Lesson Plans & Ideas

Grade Level: 6-12

Arizona State Standards Grades 6-8:

1SS-E8. Demonstrate and apply the basic tools of historical research, including how to construct timelines, frame questions that can be answered by historical study and research, and analyze and evaluate historical materials offering varied perspectives, with emphasis o

PO 1. constructing and interpreting graphs and charts using historical data

PO 2. constructing various timelines of key events, people, and periods of the historical era being studied

PO 3. framing questions that can be answered by historical study and research

PO 6. analyzing a historical source and identifying the author's main points, purpose, opinions versus facts, and what other authors say about the same topic

PO 7. examining different points of view on the same historical events and determining the context in which the statements were made, including the questions asked, the sources used, and the author's perspectives

PO 8. recognizing the difference between cause and effect and a mere sequence of historical events

Arizona State Standards Grades 9-12:

1SS-P1. Apply chronological and spatial thinking to understanding the meaning, implications, and import of historical and current events.

1SS-P2. Demonstrate knowledge of research sources and apply appropriate research methods, including framing open-ended questions, gathering pertinent information, and evaluating the evidence and point of view contained within primary and secondary sources.

1SS-P3. Develop historical interpretations in terms of the complexity of cause and effect and in the context in which ideas and past events unfolded

from: Arizona Department of Education Standards-Based Teaching and Learning


Website Summary: This website contains a wealth of information on the history of Tucson 's African American community. In oral histories, video, photos, and text, it paints a diverse and rich portrait of the community. The following lesson plans will allow students to take in sections of the website, share them with each other, and understand the knowledge in context of broader history as well as their own experiences.

Questions for starters (class discussion or written answers):

  1. How would you characterize race relations in Tucson? Does everyone get along?
  2. Is it acknowledged that there is an African American community in Tucson? How about African American history in Tucson? 
  3. What kinds of things are said about African Americans in your school, community, home, and in the media (TV, movies, the news)? List positive and negative comments.
  4. Talk about stereotypes, especially how both good and bad comments can contribute to stereotyping and can be harmful.
  5. Why talk about a specific ethnic community’s history? Can educating people about history improve race relations, dispel stereotypes, and aid in overall historical understanding? How so or why not?

A Brief History

Summary: In this section, students will read about African American history. They will strengthen and contextualize the knowledge in a timeline, narrative, and by comparing it to their own experiences. Emphasis is on shared learning.

Read through the section. Other useful sections are found under Special Topics and Publications:

Another useful outside source can be found at The Library of Congress website From Slavery to Civil Rights: A Timeline Of African-American History.

  1. As a class, create a timeline of African American history based on the readings.
    1. Use the same time period, but make sure to remind students that Black history is much larger than this period (which is only a tiny portion). Talk about how Black history, as well as Native American history, is often seen to start with European contact. Discuss what this erasure means.
    2. Students, in groups of 4-5, can divide up the periods of history (50-75 years). Have them do outside research to fill in more information using the Esteban site's Related Web Pages.
    3. Have them look through magazines, cut out pictures, and illustrate the timeline with a collage (using pictures and their own illustrations). Useful images may be found in Esteban's Photographic Exhibits section.
  2. As an extension to the above project, students should write narratives about their period, which are roughly the length of people’s lives. They will envision the life of an African American person during the period and write a letter from the person’s perspective towards the end of their lives. The letter should be addressed to the student (the author) and be a summary of their lives, including major points in the history section. Allow students to help each other with historical background but write their own letters. When finished, publish the letters as a book or online.
  3. Talk about the different aspects of discrimination African Americans faced in Tucson and US history. Discuss slavery, segregation (in the military, school, etc.), housing, etc. List specific ways and occasions when these occurred. Have students talk about discrimination their own communities have faced. While acknowledging how much different communities (especially minority ones) have in common in this regard, do not allow it to diminish the experiences of African Americans here.

Biographies and Oral Histories

Summary: This website section contains a plethora of oral histories with prominent African American community members. This lesson will allow students to explore an interview in depth, share their findings with each other, use the information to invent a history, and carry out oral histories in their own communities.

  1. A. Each student in the class can pick an oral history (one of the lengthier ones) to read and write an essay about it (or discuss it in class, for a shorter lesson)
    1. Summarize the life of the individual, focusing on how they ended up in Tucson.
    2. How do you think the person decided what to include and what not to talk about? Were they conscious or unconscious decisions (or both)? Many of them left out the more traumatic details. Why do think that is?
    3. Reflect on how memories work. Why do some things get remembered, talked about, put on web pages, while other things (or people) don’t? Explain why this individual’s experiences deserve to be memorialized.
    4. What does the person carry with them today from their experiences? Do you sense pride, trauma, sadness, nostalgia, fond memories, or anything else?
  2. Have advanced/mature students write imaginary oral histories an African American who came to Tucson based on one of the oral histories. The easiest way might be to imagine an alternate life for themselves (the format could be partially memoir), or they can invent a history entirely.
  3. Oral History Project

Consult these useful resources In the Steps of Esteban's Lessons Plans & Ideas and "Learning About Immigration Through Oral History," by Barbara Wysocki and Frances Jacobson

  1. Carry out oral histories with African Americans in students’ communities or prominent Black citizens of Tucson. Alternately, interviews could be done with others who have immigrated to Tucson. Start with family members of students and then move to neighbors or others from their communities. Black students must not be made to feel tokenized.
  2. Have students make a list of possibilities, then divide into groups of three, with each group choosing one (or more) individuals.
  3. After training them in interview techniques, especially in video (if available), have them practice brief, but relevant, interviews with each other. The material could be used for a related (or separate) project.
  4. Students should come up with a list of interview questions, then carry out their interviews. If possible, have them transcribe the interviews and publish them (after editing). You may also provide the material to university history departments as resources.

Video of Baptist Choir Performace

Summary: This section contains a video of the Baptist Choir singing a hymn. Students will explore the performance as a piece of music, contextualized in history and other musical styles. The link provides ample material for use by the teacher.

Watch the video piece and have students record their responses as journal entries or in response papers. teachervison.com's African-American Gospel Music has useful lesson plans. Numbers 6 and 7 under "Procedures" may be especially useful.

This module was developed by Roberto de Roock, Summer 2006.

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