King and Parks are married? 3 Ways to break this misconception
"Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. are married, aren't they?" This is an honest question that I get from 3rd graders every year and I can't even blame my students and say that they aren't listening to history lessons. They are indeed and it seems as if this is the main lesson that is being perceived. It's teachers who are not listening to this response in order to create change around this widely believed misconception of elementary students of the marriage between King and Parks. We need to work to change this common misconception. Read on to find three ways to break this misconception cycle.
1. Vary the Introduction of Leaders
Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks are usually talked about together, and usually only on the third Monday in January and a certain times in February. They had the same cause and unless their backgrounds are really explored in class, most students won't even realize that these leaders had families of their own and were not the only two black people standing up for change in the 1950's and 60's.
Try introducing one key figure/event in history each month. That doesn't sound like much, but by the end of the year, your students will have been exposed to at least 10 different people and events instead of two. Furthermore, your students will view these people as "regular" people instead of superheroes who only come out once a year.
Here's a suggested list:
2. Explain the 1963 March on Washington
Growing up I always heard about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. These two individuals are the faces of non violent protest, persistence, and patience and I, a black female, grew up knowing that other black people were involved in the Civil Rights Movement, but not truly believing that any others truly mattered when it came to school.
I also grew up thinking that the purpose for the march on Washington in 1963 was entirely for the reason of King delivering his famous "I Have A Dream Speech".
Help your students understand the WHY by first giving the full name of the march -
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
The "for jobs and freedom" is a mouthful, but arguably the most important part. These are terms that students can relate to and can help spark and meaningful conversation around why people would want to fight for these rights.
3. Expose students to the whole movement
Thankfully, there are more and more children's books being written to address specific parts of the Civil Rights movement and to highlight some of the lesser known men and women of the civil rights decade. Reading some of these picture books to your class can open the minds of your students and help them understand that King and Parks are not married, but are just two people of this time period who were working together.
To help my students understand that there are countless other people behind the movement, I wrote some non-fiction passages about Diane Nash, A. Philip Randolph, Amelia Boynton Robinson, and Martin Luther King Jr. These people, and others, are important as well and deserve recognition. I also included comprehension questions and synthesis work pages to help students retain the information about these "new" people of influence.
Of course, I can't say a product is complete without a sprinkle of math - Equality Equations and Adding Up For Change! I plan on having conversations around equality before giving these work pages.
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How are you celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement?