Social Sundays: Student Experts for Black History Month

February is Black History month. I could pull out some worksheets, toss up some posters and call it done. Or I could skip it entirely. And to be honest, depending on the course, I'm teaching I do mostly skip the themed months such as Black history or Women's history month.   Sometimes when you are studying Ancient Greece, it's hard to make meaningful connections to Black history month. But when it fits, I do try to weave the theme into the curriculum and one of my favorite ways to do that is by making the students the experts.

With Black History month, there are lots of focuses one could take - the history of Blacks in the United States or the civil rights movement, a current events focus on Blacks today, important Black figures from around the world or even influential Black figures in America.   This Black History month my students have taken on the latter.

I gave my students the following directive: 

In honor of black history month it's your job to become the expert on one important American black figure, past or present and share your knowledge with others. 

  • I gave students an annotated bibliography of over 40 figures. The usual suspects were included (Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King) but also artists, activists, athletes, and authors (such as Quincy Jones, Maya Angelou and Zora Neale Hurston). 
  • Students selected a person from the list (or someone else that fit the criteria) and spent time becoming the expert. 
  • The sharing of their expertise was pretty open. We had everything from resumes to pamphlets to comic books. 
  • We shared them gallery walk style and students looked for commonalities in spirit where they could. It was great fun to see connections between the figures and to students' own lives being made.

Another choice which I've done with other classes is to have a party at the end where students come as the figure they researched and interact. That's pretty fascinating, too. I'll share the how to of the "who am I" project (as I call it) later this year.  

What are you doing for Black History month?  Or do you skip it? What kinds of ways do you make it meaningful?

Social Sundays is a weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message on Facebook or at the store in the question and answer section.   



  1. That's a great project! I may have already said this, but it's awesome that you have a resume as one of the final presentation options!

    Like you, if it didn't fit into the era in history that we were studying, I didn't focus on it.

    I really like that at my former school they made the themed months a school-wide event. The cafeteria had a bulletin board that would be decorated, it was honored for at least a week in the morning video announcements, and there was usually some performance or something going on in the cafeteria that month during lunch. For example, for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, students performed hula dances.

    Our multicultural teacher team also brainstormed ideas for the teachers on what they could do in their classrooms (by subject) if they wanted to. I thought that was really helpful.


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