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Lessons

Rosa Parks: 5 Day Lesson

Overview:

Students engage in an historical inquiry about the Montgomery Bus Boycott. They watch a short introductory movie, read six documents, answer guiding questions, and prepare to complete the final essay assignment using their notes. Students listen to an historian think aloud about excerpts from the documents to see analytical reading in action. They use a graphic organizer to guide their note taking which prompts them to recognize the role that effective leadership, careful planning, and the local and historical contexts of the boycott played in its success. Finally, students write an essay using evidence from these documents to craft a more complete story of the boycott.

Learning Goals:

  • Students will be able to discuss the historical context, leadership, and organization of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and how these mattered to its success, citing evidence from particular sources.
  • Students will build and write more complex stories of the Montgomery bus boycott than they previously could tell.
  • Students will read documents historically, using strategies of sourcing, contextualization, careful reading, and corroboration.

Notes to Teacher: This lesson plan is written as if you are teaching it using one demonstration computer to show the historian think-alouds. However, if your class has access to a set of computers, they could do most of the lesson on-line except that you would print out the graphic organizer and final essay question to distribute to students. See http://www.historicalthinkingmatters.org/how.php and the five day lesson in the Spanish-American War unit for help with teaching your students how to use the site.

When using the lessons off-line use the document packet with reading questions.

Plan of Instruction:

DAY ONE (approximately 50 minutes)
Website Materials
  • Rosa Parks Movie
  • “Robinson” document
  • Video clip: think-aloud of “Robinson”
  • Main inquiry organizer/document chart
Step 1: 5 minutes: Introduce inquiry

Ask students to write down the name of the five most famous American women, excluding presidents’ wives.

Ask for a show of hands of how many students included Rosa Parks on their list.

Briefly ask students to share what they have heard about Rosa Parks. Explain to students: by the end of this 5-day lesson, you will write an essay in response to the following prompt:

“Many textbooks write: ‘Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a White man. African Americans heard this and decided to boycott the buses.’ But this is a brief description of a complex event. Write a more complete answer to the question: Why did the boycott of Montgomery’s buses succeed?”
Step 2: 10 minutes: Show movie

Show introductory movie. Ask students to brainstorm possible factors that contributed to the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Write student suggestions on board.

Step 3: 5 minutes: Introduce framework

Hand out document chart. Explain to students that they will investigate six documents, and that these documents will provide evidence of three broad factors that contributed to the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott: Leadership, Careful Planning and Organizing, and Historical Context. Each document may lend itself more readily to one of the three categories, but students should check for evidence for all three categories in each document.

Step 4: 15 minutes: Read document

Students read “Robinson” document and answer questions.

Step 5: 8 minutes: Show Think-Aloud

Show historian think-aloud of “Robinson.” Ask students: what do you learn about the success of the bus boycott by sourcing the document?

Step 6: 7 minutes: Fill document chart

Fill in one box of the document chart with students.

    For example:
  • Under Leadership, you write that the Montgomery Bus Boycott succeeded because the Women’s Political Council had long been planning for the possibility of a boycott.
  • Under Careful Planning and Organizing, you write that the WPC first pursued diplomatic measures before resorting to a boycott.
  • Or, under Historical Context, you write that the African-American population of Montgomery in the 1950’s seemed to be ready for a bus boycott.

Only fill in one of the boxes. Students should complete the other two for homework.

DAY TWO (approximately 50 minutes)
Website Materials
  • “Abernathy” document
  • Video clip: think-aloud of “Abernathy”
  • Commentary of “Abernathy” think-aloud
  • “Leaflet” document
Step 1: 10 minutes: Review homework Pair/Share

Students compare their answers on the document chart.

Ask students to share some of the different examples of Careful Organizing or Historical Context.

Ask students: “Why is the date of the ‘Robinson’ document so significant? What if you didn’t pay attention to the date and simply assumed that this was written after Rosa Parks had been arrested?”

Step 2: 15 minutes: Read document

Students independently read “Abernathy” document and answer questions.

Step 3: 10 minutes: Show think-aloud

Show historian think-aloud on “Abernathy” and play Commentary. Ask students: “What part of the text surprises the historian? Why?”

Step 4: 10 minutes: Fill document chart

In small groups, students fill document chart for “Abernathy” document.

Step 5: 5 minutes: Review document chart

Review student answers.

Homework

Hand students “Leaflet” document and ask them to answer questions for homework.

DAY THREE (approximately 50 minutes)
Website Materials
  • “Rustin” document
  • “King” document
Step 1: 10 minutes: Fill document chart

Ask students to take out their homework and, in small groups, fill out document chart for “Leaflet.”

Step 2: 5 minutes: Review answers

Review student answers as whole class.

Step 3: 15 minutes: Read document

Students read “Rustin” document and answer questions.

Step 4: 10 minutes: Fill document chart

In small groups, students fill document chart for “Rustin” document.

Step 5: 10 minutes: Review/ Discuss evidence
    Questions for discussion:
  • Given the evidence in your document chart, how would you answer the inquiry question at this point? (What led to the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott?)
  • The document chart separates Historical Context from Leadership and Careful Organizing. How would you respond to someone who said, “Everything is historical context?”
  • How would you define historical context at this point?

(Note: These two questions are designed to heighten your students’ awareness of the idea of historical context and that time and place matter to understanding historical sources and events. This line of questioning and instruction continues in the lesson on day 4.)

Homework

Students read, answer questions, and fill out document chart for “King” document.

DAY FOUR (approximately 50 minutes)
Website Materials
  • “Handbill” document
  • Video clip: think-aloud of “King”
  • Commentary of “King” think-aloud
  • Video clip: think-aloud of “Handbill”
  • Commentary of “Handbill” think-aloud
Step 1: 10 minutes: Review homework

Review answers to questions about “King” document. Ask students to share what they put for “Historical Context” on document chart.

Step 2: 5 minutes: Show think-aloud

Show historian think-aloud of “King” document.

Step 3: 10 minutes: Discuss commentary
    Play commentary about “King” think-aloud. Questions for discussion:
  • What is the historical context to which the historian refers?
  • How does this notion of context fit in with our definitions of context from yesterday?
  • In what ways does this particular historical context contribute to the success of the Montgomery bus boycott?
Step 4: 10 minutes: Read document

Students independently read and answer questions for “Handbill” document.

Step 5: 5 minutes: Show think-aloud/ Play commentary

Show historian think-aloud of “Handbill” document and play Commentary.

Step 6: 10 minutes: Discuss commentary
    Questions for discussion:
  • What is the historical context to which the historian refers?
  • How does this notion of context fit in with our definitions of context from yesterday?
  • In what ways does this particular historical context contribute to the success of the Montgomery bus boycott?
Homework

Fill document chart for “Handbill” document (acknowledge that students might have difficulty finding evidence for Leadership or Careful Planning).

    Hand out the hard copy of the assignment question:
  • “Some books say something like this: “Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a White man. African Americans heard this and decided to boycott the buses.” But this is a brief description of a complex event. Write a more complete answer to the question: Why did the boycott of Montgomery’s buses succeed?

Use the documents and your background knowledge to support your ideas. Include specific examples and quotes.”

Write a thesis statement in response to this prompt and make a list of the documents you would use to support your claim (minimum 3 documents).

DAY FIVE (approximately 50 minutes)
Step 1: 5 minutes: Review document chart

Students share answers for “Handbill” document on chart.

Step 2: 15 minutes: Model thesis/evidence connection

Tell students they will begin to draft an essay in response to the writing prompt.

Model how you would use a document to support a thesis statement in response to the prompt. In your presentation, you may want to use the peer review questions listed in Step 4 of this lesson to frame your remarks about how this paragraph models a historical argument.

    Write on overhead or project using LCD projector:
  • Sample thesis: The Montgomery Bus Boycott succeeded because the African American community organized quickly and efficiently.
  • Using documentary evidence to support thesis: Without the ability to organize resources and effort, even the most passionate and righteous political causes can fail. The case of the Montgomery Bus Boycott is no exception. The African-American community in Montgomery was well positioned to execute a mass boycott of public transportation. In her description of the distribution of the leaflets announcing the boycott, Jo Ann Robinson explains, “Some of the WPC officers previously had discussed how and where to deliver thousands of leaflets announcing a boycott, and those plans now stood me in good stead…After class my two students and I quickly finalized our plans for distributing the thousands of leaflets so that one would reach every black home in Montgomery.” Without such careful planning, the African-American community could not have united in their cause.
Step 3: 20 minutes: Work independently

Ask students to write a paragraph using one of the documents that supports their thesis statement.

Step 4: 15 minutes: Peer conferencing
    In partners, have students share their thesis statements and paragraphs. They should ask the following questions of each other:
  • Does the thesis statement answer the prompt?
  • Can the thesis statement be supported by at least three pieces of evidence?
  • Does the paragraph have an opening sentence that supports the thesis?
  • Does the analysis of the evidence take into account who wrote the document and its intended audience?
Homework

Finish writing the essay.