Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Lesson Plan Ideas for Black History Month, Part 2

By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger

Today's blog post is the second part of a series that is intended to help you engage older students to read and write, as well as listen and speak, about important people during Black History Month. In this blog post, I'll give specific examples of how you can encourage students to practice reading  Barack Obama: Making History , which is a level P biography. If you missed the first part that describes how you can practice reading skills with a level M biography , you can find it here:  Lesson Plan Ideas for Black History Month, Part 1 .

Before students practice reading Barack Obama: Making History , you should discuss facts that students know about the government and how government leaders are elected. This time can let you assess the prior knowledge of the students and how much background information they may need before reading. Then explain that they are going to learn about a man who became our first African American president.

Determining Meanings of Words and Phrases in an Informational Text

Determining meanings is a standard that is relevant to every grade level. The leveled reader we will explore today contains words, phrases, and figurative language that have multiple meanings. When students encounter instances where multiple meanings arise, you'll have the opportunity to help kids with reading comprehension strategies, such as using context clues and a glossary to develop meaning.

The first chapter of the level P biography offers multiple ways to teach and practice reading comprehension strategies with a glossary. Start by having kids scan a few pages and say:

Before we begin reading the first chapter, why do you think there are words in bold print? The bold words are meant to show you that if don't know the word, you can look in the glossary to find out what it means. Before we go to the glossary, write the bold words in your journals .

Then have students find the glossary so that they can copy the definitions next to the words in their journals. To review the definition of each word that they've copied, you can read the sentences with bold words in the text. Be sure to substitute glossary definitions with bold words when reading each sentence.

If anyone shows that they still do not understand, you should ask them to reread the sentence before providing more information. Gradually the responsibility of using this technique with other bold words can be released to students for more independent practice to improve vocabulary.

Compare and Contrast Details of an Informational Text

There are several good examples of actions and results in the nonfiction book Barack Obama: Making History . You can begin a guided reading lesson by explaining to students that knowing how to determine a cause and its effect can be very important as they make decisions in their own lives.

Ask students to write the word cause on the left side of a journal page and the word effect on the right. Then have them draw one line under the two words and another running vertically between the words. Model the reading skill of identifying a cause and effect by using a great example on page 10.

Ask students to read page 10 to find out what Obama’s mother did each morning. Once they find the fact that she taught Barack English words, have them write it under cause column. Then say, Now we need to write the effect in the column on the right. Talk with your neighbor about what you think is the impact of each cause. When they conclude that Obama learned to speak English, have them write a short record of this in the column on the right. Encourage students to continue the discussion with their neighbors about why they think this was important.

If a student likes basketball, he or she may find page 12 interesting. From there you can transition to teaching kids how Obama started to work in business but wanted to help others. The text on this page also offers excellent opportunities for students to make inferences and draw conclusions after identifying cause and effect.

Explaining Relationships or Interactions of Individuals and Events

After kids finish reading Barack Obama: Making History , have a discussion about challenges as tasks or problems that require action. Write a sentence about this on the board and have kids copy it in their journals. Ask students to think of a challenge that they have had in their lives and share it with the class. As they share their obstacles, list them on the board.

Following the discussion of challenges, you can have kids to turn to the timeline, which is another example of useful nonfiction text features in the Hameray Biography Series . If they need help finding it, you can refer students to the index and provide instruction to locate the page number. Then say, Sit with your neighbor and take turns reading each event in the timeline. When you're done reading it, make a list of challenges that Obama faced during some of these events in your journals.

After kids complete their lists with their partners, facilitate a discussion to improve oral language development by saying the following:  Let's share some of the challenges that Obama had during his childhood. Why do you think he faced these as a child? Now let's talk about his days in college, working different jobs, and experiencing political offices. Why do you think he faced challenges as an adult?

After talking with students about challenges, you can encourage kids to brainstorm a theme for the chapter book that describes how Obama confronted his challenges. Remind your students not to use an example they've written or a sentence from the text as the theme.

You are the key to helping students foster a love of reading and strengthen writing skills and oral language development. Keep in mind Barack Obama: Making History is one of many leveled guided reading books that you can use with striving readers in upper-elementary grades and middle school.

Be sure to visit our blog soon because, in the next part of this blog-post series, I'll provide tips for incorporating Jackie Robinson: Breaking the Color Barrier into your guided reading lessons. The level R biography will be a useful resource for you and your students during Black History Month or throughout the year.


Dr. Geraldine Haggard is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent thirty-seven years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Dr. Haggard elsewhere on our blog .