5 ways to celebrate and elevate Black History Month

Black History Month has arrived. With this annual celebration, there’s an opportunity to take a deeper look at American history and to support students as they discover new chapters and broaden their knowledge. 

Along is here to be your partner through this month, providing opportunities for checking in as students consider the themes and lessons from the classroom. We’ll also be following up with a second blog post at the end of February that focuses on continuing the education of Black history throughout the year.

In that spirit, we’ve put together some ideas on using February as a jumping off point for celebrating and elevating Black history. Think of the following ideas as just the beginning…

#1: Find grade-specific lessons and activities

Black History Month is such a large topic to cover that picking a grade-specific lesson plan can help create focus. We found the lesson plans and resources from the NEA and the Center for Racial Justice in Education particularly helpful. They cover subjects like Teaching Hard History, Musical Harlem, the Underground Railroad, the History of Hip Hop, and much more.

#2: Brush up on best practices

Want to get the most out of this month? Learning for Justice has you covered with articles on the must-haves and their recommendations for teaching Black history. In both articles, there’s a focus on providing space for discussion and reflections. For example: “Find out what’s on [students’] minds and how they are making sense of our society’s growing diversity. Then use their words and points of view to anchor lessons. Student voice roots lessons in relevance.” 

This important tip leads us to our next suggestion…

#3: Check in throughout the month

As students gain new perspectives during Black History Month, it’s important to give them a space to consider what they’ve learned. Let Along become their touchpoint, a place where students can reflect and voice new ideas. Not only will this give students a way to work through their thoughts, but it will also give you vital insights into how they’re taking in information. These insights can guide the lesson plans as you move forward through February.

#4: Embrace the arts

When celebrating Black history, the story of the arts is an intertwined element. Whether you want to focus on jazz or poetry or dance or fiction or (well, you get the idea), there’s an abundance of topics and rich history to draw from — and these topics will get your students thinking about Black History Month in a new way. You can even use this Along classroom activity to weave music and dance throughout your week. (Extra points if the music becomes a springboard for further discussion.) 

#5: Write it out

While we’ve covered students learning, considering, and moving, there’s another effective tool for thinking about Black History Month. Writing! Journaling exercises are an excellent way to reinforce reflections. Sometimes students aren’t even sure what they’re thinking until they write it down. We’re big fans of these 8 Black History Writing Prompts that are based on the lives of Black innovators. You can also check out this Along activity about writing to express emotions if you find that students need an outlet for their feelings in February. 

As we mentioned, the above is just the beginning. Be on the lookout for our follow-up post that will focus on teaching Black history year-round. We’ll also be featuring the Black Teacher Collaborative for our next partner spotlight. This blog post will explore how Along’s content was reviewed through the lens of racial and cultural affirmation. So, check back soon!

We wish you and your students a productive, inspiring, and insightful Black History Month.