Learning and Achievement for All. Futuros Prosperos. Launching Thriving Futures. Three students.

In honor of Black History Month, Renee Watson’s fifth grade students at T. Clay Wood Elementary School researched a famous African American, honoring all African Americans who have made significant contributions in the field of medicine, athletics, science, arts, law, or entertainment in the United States.

“I have been influenced by Misty Copeland because her childhood was just like mine. She had tough times but got through them and I will too. She's influenced me to follow my dreams,” shared fifth grade student Abby Perritt.

Each student drew a lottery number in order to select who they wanted to research, with one student announcing their person of interest, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, as early as September. Students delved deeply into the individual research process using what they learned. They followed the writing process and created an outline, rough draft, and provided peer edits. Watson created a template in Microsoft Teams for students to type each part of their outline, allowing her to oversee their progress and provide feedback. At the end, the published research paper is printed.

When asked why research and writing are important, several students had insightful answers. Maggie Grupposo explained, “Research is important so you can learn more about a topic. Once you find the information you're looking for, you need to be able to write your thoughts and ideas clearly. Writing is a way to share what you've learned.”

Owen Lee, added, “Researching African Americans really opened my eyes to all of the cruel and tragic things they have overcome.”

Prior to the individual research assignment, Watson used ‘model teaching’ for the Martin Luther King Jr. lesson. In ‘model teaching,’ the teacher demonstrates step-by-step how to complete the assignment before the students begin. Watson explained, “Students were taught how to use multiple resources to locate information, cite references, create a timeline to organize important life events, take notes and paraphrase, how to compare and contrast Martin Luther King Jr.’s life to their own, interpret direct quotes, and to distinguish between fact and opinion.”

This project includes a biography poster comprised of a timeline, life lessons learned, quote, portrait, bibliography, and brief summary of the research paper. Students are also prepared to give a character talk at the end of the project.

“The ‘Character Talks’ require a 3-minute first-person overview of the person's life. Students dress in character and present in front of our class. Four classes are invited to our Wax Museum to listen to a brief explanation of the person's accomplishments. Students are posed and speak when prompted by our visitors,” described Watson.

Each week in February, students will appear on the morning announcements to recognize the accomplishments of an African American to share what they learn with the school.

“Many of my current students have visited our Wax Museum in the past when they were in first grade and were paired up as a buddy reading class. They can recall different students and who they were dressed as and are excited to be on the other side as a presenter,” said Watson.

Watson has assigned this Black History Month research project for the past 20 years with great response from the students. “...Many of my former students still remind me of who they researched and detail their experience,” detailed Watson. “Every child is included in the research and activities associated with Black History Month, promoting the strategic goal of Learning and Achievement for all. Black History Month is meaningful because students ‘see’ themselves in the people they are researching and realize the potential they have for success.”

Aprendizaje y logros para todos. Learning and Achievement for All.