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6 Ways to Engage with Black History at School

During Black History Month each February, K-12 teachers across the country take a special look at their lesson plans. Will it be a guest speaker this year, or a lecture on Harriet Tubman? Although some prominent black Americans question the need for a Black History Month, Americans as a whole think it's worth commemorating. And all cultural backgrounds can benefit by learning about the black experience--then, and now. But to really engage students, this occasion requires thoughtful planning. Here are six ideas for making black history come alive in the classroom. Move Beyond Familiar Historical Figures Alonzo Herndon While names like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. are important, they shouldn't eclipse the names of unsung black Americans. The recent success of the movie "Hidden Figures" illustrates this point well. Depending on the ages of those you teach, why not craft a lesson around black inventors--or ask students if they have a lesser-known hero they'd like to discuss? Ask a local historian for further ideas. You can even talk about and play musical excerpts by black composers. Or profile black musicians in general. The point is: get creative. Learn More About the Underground Railroad Make history come alive by seeing how former slaves escaped to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
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How Do You Say Your Name? Thoughts on Student Identity

A new boy shows up at school. As he walks through the classroom door, the teacher welcomes him by saying, "Tell us your name." The boy, who has just moved to America from the Philippines, announces his name as Banoy Pamatmat. Whereupon the teacher asks, "Could you repeat that?" Welcome to an increasingly common scenario in today's schools. As more immigrants relocate to America, educators encounter a wider array of new names and faces. And many of those names are challenging to pronounce.
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