Black History Month is celebrated every February.
And there’s a good reason for it. The accomplishments of Black Americans are certainly worth studying, particularly in early grades.
Some educators, though, might feel a bit unsure how to introduce this topic to primary students. Especially if they’re not very familiar with this subject themselves.
The good news is that there are several easy ways to teach Black history in early grades and I’m sharing five you can try today!
Learning about Black history should be a fun, engaging activity.
The more we know about this subject as educators, the easier it will be to convey the inclusive, welcoming attitude we want our students to reflect as they learn.
Read on to check out these five tips – and to see some helpful resources that making teaching this subject a breeze!
Why Teach Black History in Early Grades?
Images c/o: Wavebreakmedia & weedezign / Deposit Photos
Before we get into the easy ways to teach Black history with early elementary learners, we should answer the question: Why is teaching Black history important in the first place?
Historically, the work and accomplishments of Black and Brown Americans have not been included in American history lessons.
There has been some progress in this area in the last decade or so, but many curriculum providers and school districts are still highlighting just a couple of figures each year (Dr. King, Rosa Parks, etc.) and not talking about many, many other Black people who have contributed to our society.
Black History Month, while valuable, is often viewed as the only time when it is “necessary” to talk about these individuals. Which is unfair to them and to our students.
Learning about Black history all year would really be the best way to combat this. And, as educators, the way we cover this topic can help to either broaden or narrow our students’ perspectives.
5 Easy Ways to Teach Black History in Early Grades
Now that we know why Black history is an important subject for our learners, even our primary students, how can we teach it? Try these five simple ideas!
Add an art twist.
Anytime I want my students to remember something new, I try to add an art component.
We can keep talking about the topic as they color, draw, or make a craft. But the act of creating does wonders for our memory.
So, if you add an art aspect to your Black history lessons, your students are more likely to remember and enjoy what they learn.
These Living Color History! Black History Coloring Pages are perfect for this. Check them out for yourself!
Embrace digital resources.
Digital resources have transformed the way we teach, particularly since so many schools have begun using distance learning as needed.
There are some excellent digital Black history resources available, even for primary grades.
Using these can make it simple to incorporate hands-on activities in a Black history lesson, without the need for physical supplies. And they’re simple to grade too!
Take a look at our digital Ruby Bridges mini lesson for an example!
Read engaging, factual picture books.
I am a total and complete book nerd. Anytime I can use a book in a primary grades lesson, I’m going to do it.
Another easy way to teach Black history with young students is to include some factual picture books you can read with the class.
I want to add a note here: It is essential that the book is factual.
All information about Black Americans is not accurate, even if it’s complimentary. We need to complete our due diligence as educators to make sure that what we are sharing is correct.
Over the years, we’ve read some excellent picture books about Black Americans. Take a look at our booklist to read about some of the greatest Black scientists and inventors in history!
Try some hands-on history ideas.
Another way to teach Black history in primary grades is to turn it into a hands-on activity.
Let your students dress up in period clothes and do a living “wax museum”. Each one can represent a specific Black American and prepare a one or two-sentence statement about what they did in history.
A timeline activity is another great way to help students remember important events in each person’s life and career.
You can also have them memorize a quote or two and recite them. These quotes are readily available online. (Again: Do your due diligence to make sure the quote is correctly attributed.)
Invite parental involvement.
The best way to help kids learn about Black history in primary grades is to involve their parents.
Educators can teach children about Black Americans all year long (and they should!), but if they’re hearing or seeing negative portrayals of Black culture in the home, it’s difficult to counteract that.
Many parents aren’t actively discouraging these conversations. They simply don’t know how to talk about race with their children.
This parents’ cheat sheet for talking about race is an excellent resource for helping parents have these kinds of conversations with their children.
Topics such as racial differences, civil rights, racial protests, and Black history are included with sample questions and responses.
These responses may also be helpful for answering student questions when you teach about Black history in early grades.
With these fun and simple ways to teach Black history in early grades, you can enlighten your primary learners about the Black Americans who contributed to our society!
Looking for more Black history resources for primary students? Take a look at these!