March on Washington Lesson Plan: Intentional Planning
It’s not surprising today that my “March” on Washington mini-lesson plan is one of my top sellers in my Teachers Pay Teachers shop. Teachers are looking for ways to talk about rioting, action, inequality, values, and change. When I teach a lesson about equality I begin with teaching students the importance of values. Students look to educators to set an example and answer questions for what to do in situations like George Floyd. What can we do? What can I do? How can a navigate change safely? There is no magic answer, but it is essential that we handle these inquiries with a lot of careful thought and intentional lesson planning.
March on Washington Lesson Plan: Values
When I teach any of the standards for tolerance, I like to begin with teaching tolerance starting small with an assignment on identity. First we start with the identity of the students by looking at their values. I provide a long list of values and they choose 7. The list of values is as follows:
Awareness Optimistic Courage Power Creativity Philanthropy Growth Success Love Strength Integrity Privacy Tolerance loyalty Respect Passion Responsibility Discipline Resourcefulness Preparedness Spirituality Punctuality Peace Spirituality
Once they have chosen 7 values, they explain why they chose them, and then narrow it down to their three core values. Once they have a clear understanding of what their values are we take a look at identity and align how those values create their identity. See Social Emotional Learning at the bottom for my social emotional learning lesson.
March on Washington Lesson Plan: Cultural Goggles Poster
Students are to next create a teaching tolerance poster, called, the “Cultural Goggles” poster. “Cultural goggles” can be defined as a set of beliefs and values that we carry with us that affect the way we see the world and how we operate in it. Our “cultural goggles” is bias that is unique to our particular background in understanding that each person comes with their own set of “goggles“. We can hopefully eliminate assumptions and instead grow respect for one another. Requirements for the assignment must be a pie graph with four sections with labels that make up the students identity. For example: religion, family, friends, and school. Students are to explain how each section is unique to them. Once students have a clear understanding of their own identity it is much easier for them to identify character values. You can even have your students create a “cultural goggles” poster for a character you are reading about.
March on Washington Lesson Plan: Edmund Pettus Bridge
The Edmund Pettus Bridge was the site of the conflict of Bloody Sunday on March 7th, 1965, and police attacked civil rights movement demonstrators with horses, Billy clubs, and tear gas as they were attempting to March to the state Capitol. It’s important to talk about John Lewis and his participation in the March. You can also show interview clips where he discusses his participation and make it relevant by showing a short clip of his recent passing. Events are more relevant to students when they have a clear picture of the time period.
Moving backwards leading up to the march, discuss those people and events that were the catalyst to the big event. The March was the biggest event that has ever existed in Washington followed by JFK’s presidential inauguration. Important figures to mention are Rosa Parks and how she refused to sit in the back of the bus and was arrested. A catalyst to the civil rights movement. Students learn about Parks when they are young but putting it into context here is essential in their understanding of what led up to the March.
March on Washington Lesson Plan: James Lawson
James Lawson held workshops that included simulations in order to prepare the students to handle verbal and physical harassment that they would ultimately face during the civil rights protests. These were psychological exercises to support students through the atrocities of trauma they would face. Can you imagine? People fighting for equality are treated with such disdain it would bring about a traumatic experience in their lives including PTSD. Many students didn’t make it through Lawson’s training and this was a simulated experience.
March on Washington: Sit-Ins
The protests began with peaceful Sit-ins, which lasted six months were part of a nonviolent direct-action campaign to end racial segregation at lunch counters in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Students would meet at a specific time in a restaurant that segregated black people from white people and they would sit up at the lunch counter, which wasn’t allowed for black people. They would sit peacefully and not say anything. They were taunted and verbally abused by owners, but they just sat and remained silent. It’s harder to become violent with peaceful protesters than it is with violent protesters or protesters who are antagonistic. How does one justify their own raunchy behavior if someone isn’t doing anything wrong. These students became significant leaders in the civil rights movement.
The first sit-in was the Greensboro sit–in. The Greensboro sit-in was a civil rights protest that started in 1960, when young African American students staged a sit in at a segregated Wolesworth lunch counter in Greensboro , North Carolina, and refused to leave after being denied service. The sit in movement soon spread to college towns throughout the South. Students continued a peaceful protest. They allowed others to commit violence to them but would not lift a violent hand back.
The judge found the college students who sat at the lunch counters guilty immediately and put them in jail. This brought the attention to white people who primarily were not in favor of segregation. Once white people began to take action the movement took off even more. This is why it is crucial that all people take action when there is inequality. More and more students continued to march to store counters. Peaceful protests began working as it was more difficult to beat someone up who wouldn’t fight or yell back. Dynamite went off out front of Alexander Looby’s house, an NAACP activist attorney. This was a pivotal movement for the March on Pettus Bridge.
Questions for March on Washington
Social Emotional Learning
Once I have completed a lesson that is emotionally charged, like the one above, I complete the lesson with some social emotional learning and have students participate in a breathing exercise like the one below.
Observing is bringing your mind back to the sensations of your body and mind. Observe your breath: Breathe evenly and gently, focusing your attention on:
1. The movement of your stomach.
a. As you begin to breathe in, allow your belly to rise in order to bring air into the lower half of your body.
b. As the upper halves of your lungs begin to fill with air, your chest begins to rise.
c. As you breathe out, notice your belly, then notice your chest. Don’t tire yourself.
2. The pauses in your breathing
a. As you breathe in, notice the brief pause when your lungs have filled with air.
b. As you breathe out, notice the brief pause when your lungs have expelled air.
3. The sensations in your nose as you breathe in and as you breathe out.
a. As you breathe, close your mouth and breathe in through your nose, noticing the sensation in your nostrils.
4. Your breathe while walking slowly, breathe normally.
a. Determine the length of your breath the exhalation and the inhalation by the number of your footsteps
b. Watch to see whether the inhalation also lengthens by one step or not after 20 breaths. Return to breathing
A breathing exercise helps to ensure that they leave the room feeling calm and at peace rather than confused, scared and on high alert for their next class or lunch. It’s important for them to know that they are safe.
I would love to hear how you teach students about action, like the March on Washington! Or how you discuss the riots happening today. Please leave a comment in the comment section below!
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If you would like to learn more about social emotional learning visit my blog post HERE