Hello Teacher Friends! How is your 2022 going? For me, this year is just zipping by! I cannot believe it is nearly Black History Month already! Since February is so close, I wanted to take a quick minute and highlight one of my most popular resources in my TpT Store. My Black History Month Research Project is incredibly popular this time of year. This resource has helped literally hundreds of teachers and thousands of students learn the research process and commemorate important Black individuals! I’ve recently updated the entire product and wanted to break it down and show you how I use this resource in my classroom!
Black History Month Research Project
With this resource, each student will research an influential Black individual, write a biographical essay about their individual and create a visual representation of their person! While this sounds like a lot of work, I promise I have broken it down into manageable chunks for YOU and your students! Even students who struggle with reading and writing have succeeded with this project!
Phase 1: Building Research Skills
Before beginning, students need a research subject! Included in this resource is a list of over 140 Black individuals who have made significant contributions to society—including many influential women! Personally, I like to randomly assign names to students. (Actually, I usually have them pick a name out of a bowl.) I do this for a few reasons. First, I think there is value in learning about someone new that students maybe haven’t even heard of before. If given the choice, students often default to the Black figures they already know! I don’t want them to do that! Second, I like to have all my students in all my classes have different names. This way, when we display them in the hallway or classroom, we don’t have any duplicates!
After students have their research subject, it is time to learn how to research. Instead of setting my students loose on Google right away, I like to teach them the research process. This direct teaching does take a little bit of class time. However, it is totally worth it! Not only will your students’ end results be infinitely better, but they are learning foundational research skills. Research skills that they will use again and again throughout their educational careers!
In these lessons, students will learn about different types of sources, how to determine if a source is credible, and how to recognize an author’s bias.
I’ve included a “Source Credibility Checklist” for students to keep as a reference that will help them determine whether a source is a “good” source or not. I’ve also outlined a fun activity intentionally using a completely biased website! It’s a real eye-opening activity for students that shows them the need to use multiple sources and check for credibility.
Phase 2: Research & Note-taking
The next step in the Black History Month Research Project is to research! I have two Slides Presentations giving students tips for conducting thorough research and taking notes to keep track of the information they have gathered! Students can take notes on their KWL Chart. I’ve also included a Note-taking Graphic Organizer that helps students keep track of what information came from what source. Keeping track of their information will come in handy later when they create their bibliographies!
Phase 3: Writing Black History Month Research Project Essays
Following the research and note-taking process, it’s time for students to outline and draft their essays. I’ve included a suggested outline that students can use to organize their information. In the Slides, I show how to take the information from their outline and notes and turn it into paragraphs in their essays! In my class, we talk a lot about writing excellent paragraphs. Here is another resource that can help if your students are struggling with this basic building block of writing!
Also in this phase, students will work together to edit and revise one another’s essays. This collaborative process is a great way to teach students how to give and accept feedback. It is also helpful in learning how to improve one’s writing from the first draft to the published final copy!
Additionally, students will also practice citing their sources by creating a bibliography. At the middle school level, I don’t require my students to stick with MLA or Chicago styles or anything in particular. I’m most interested in them understanding that they should be giving credit to the original authors. I don’t worry too much about formatting it in a specific style. I’ve included a Simple Bibliography Guide for students to use!
Phase 4: Visual Display & Class Presentations
Finally, students will create a visual display of information for their person. There are endless options for this portion of the assignment. You could ask students to simply use a large sheet of paper, a poster board, etc. to create a visual by hand. Alternatively, I heard from one tech-savvy teacher who asked his students to create a Slide for their visual component. He compiled the Slides, set up a projector in the front of the school, and looped the Slides all throughout February to allow others in the school to learn from their research!
I generally stick with a low-tech option and use large sheets of paper (my school has 12×18 sheets of paper that seem to work well). Students include the the most important facts and information about their individual. I also ask them to include pictures and a quotation on their poster. When students have finished their essays and their posters, students present their Black History Month Research Projects to the class. Afterwards, I like to display the posters in the hallway outside my classroom to allow others to learn as well!
Phew! If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry! I’ve got you covered! This resource includes over 120 Instructional Slides that literally walk you through the entire process! Also, if you need any help along the way, I’m just an email away!
How do you like to commemorate Black History Month with your students? I’d love to hear your ideas!
Brenna (Mrs. Nelson)