Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Lesson Plan Ideas for Black History Month, Part 3

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

Today's blog post is the third part of a series that will 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 use Jackie Robinson: Breaking the Color Barrier to help students practice reading a level R biography. If you want to learn about how you can help kids with a level P biography, you can find it here: Lesson Plan Ideas for Black History Month, Part 2 . If you're looking for reading practice with a level M biography, you can find it here: Lesson Plan Ideas for Black History Month, Part 1 .

Jackie Robinson: Breaking the Color Barrier has photographs and nonfiction text features that can all be used to improve comprehension and broaden vocabulary. Some kids may have played baseball or softball. This means you can facilitate a discussion to activate prior knowledge of the sport before reading the informational text.

Determining Meanings of Words and Phrases in an Informational Text

Common Core State Standards for many grades require students to determine meanings of words and phrases as they are found in the text. You can use today's nonfiction book to teach kids to use context clues, figurative language, words with multiple meanings, and the glossary as tools to improve comprehension. To do this, use the following guide to prompt a discussion about the theme of the book by using the contents of the cover and title page:

  • Let's read the cover of the book and then turn to the title page so we can read this page together. Read the page to the students. As we begin to think about the what the title means, let’s look at color and barrier.
  • Have students write color barrier in their journals. Then say, Underline the word barrier. Have you ever wanted to do something but could not? Was there a rule that stopped you? Think about that and share with your neighbor. Then let's talk about it as a group.
  • Before reading the first chapter, have students write color line in their journals. Talk to kids about the meaning of this by saying: Has there been a time when you had to get in a line by grade level? Where would you find a line if you wanted to play baseball? As we read the book, these words will help us understand how a color barrier was removed so that a line to stand in based on skin color no longer exists.

Compare and Contrast Points of View

There are several good examples of first and third person points of view in Jackie Robinson: Breaking the Color Barrier . The second and fourth chapters offer great opportunities for you to help kids compare and contrast first and third-person points of view. After kids read through page 12, you can try saying the following:

  • Now that we have read the second chapter, what do we know about how Jackie wanted others to feel?
  • Let's look at the box near the bottom of page 11. When words like I and me are in a sentence, we know it is written in the first person. Is the example in the box written in the first person? What do you think this tells us about how Jackie felt about himself? What was his purpose in saying this? What is his point of view?

After having kids read up to page 23, you can continue the guided reading lesson on the first-person point of view by saying the following:

  • Where in the text does it say, "I guess my cousin's pretty happy now"? Can someone tell me if this quote is an example of the first person? How do you know? Where in the book does it say, "This is a great player and I am proud to have him on my team"? Is this an example of the first person? Who said this? Who was the person talking about? What was his point of view?

When students have read through page 32, they should have noticed a box at the top of this page with a quote written in the third person by President Ronald Reagan. Draw their attention to the box and say the following:

  • Are there first person pronouns, such as I or me in this sentence? Do you see the pronouns he or they ? These pronouns show that this quote was written in the third person point of view. What was President Reagan’s point of view of Jackie Robinson?

Describing Characters in Depth with Specific Details

This leveled reader is also a great tool that you can use to help kids describe a character in depth by using specific details, such as thoughts, actions, and words. You can use the following pages and prompts to help kids achieve this reading standard.

  • Page 5: This page tells us how Jackie Robinson felt about being a professional ballplayer. After reading the second paragraph, what did Jackie know about people around him? What did he know that he had to do to be a great player? How do you think he knew this?
  • Page 16: Let's read the last paragraph on page 16. Several phrases will help you understand obstacles that Jackie Robinson faced, which made him a hero. Please share some of the phrases you find on the page. As I write them on the board, write them in your journal. Then write a sentence about what Jackie faced. Now share your sentence with a neighbor, and share each other's sentence with the group.
  • Page 33: The paragraph on page 33 is a summary from the author. He uses the words great player, great sportsman, and champion of civil rights. Write these words in your journals, and next to each word, write something you know now about why Jackie Robinson is considered these things. Invite students to share their sentences with their neighbors. Move among them and provide support where it might be needed.

There are many opportunities for you to model reading comprehension strategies to achieve the standards suggested in today's blog post. All three of them require students to make inferences, which is very important as students use background knowledge to execute critical thinking and problem-solving successfully.

I hope the recommendations in this blog-post series help kids during your guided reading lessons throughout Black History Month and during the year. Be sure to visit our blog soon for more tips to help improve reading fluency and comprehension. 


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 .