Rosa Parks: 1 Day Lesson

Overview: Where on the bus did Rosa Parks sit?

In this lesson, students investigate where on the bus Rosa Parks sat on the day of her arrest. They explore two primary documents—one that contests and one that supports—the account presented in the textbook. First, the teacher elicits students’ beliefs about where Rosa Parks sat, and asks where students learned their information. Then, students read a textbook passage and two conflicting primary documents. Finally, students decide which of the primary documents they believe is more trustworthy and write a paragraph defending their choice.

Learning Goal:

Students will be able to use information from primary documents to contest a textbook account of an event.


  • "Police Report" document with notebook questions
  • "Affidavit" document with notebook questions
  • Textbook – "Rosa was tired: The story of the Montgomery bus boycott" by Herbert Kohl (2005).

Plan of Instruction: (approximately 50 minutes)

Step 1: 5 minutes: Introduce lesson

Ask students to list everything they know about Rosa Parks.

Step 2: 5 minutes: Discuss (whole class)

Elicit student responses and write on board. Students will certainly say something about where Rosa Parks sat on the bus. Regardless of where students believe she sat, ask: "How do you know where Rosa Parks sat? Where did you learn that information?"

Step 3: 15 minutes: Work individually

Hand out packet with 1) textbook passage; 2) Police report; 3) Affidavit. Students answer notebook questions for Police report and Affidavit.

Step 4: 10 minutes: Discuss (whole class)

    Discussion of the following questions:
  • What does each document say about where Rosa Parks sat?
  • Which of the documents do you trust the least? Which do you trust the most? Why?
  • What makes a piece of historical evidence reliable?

Step 5: 15 minutes: Assess

    Students write a paragraph in response to the following prompt:
  • Which of the primary documents do you find more trustworthy? Why? Write a paragraph that answers the question using direct evidence from the documents.

Note to teacher: To help students complete this assessment, you may need to coach students in how to use quotations in their writing.