-Mother to Son

Maya Angelou-And Still I Rise

Maya Angelou-Caged Bird 

Kobe Bryant-Dear Basketball 

Amanda Gorman-The Hill We Climb

Gwendolyn Brooks-We Real Cool 

Kwame Alexander-The Crossover

4. Virtual Museums

The internet is a beautiful thing, especially when it comes to virtual field trips. Take your students all over to explore Black history, using museum virtual tours.

Here are three virtual museum field trips your students can take today!

1. African American History and Culture

This virtual tour is especially expansive as it begins with slavery, spans emancipation, segregation, and explores the present day. This museum has 3,500 exhibits featured online.

Click here for Virtual Tour

2. African American Baseball Museum

One of my favorite books to read with upper elementary and middle schoolers is Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis.

It touches on the Baseball Leagues as the main characters enjoy watching their favorite players on the diamond. It was so important for the characters to see themselves in sports and for those players to become notarized for what they achieved. 

Click here for Virtual Tour

This virtual tour contains video interviews with former players, several exhibits, and countless pictures of the league. 

3. The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site 

If you teach about World War II, then this virtual tour would flow nicely right into your lesson plans. If you don’t teach this concept, February would be an excellent time to introduce your students to the Tuskegee Airmen, the African American WWII pilots who made an important impact in history. 

Click here for Virtual Tour

Virtual tours are free and convenient as you can explore them from the comfort of your classroom. 

5. Teach the History of Black History Month

How did Black History Month come to be? We celebrate this month, but many do not know how this commemoration even started. It’s important to teach students how this month began.

An African-American historian, Carter G. Woodson, wanted to celebrate Black History for a full week in February. He chose February because Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and Frederick Douglass’s birthday were within the same week. He wanted to honor President Lincoln’s birthday because of his critical role in the Emancipation Proclamation. Additionally, Douglass was honored because of his powerful oration and writing skills and his work as an abolitionist.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized the month of February as Black History Month. 

To learn how the month began, students can learn about Abraham Lincoln, as well as Frederick Douglass and why Carter G. Woodson would choose this month. For more information, grab a copy of Carter Reads the Newspaper today.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

The first-ever picture book biography of Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History Month

Carter G. Woodson Book Award (Honor Book), NCSS
Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
Top 10 Books for Kids ―New York Public Library
Best Children’s Books of the Year (Starred) ―Bank Street College of Education

Carter G. Woodson was born to two formerly enslaved people ten years after the end of the Civil War. Though his father could not read, he believed in being an informed citizen, so Carter read the newspaper to him every day. As a teenager, Carter went to work in the coal mines, and there he met Oliver Jones, who did something important: he asked Carter not only to read to him and the other miners, but also research and find more information on the subjects that interested them.

Also, to learn more about Frederick Douglass, here is a wonderful video.

6. Black History Month Reflection

I believe February is a wonderful month for Black History commemoration, also because of Valentine’s Day. While not chosen on purpose, it coincides nicely and we can see how love and kindness was spread through the actions of social justice activists, whether it was Martin Luther King, Jr. to Harriet Tubman, from Barack Obama to Sojourner Truth. 

Once Black History month is over, students can spend some time reflecting on what they have learned. 

Here is a free worksheet that helps students reflect about everything they’ve learned and allows them to think to the future for what they could learn later. It incorporates Black History Month and the February theme of love. 

Conclusion:

We hope you are able to utilize some of these ideas in your classroom at any point in the year, not only during Black History Month. From the Instagram Biography activity to learning about lesser-known individuals, students can learn about a variety of people. Even by exploring various Black poets, virtual museums, and the background of how the commemoration month began, students are ensured to have a rich time exploring the excellence of these individuals that contributed so much to America. 

Author of Blog

February Book List and Virtual Library

February is one of our favorite months to teach! Between Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year, Black History Month, and President’s Day, there is a plethora of information to teach and activities for your students to complete. Not to mention, we love all the pink, red, and purple vibes!

We have put together a February Book List and Virtual Library highlighting some of our favorite books to teach in the month of February. As always, we put much emphasis on using these books in upper elementary and middle school classroom, as well.

Virtual Library:

Grab your FREE February Book List and Virtual Library Google Slides today. All of the books mentioned below are included, with YouTube links, to easily share with your students. Please enjoy.

February Virtual Library Google Slides

Valentine’s Day:

What is Given From the Heart by Patricia McKissack

Of all of McKissack’s books, this one has to be my favorite. After it arrived in the library and I joyfully read it to myself, I didn’t realize exactly how special it was. Later that day, as I was designing a lesson to go along with its reading, I realized that McKissack had passed, making this her final story, a book to truly touch all of our hearts one final time. 

When we are at our lowest in life, that is the perfect time to help someone who is worse off than ourselves. Thus, what is given from the heart reaches the heart. 

James Otis and his mother have lost everything: his father, her husband, the farm, and when life can’t seem to get any worse, they hear of a family in which everything was taken from them in a fire. James Otis is told in church one Sunday to give to this needy family from his heart, and this is exactly what he does after a lot of thought. 

Don’t miss this beautiful and endearing story. It is a perfect book to share the week of Valentine’s Day to genuinely teach what true love is.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving. A love-filled story that is perfect for Valentine’s Day.

“Misery loves company,”” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service– the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “”love box,”” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack–with stunning illustrations by Harrison–delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli 

In a day and age when lots of students do not like the mushiness of reading another love-struck Valentine’s book, I always try to find just the right book, a story that ALL of my students will enjoy and understand that the power of love is not just a hug and kiss, but something deeper for all to enjoy. One of the perfect books to show this love is Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch.

Mr. Hatch lives a lonely day-to-day existence, repeating the same boring schedule day after day until a mysterious package arrives, letting him know somebody loves him which changes his entire life in the process. 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

One wintry day, a postman delivers a mysterious package with a big pink bow to a lonely man named Mr. Hatch.

“Somebody loves you,” the note says.
“Somebody loves me!” Mr. Hatch sings as he dusts his living room.
“Somebody loves me!” Mr. Hatch whistles as he does his errands in town.
“But who,” Mr. Hatch wonders, “could that somebody be?”

After some time, Mr. Hatch discovers just who his secret admirer is and, in doing so, enjoys the biggest surprise of his life!

Snow:

Ten Ways To Hear Snow by Cathy Camper

Lina’s grandmother cannot see well. One day, Lina leaves the comfort of her warm home to visit her grandmother while the snow is gently falling. During her journey, she realizes how her grandmother experiences the world: through sounds, not sight. 

This is the perfect book to read to your students to help them experience the power of sound. It is also beautifully written to include the strength of onomatopoeia in a storybook.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A snowy day, a trip to Grandma’s, time spent cooking with one another, and space to pause and discover the world around you come together in this perfect book for reading and sharing on a cozy winter day.

One winter morning, Lina wakes up to silence. It’s the sound of snow — the kind that looks soft and glows bright in the winter sun. But as she walks to her grandmother’s house to help make the family recipe for warak enab, she continues to listen.

As Lina walks past snowmen and across icy sidewalks, she discovers ten ways to pay attention to what might have otherwise gone unnoticed. With stunning illustrations by Kenard Pak and thoughtful representation of a modern Arab American family from Cathy Camper, Ten Ways to Hear Snow is a layered exploration of mindfulness, empathy, and what we realize when the world gets quiet.

Chinese New Year:

The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine

What better way to celebrate Chinese New Year than to explore a fractured fairy tale? The Runaway Wok is written with the traditions, customs, and settings of China. After the reading, ask your students how many different fairy tales or stories they recognized throughout.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

When a boy goes to the market to buy food and comes home with an old wok instead, his parents wonder what they’ll eat for dinner. But then the wok rolls out of the poor family’s house with a skippity-hoppity-ho! and returns from the rich man’s home with a feast in tow!

With spirited text and lively illustrations, this story reminds readers about the importance of generosity.

Groundhog Day:

Groundhog Weather School: Fun Facts About Weather and Groundhogs, by Joan Holub 

Welcome to Groundhog Weather School! is written and illustrated in a graphic novel style that your students will surely love. Not only does it teach all about Groundhog Day in an entertaining way, but they will also learn much about winter weather as well. 

Check out our virtual library give-away to have this book truly come to life in a most fun way. Just a warning though, if your students listen to it on their own computers with headphones, you may hear a lot of chuckles and wonder what all the excitement is about.

Additionally, a great way to use this book is for the students to pick out unusual facts about groundhogs and winter weather. Then, they can do some research to see if the facts are all true.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Welcome to Groundhog Weather School!

Ever wonder where Groundhog Day first began? Want to know the reason why we have different weather seasons? Curious about how some plants and animals can help predict the weather? Learn the answers to these questions and many more at Groundhog Weather School!

This clever story—starring a cast of lovable groundhog characters—is a fresh, informative, and fun look at Groundhog Day through the eyes of the animals who are the stars of it each year.

Black History Month:

In the Garden of Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby

This beautifully written story is a historical fictional account of Dr. George Washington Carver. During the story, Carver visits a school. Once there, he shares ideas to heal a land stripped of its nutrients due to years of growing cotton. Sally, the young girl in the story, quickly learns why some plants do not grow well and why others do. Dr. Carver brings the beauty of nature to the school and helps Sally learn to appreciate everything green. 

This is a beautiful book to begin the study of Dr. Carver. Even though it is a fictional account, it does give light to his passion and respect for nature, as well as his desire to teach this to others. In the Garden of Dr. Carver is a wonderful book to share with your students. 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Sally is a young girl living in rural Alabama in the early 1900s, a time when people were struggling to grow food in soil that had been depleted by years of cotton production. One day, Dr. George Washington Carver shows up to help the grown-ups with their farms and the children with their school garden. He teaches them how to restore the soil and respect the balance of nature. He even prepares a delicious lunch made of plants, including “chicken” made from peanuts. And Sally never forgets the lessons this wise man leaves in her heart and mind. Susan Grigsby’s warm story shines new light on a Black scientist who was ahead of his time.

President’s Day:

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio

Grace for President is the absolute best book to read this year for President’s Day. This is especially true since our vice president is a “girl vice-president” as Grace, the star of this fun and engaging story, would say. 

Not having a “girl president” in all of the history of our country is what jump starts this story as Grace realizes there are no “girl” presidents. Immediately she sets out to change this situation by running for class president. We all have to start somewhere and this is just Grace’s beginning. 

In addition to this fun story of courage and change, this is definitely one of those books that will totally entertain your students, but at the same time teach them about the complicated Electoral Process better than any history book ever read. 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A fresh, fun, and “thought-provoking” New York Times bestseller about the American electoral college and why every vote counts from bestselling and award-winning duo Kelly DiPucchio and LeUyen Pham.

“Where are the girls?”

When Grace’s teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides she wants to be the nation’s first and immediately jumpstarts her political career by running in her school’s mock election! The race is tougher than she expected: her popular opponent declares that he’s the “best man for the job” and seems to have captured the votes of all of the class’s boys. But Grace is more determined than ever. Even if she can’t be the best man for the job, she can certainly try to be the best person!

This timely story not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system but also teaches the value of hard work, courage, independent thought — and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.

Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President, by Ann Malaspina

This is another perfect book to read this February in honor of President’s Day.  Susan B. Anthony is definitely one of the greatest history changers in America. 

I love when history comes to life in storybooks. This cleverly written book brings you right into the moments of what Susan B. Anthony experienced trying to achieve the right for all women to vote. 

If you are looking for a lengthy, put-you-to-sleep biography to do another boring report, this isn’t it. However, if you want to show the courage it took to stand up for her rights, this is the one. 

The story is told in a fun and enjoyable way that keeps the interest of all.  Your students will cheer throughout the reading as they live each moment of Anthony’s feistiness and courage. A definite must-read for all students. 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

On November 5, 1872, Susan B. Anthony made history–and broke the law–when she voted in the US presidential election, a privilege that had been reserved for men. She was arrested, tried, and found guilty: “The greatest outrage History every witnessed,” she wrote in her journal. It wasn’t until 1920 that women were granted the right to vote, but the civil rights victory would not have been possible without Susan B. Anthony’s leadership and passion to stand up for what was right.

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale by Deborah Hopkinson

I truly love the newer style of nonfiction books publishers are now printing and sharing with the world. No more stuffy historical fact-filled storybooks that start off by stating the date of birth, etc. Nope, the newer nonfiction biographies jump right into where the action begins, grabbing the reader’s attention from the very start. This is certainly what this book does.

We are soon weaved into the fun and adventurous life of a seven-year-old boy and his older, wiser friend. The story demonstrates kids are just kids, no matter how famous or not so famous they grow up to be. Your students will love this fun and endearing story of our 16th president.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Now, I’m sure you know lots about Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States. But what you might not know is that Abe would never have become president if it hadn’t been for Austin Gollaher.

Learn the story of what really happened to Honest Abe when he was just a kid in this nonfiction picture book that’s perfect for President’s Day and every day!

The year is 1816. Abe is only seven years old, and his pal, Austin Gollaher, is ten. Abe and Austin decide to journey down to Knob Creek. The water looks scary and deep, and Austin points out that they don’t know how to swim. Nevertheless, they decide to traverse it. I won’t tell you what happens, but let’s just say that our country wouldn’t be the same if Austin hadn’t been there to help his friend.

I Am George Washington: Ordinary People Change the World by Brad Meltzer

Brad Meltzer brings a new style of writing and storytelling to his Ordinary People Change the World Series. Meltzer brings American heroes to life. We can quickly understand why they chose to do the heroic feats that they did. Most of our heroes didn’t even realize they were making history at the time. Only doing what they felt they should do for others in their lives. 

I am George Washington gives the account of our first president’s life and the decisions he made. It is as if he were talking to our students directly as a friend. Meltzer also takes advantage of the popular graphic novel style to bring historical facts to life for our students. Be sure to share this book and many of his others with your students.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

We can all be heroes. That’s the inspiring message of this New York Times best-selling biography series from historian and author Brad Meltzer. Learn all about George Washington, America’s first president.

George Washington was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. He was never afraid to be the first to try something, from exploring the woods around his childhood home to founding a brand new nation, the United States of America. With his faith in the American people and tremendous bravery, he helped win the Revolutionary War and became the country’s first president.

Each entry in this series is a biography of a significant historical figure, told in a simple, conversational, vivacious way, and always focusing on a character trait that makes the person a role model for kids. The heroes tell their life stories in first-person present tense, which keeps the books playful and accessible to young children. And each book ends with a line of encouragement and a direct quote.

Conclusion:

The month of February is full of activities for the classroom. There are so many books to share with your students concerning Black History, Chinese New Year, and Groundhog Day. President’s Day is full of historical fun. With this, it is a perfect time to read and enjoy as many books as possible with your students. Besides, what better time to really enjoy reading than in one of the coldest months of winter? This is unless you live in Hawaii. If you do, please enjoy our February Book List too.

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