April 24, 2018
School & Youth
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  • (L-R) Nicole D’Ascoli, Joanne Byrne and Tricia Fisher teach fourth-grade language arts at Broadneck Elementary, and they wanted to give students a better perspective on slavery in regards to the Civil Rights Movement.
    Photo by Maya Pottiger
    (L-R) Nicole D’Ascoli, Joanne Byrne and Tricia Fisher teach fourth-grade language arts at Broadneck Elementary, and they wanted to give students a better perspective on slavery in regards to the Civil Rights Movement.
  • As part of the Civil Rights curriculum in the language arts classes at Broadneck Elementary, the teachers pulled in more books for the students to read and connect to what they were learning.
    Photo by Maya Pottiger
    As part of the Civil Rights curriculum in the language arts classes at Broadneck Elementary, the teachers pulled in more books for the students to read and connect to what they were learning.
  • During one of the new lessons in Broadneck Elementary’s Civil Rights unit, students act out a picture depicting a scene from the movement.
    Photo Provided
    During one of the new lessons in Broadneck Elementary’s Civil Rights unit, students act out a picture depicting a scene from the movement.
  • During one of the new lessons in Broadneck Elementary’s Civil Rights unit, students act out a picture depicting a scene from the movement.
    Photo Provided
    During one of the new lessons in Broadneck Elementary’s Civil Rights unit, students act out a picture depicting a scene from the movement.

Broadneck Elementary Refreshes Civil Rights Lessons

Maya Pottiger
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February 6, 2018

During a previous lesson on the Civil Rights Movement, a student asked if Jackie Robinson was a slave. That’s when Broadneck Elementary fourth-grade language arts teachers knew it was time for a change in their curriculum.

“What we saw was they had no concept of the timeline,” said Joanne Byrne, one of the fourth-grade language arts teachers. “There was no frame of reference so they could understand the passage of time. That’s really what drove [the change].”

An “aha” moment for Tricia Fisher came in the form of a physical timeline. In her classroom, a timeline stretches between two walls with dates from the 1800s to present, and it has all of the major events in the Civil Rights Movement her students learned about.

“The kids can see the progression of when things are happening over time,” Fisher said. “It is a good visual because as soon as you say a date as we’re reading books, you see all of the eyes go up just to see the time.”

This year’s curriculum changed in that the three teachers wanted their students to have a better perspective on slavery in regard to the Civil Rights Movement. The teachers pulled more books for the students to read and gave them visuals to help their understanding.

Another new lesson incorporated into the discussion was called “tableaus.” A painting depicting a scene from the Civil Rights Movement was projected onto the white board, and then students re-enacted the painting.

“I think that it really brought me to think differently about characters in the book or even in pictures of civil rights leaders,” Gabriel Noon wrote in an exercise. “I really liked how when Mrs. Fisher tapped me on the shoulder, I got to say what I would say if I were that person.”

Steven Jimenez wrote that the tableaus were his favorite lesson as well. “We could act and feel in a moment of history,” Jimenez wrote. “We could act like that person in history and we could recreate it in our words.”

When asked who was most influential or most exciting to learn about, common answers like Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks were uncommon in the students’ responses.

Instead, the two most common responses were Ruby Bridges and Sarah Emma Edmonds. The students admired Bridges’ bravery in facing angry mobs outside her school every day and her persistence in going inside to learn, even when her classmates stopped showing up.

Nicholas Nelson wrote that he liked watching videos of Ruby Bridges and reading the firsthand accounts of what it was like for her at school.

“I like it because in the firsthand account, I saw the emotions and how Ruby went through the hate to go to school,” Nelson wrote.

Sarah Emma Edmonds disguised herself as a man to fight in the war alongside the Union where she served as a spy.

“If she did not do what she did, girls might not have been able to do what boys do today,” wrote Sammy Long.

There has been very positive feedback from this unit, which was taught during the nine-week-long second term.

A parent emailed Fisher and thanked her for sharing the movie about Ruby Bridges.

“The child went home and asked if he could watch the movie,” Fisher said. “The history had bothered him a little bit, so they had discussions about how things have changed over time.”

Byrne said one of her students can’t wait until 2019 because the new $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman will be released.

Nicole D’Ascoli said she’s been able to see how her students are making connections to what they’re learning.

“I had one boy who’s really into hockey, and he said, ‘Do you think we could look up the first African-American hockey player?’” D’Ascoli said. “You know that their minds are really processing all of this and they’re trying to make more connections and they’re making it meaningful and they’re really interested in what they’re learning about.”


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