In my opinion, the best and most meaningful lessons take place when multiple subjects are intertwined SO well that the students, and maybe even an administrator walking by, aren’t sure which subject is being taught. That being said, I think the two EASIEST subjects to combine into a cross-curricular lesson are Social Studies and Reading. They pretty much go hand in hand already, right? Combining them at the elementary level is a no brainer! Here are my ideas for teaching the Civil Rights Movement to kids. I use these Civil Rights picture books to introduce the topic and spark discussion! I’ve included affiliate links to each book as well.
First, for teaching the Civil Rights Movement to kids, Pies From Nowhere by Dee Romito is the PERFECT read-aloud. This book tells the story of Georgia Gilmore and how she helped the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It has stunning pictures, lots of factual information, and a good plot. These are all necessities when choosing a good cross-curricular read-aloud! I usually do character analysis and plot analysis for this read aloud, but the options are endless! If you want all of the activities that can be used for this read aloud, you can snag them here. If you want some FREE graphic orangizers for Pies From Nowhere, focusing on point of view you can click here.
For my complete unit and read-aloud companion activities for “Pies From Nowhere” by Dee Romito, Click HERE!
Click here to snag some free graphic organizers to use with “Pies From Nowhere” by Dee Romito.
This incredible story is through the eyes of a child in May 1963, in Birmingham Alabama. She discusses the fear her parents exhibit, and recounts her own experience taking part in a march for freedom. This book is incredibly powerful, and has gorgeous illustrations. It’s perfect for a read aloud or mentor text because it’s told from a young girl’s point of view, and it can spark some powerful discussion among students in how they relate to the main character!
This story is also through the eyes of a young girl. She tells the story of how her family goes on a trip to Alabama in the early 1950’s, and the struggles they endure along the way. During their trip, they recieve a Green Book to help guide them on their journey. This is a powerful read-aloud, and prompts lots of questions and discussions for students. It’s also filled with important Civil Rights vocabulary and language for kids, so it’s great for intermixing some factual talking points as well.
If you are teaching the Voting Rights Act of 1965, this is a MUST READ. It starts with a woman named Lillian standing at the bottom of a steep hill, going to vote on Voting Day. She starts her slow climb, and begins to recount all of the events in our country’s history that led to her being able to vote. At the end, she gets to vote, but she knows it’s only because of the people that fought before her. This story is so powerful, and truly brings the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into perspective for students.
This picture book tells the story of four college students participating in a sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. This read aloud is FULL of figurative language and poetic devices, and it is absolutely perfect for integrating social studies and reading standards. Click here to snag all of the activities I use for this read aloud, and to see how I use it as a mentor text for reading standards.
For my complete unit and read-aloud companion activities for “Sit-In” by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Click HERE!
This is one is also written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, and it’s one of my favorite picture books to teach the Civil Rights Movement. It’s packed FULL of figurative language and imagery, and honestly could take about a week’s worth of lesson plans to fully unpack and break down everything with students. This story portrays Jim Crow as an actual crow, and recounts the experiences of Rosa Parks and the bus boycotts. The illustrations are incredibly powerful as well, and there are so many opportunities for writing assignments and discussions based on the illustrations alone.
When using these picture books to teach the Civil Rights Movement to kids, I like to read the same book a few days in a row, and have my students focus on a different concept each time we read. I feel like this gives them the best opportunity for deep learning, and allows students multiple opportunities to interact with the text. If you’ve never used a picture book read-aloud in your Social Studies lessons–TRY IT! Still not sure where to start? I’m here to help! Send me and email or a message on social media and we can create a lesson together!
If you’re teaching mood and tone along with your read alouds, click HERE for my go-to lesson and free interactive notes!