Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff
Black History Month has come a long way since it was first celebrated in 1926. The event originally lasted a week in February and was meant to overlap with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s birthdays.
Although it eventually became a month-long celebration to raise awareness about the Black community’s contributions to society, it's important to teach Black history all year round. Black history is American history after all!
We’ve curated a list of awesome Black history lesson plans and paired them with Edpuzzle video lessons to create a complete learning experience for students in elementary, middle, and high school.
Like what you see? Copy the video lesson directly to your account to use it right away, or edit the questions to adapt them to your students’ needs!
Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream (Grades 1-5)
Imagine being a little Black girl in the 1920s and dreaming of being a professional baseball player. Despite what seems like a huge challenge, that doesn’t stop the main character in Catching the Moon.
This book is based on the childhood of Marcenia “Toni Stone” Lyle Alberga, the first Black woman to play for an all-male professional baseball team.
In this lesson plan by publishing company Lee & Low Books, students read (or watch in our case) the story and then explore the themes with different interdisciplinary activities.
It’s hard to recreate the magic of a good read-aloud in the classroom, but actors Kevin Costner and Jillian Estell are excellent narrators and give the story their own special touch.
Top that off with beautiful animation and emotional background music and your students will feel like they’re playing baseball with Marcenia herself!
Musical Harlem (Grades 3-5)
As a historically black neighborhood, Harlem was the epicenter of many cultural and social movements. Ever heard of a little thing called jazz?
The Kennedy Center put together this lesson plan to help kids understand how jazz music was reflective of the Harlem Renaissance. Students take a virtual tour of Harlem, listen to some jazz classics and do a “draw the music” activity.
After your students listen to the audio tracks, show them the live performances with an Edpuzzle video lesson.
Seeing a live performance gives you a chance to see the artist and the instruments in action, like in this rendition of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher.”
Cab Calloway’s dance moves and interactions with the band will delight your students and make them want to sing and dance along too.
Hair Love (Grades 3-8)
This Oscar-winning short film tugs at our heartstrings every time. It’s a great way to promote self-love (or hair love) for students of color and discuss how hairstyles are connected to Black identity.
This Edpuzzle version of the video has a series of guided questions embedded to help students predict and reflect on what’s happening in the story.
Once students watch the film, we recommend using the SFFilm Organization’s Hair Love study guide for a list of great extension activities and the Common Core standards they comply with.
If you teach older students, you could also include the poem “Hair” as a video assignment. Poet Elizabeth Acevedo explores the history behind harmful beauty standards and how she has experienced it personally.
You can use Learning for Justice’s lesson plan for discussion questions that dig deeper and have students think critically.
Hidden Figures (Grades 6-12)
When Hidden Figures first came out, a lot of us were probably surprised to have never heard of the groundbreaking work of mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson.
This lesson from the Los Angeles Unified School District uses the movie as a way to introduce students to the historical context of the film and why these women’s work was impactful.
Because Hollywood doesn’t capture all the details of this true story, we recommend also showing your students biographies and interviews of these women. It will fill in the gaps left behind by the movie and give students a chance to hear the real heroines speak.
Unsung Women of the Civil Rights Movement (Grades 8-12)
In the 1960s, women involved in the Civil Rights Movement were facing the double battle of fighting both racism and sexism. UNC-Chapel Hill’s Southern Oral History Program created a lesson plan to celebrate these women’s activism and bring attention to their accomplishments.
One of these women, Fannie Lou Hamer, tied her work in civil rights to voting rights and played an instrumental role in getting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed.
We suggest using a video lesson like the one above within a station rotation model so that students can explore the life and contributions of each woman individually.
The Civil Rights Movement: Black Power and Sports (Grades 9-12)
When Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police brutality, he wasn’t the first athlete to start a national conversation on the topic of race.
This lesson plan by Retro Report explores the history of Black athletes’ activism, from the height of the Civil Rights Movement to today.
We like the video lesson above because it embeds comprehension questions from the lesson plan and add notes to define some of the tricky vocabulary.
We recommend showing this video in class using Edpuzzle's Live Mode. Students’ responses to questions will be displayed anonymously, and you can use these pauses for questions to kick-off a conversation about their answers.
James Baldwin: Art, Sexuality and Civil Rights (Grades 9-12)
None of us want to be defined by just one thing, so it’s important to recognize how we navigate multiple identities. This concept is known as intersectionality and is a big theme in writer and activist James Baldwin’s writing.
In this lesson by Learning for Justice, guide your students through his work while exploring the intersections between his actions supporting gay rights and civil rights.
Considering introducing students to Baldwin’s life with this short biography by Ted-Ed.
You can then have students listen to the podcast interview (suggested in the lesson plan) with Edpuzzle in order to add checks for understanding and hold your students accountable while they’re listening.
Yes, you heard that right! Here's how to upload a podcast episode to Edpuzzle.