Biographies: Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks

Students begin to explore African-American history and the civil rights movement by studying Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.'s influence, helping to instill the values of diversity and fairness.

Unit Summary

A note from our team: As part of the upgrade to Fishtank Plus, this unit will be revised this year. Some texts, materials, and questions may change as part of the revision.

In this unit, students begin to explore African-American history and the civil rights movement by studying Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and their influence on the nation. Students will begin the unit by thinking about the ways in which people are similar and different, including skin color, and how those differences should not define who we are or how we are treated. In the second part of the unit, students will learn about the discrimination and injustices faced by African-Americans during the civil rights movement and why it was necessary to fight for change. Finally, students will explore Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and study how their influential leadership drove the civil rights movement and influenced and inspired others to fight for change. It is our hope that this unit will help instill the values of diversity and fairness, and that it will serve as a launch for further discussions around discrimination, fairness, and valuing individuals. This unit also falls during the month of February. Therefore, it will give students a chance to explore and deepen their understanding of Black History Month and why studying and celebrating black history is an important part of our nation’s history. 

In reading, this unit exposes students to the genre of biography. For each influential leader, students will read multiple biographies, noticing the ways in which authors use specific details to support points in a text. Students will also be pushed to think about which details are key details, how details are connected, how illustrations connect to particular points and ideas in a text, and the meaning of unfamiliar words. After reading multiple biographies, students will then compare and contrast the ways in which the authors present points in both texts. Students will also be challenged to think about the themes that develop across the biographies, particularly in regards to what makes the person an influential leader and the lessons that can be learned from studying each person. 

In writing, this unit pushes students to begin answering questions using words and sentences, and, therefore, rely less on picture support. Students will also continue to work on answering the question and including an inference or critical thinking that shows a deeper understanding of the text. At this point, all structure focus correction areas should be taught; therefore, the focus of this unit should be on providing individualized feedback to students who are not at a 3 or 4 on the rubric. 

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Assessment

This assessment accompanies this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

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Building Content Knowledge:

  • Research and learn about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. 
  • Plan how to lead and facilitate conversations about civil rights, race, diversity, and fairness, especially in regard to the time period in which Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks lived, in a way that validates all students. 
  • Decide which content should be previewed with students and which content can be changed in order to meet the developmental levels of the students. For example, during the Martin Luther King Jr. biography study, if the team decides to change the detail that Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to say that “he died” so that students are better able to process the information, that is fine. Details about inequality and discrimination, however, should only be changed if there is a valid argument to do so. 

Internalizing Unit Standards and Texts:

  • Read and internalize all unit texts. Notice how different biographies build on to each other to help build students’ understanding of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. 
  • Take unit assessment. Write exemplar student responses. 
  • Script out book introductions that preview and emphasize the content of the text. (See examples within the unit plan.) Book introductions in this unit are incredibly important in order to ensure that students fully internalize the key historical ideas of the unit and do not develop misconceptions regarding the civil rights unit. It is also incredibly important to ground the book previews, and all conversations, in history. When possible, also include points of optimism in order to leave students feeling inspired by the change that was made. 
  • Pick a habits of discussion focus that supports target speaking and listening standards. Create a plan for how to introduce and reinforce the standards over the course of the unit. 
  • Plan unit projects that allow students to show what they learned about both Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. 

Essential Questions

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  • What does it mean to value and respect differences in skin color? Why is it important to do so? 
  • Why was Martin Luther King Jr. an influential leader? 
  • How did Martin Luther King Jr. help to make the world a better place? 
  • How did Rosa Parks help to make the world a better place? 
  • What is the significance of Black History Month? 

Writing Focus Areas

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  • In unit 5, students focused on answering a question and including an inference or critical thinking that showed understanding of the text and including details that directly connected to the question. In this unit, students will continue to focus on including details that show a deeper understanding of the text, but students will transition to using more words than pictures to do so. Many students will not be ready to answer the question using solely words, but they should begin to include more critical thinking or details in the sentences they write rather than in the illustrations. Any students who are still unable to write comprehensible sentences in response to the text should get intensive small-group support over the course of the unit. 
  • By this point in the year, students should have received mini-lessons on all of the structure/language focus correction areas. Therefore, pick targeted focus correction areas based on student and class-wide trends. By the end of the unit, all students should be at a 3 or 4 on the language row of the rubric. 

Language Focus Areas

Pick two or three language focus correction areas based on student needs.

Writing-About-Reading Focus Areas

  • Uses a combination of drawings and words to correctly answer the question with an inference, critical thinking, or facts that show basic understanding of question or text 
  • Uses words to correctly answer the question with an inference, critical thinking, or facts that show deep understanding of the question 
  • Includes details from the text, in both drawing and writing, that connect directly to the question 
  • Uses vocabulary from the text or unit 
  •  Student answer is comprehensible; no dictation is needed 

Vocabulary

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Literary Terms

compare, contrast, photographs, captions

Text-based

different, same, segregation, colored, separate, separate but equal, denying, justice, public, civil rights, neutral, reserved, courageous, boycott, Jim Crow laws, similar, leader, law, dream, protest, march, inspire 

Content Knowledge and Connections

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  • The civil rights movement focused on securing African-Americans equal access and opportunities. 
  • Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus. Her actions spurred a city-wide boycott that ended in the law being overturned. 
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights leader best known for using nonviolent forms of protest and activism. 

Lesson Map

1

  • The Colors of Us

    RL.K.2

Explain what lesson Lena learns and how she learns it, by retelling familiar stories and including key details. 

2

  • Whoever You Are

    RL.K.2

Explain what lesson the author Mem Fox is trying to teach and how they know, by retelling familiar stories and including key details. 

3

  • The Other Side

    RL.K.2

Explain that the two little girls were separated because of the color of their skin, but in the end, they decided to ignore the rules and play with each other because people of all skin colors can be friends and have fun together. 

4

  • This Is...

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain how the African-American experience changes from the beginning of the book to the end of the book by identifying and retelling key details in a text. 

5

2 days

  • Rosa

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Describe if Rosa Parks was courageous or if the bus boycott was a good idea by identifying the reasons an author gives to support a point.

6

2 days

  • A Picture Book of Rosa Parks

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Describe if Rosa Parks was courageous or if the bus boycott was a good idea by identifying the reasons an author gives to support a point.

7

  • Rosa Parks

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain how the illustrations and text features help a reader better understand Rosa Parks, by describing the relationship between illustrations and the text in which they appear. 

8

Discussion

  • Rosa Parks

  • Rosa

  • A Picture Book of Rosa Parks

    RI.K.9

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.6

Compare and contrast all Rosa Parks biographies by identifying basic similarities and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

9

Discussion

  • Rosa Parks

  • Rosa

  • A Picture Book of Rosa Parks

    RI.K.2

    W.K.2

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.5

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Explain why Rosa Parks was influential and what lessons we can learn from her, by stating a claim and providing supporting evidence from multiple sources. 

10

  • Happy...

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.8

Explain how Martin Luther King Jr. was a powerful leader by identifying the reasons an author gives to support a point. 

11

  • Martin's...

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.8

Explain what important lessons we can learn from Martin Luther King Jr. and how his words are still alive today by identifying the reasons an author gives to support a point.

12

  • I Have...

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.8

Explain what Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed and why his dreams were important by identifying the reasons an author gives to support a point.

13

  • A Picture Book...

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.8

Explain why Martin Luther King Jr. was one of America’s great leaders by identifying the reasons an author gives to support a point.

14

  • A Sweet...

    RI.K.3

Explain how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the two sisters, by retelling the connection between events in a story. 

15

Discussion

  • Happy...

  • A Picture Book...

  • Martin's...

  • I Have...

  • A Sweet...

  • This Is...

    RI.K.9

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.6

Compare and contrast all Martin Luther King Jr. biographies by identifying basic similarities and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

16

Discussion

  • Happy...

  • A Picture Book...

  • Martin's...

  • I Have...

  • A Sweet...

  • This Is...

    RI.K.2

    W.K.2

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.5

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Explain why Martin Luther King Jr. was influential and what lessons we can learn from him, by stating a claim and providing supporting evidence from multiple sources. 

17

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.K.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.K.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • L.K.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on kindergarten reading and content.

  • L.K.5 — With guidance and support from adults, explore word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

  • L.K.6 — Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.K.2 — With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.

  • RI.K.3 — With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

  • RI.K.7 — With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the text in which they appear (e.g., what person, place, thing, or idea in the text an illustration depicts).

  • RI.K.8 — With prompting and support, identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.

  • RI.K.9 — With prompting and support, identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

  • RI.K.10 — Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.K.2 — With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.

  • RL.K.10 — Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.K.1 — Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

  • SL.K.2 — Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.

  • SL.K.3 — Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.

  • SL.K.5 — Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.

  • SL.K.6 — Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.

Writing Standards
  • W.K.2 — Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

  • W.K.5 — With guidance and support from adults, respond to questions and suggestions from peers and add details to strengthen writing as needed.

  • W.K.8 — With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.