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Black Lives Matter Mini-Research Project

June 15, 2020

In the wake of protests sparked by George Floyd’s killing, monuments to Confederate leaders are being toppled and removed across the southern United States. In my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, the massive General Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue has become the center of ongoing demonstrations. The site is now adorned with tributes to people of color who have lost their lives at the hands of police. At the base of the statue, someone has posted a sign with the following anonymous poem:

Dream like Martin

Lead like Harriet

Fight like Malcom

Think like Garvey

Write like Maya

Build like Madam C. J.

Speak like Frederick

Educate like W. E. B.

Believe like Thurgood

Challenge like Rosa

Inspire like Obama

Perhaps you too have seen this poem on T-shirts, bumper stickers, journal covers, or social media posts.

Though the names of the Black activists mentioned in the poem are familiar to many Americans, they may not be as well known to English language learners. In this time of heightened awareness of social justice issues, students may value learning more about historical Black leaders who have made a difference in the fight for equality. This poem provides an ideal approach to this subject.

After sharing the poem with your students, in groups or individually, have them choose an activist to learn more about by going online and conducting a search. You can guide their research with the following questions:

  1. When did this person live?
  2. What is he/she famous for?
  3. What do you think is his/her greatest accomplishment?
  4. What do you think is the most interesting fact about this person?
  5. What character traits did/does this person have?
  6. Find one quote by this person and share it with the class.

If you would like to ease into the project as a class, ESL Library features lessons on several of the figures noted in the poem. In our Famous People section, you will find lessons on Martin Luther King Jr. (Low‑Intermediate and Intermediate), Harriet Tubman, and Maya Angelou. In Easy Readers, we have a lesson about Rosa Parks, and in our American Presidents category, we have three lessons about Barack Obama (Beginner, Low Intermediate, and High Intermediate – Advanced).

After students have had time to complete their research, give them the opportunity to present their findings. They can give a short oral presentation or write up their research in essay form.

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Comments (12)

Angela C.(Teacher)

Hi Ann, thank you so much for writing this blog. I'm wondering if you have any other resources you can share with me how I can introduce racial/social justice to ESL classrooms at a beginner level. I realized that as I was searching for this, I wasn't able to find any lesson plans on these important issues.

Reply to Comment

Ann Dickson(Author)

Hi Angela,
I agree that it is difficult to find materials for the lower levels on these important topics. Here at ESL Library, we have a number of lessons for low-intermediate students on social justice issues: George Floyd Protests, Residential Schools, International Women's Day, Bullying, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Greta Thunberg. We are working to add more resources for beginners. Stay tuned!

Lynn M.(Teacher)

I love how you keep relevant and up to date with your material. Thank you!

Reply to Comment

Ann Dickson(Author)

Hi Lynn,

I'm so glad you are enjoying out materials! Thanks for your comment.

Jacqueline Seijo(Guest)

Dear Ann,
Thanks ever so much for sharing and suggesting. This just might be my students' first project in my summer course.
Keep up the brilliant work you do.

Reply to Comment

Ann Dickson(Author)

Hi Jacqueline,

It's so nice to hear that this post is useful for you. I hope your students enjoy their project. Good luck with your summer course!

Nancy Callan(Guest)

Typo alert: "Untied States"

Reply to Comment

Ann Dickson(Author)

Thank you, Nancy! It has been fixed. :-)

Reply to Comment

Lucy V.(Teacher)

Thank you for these wonderful topics and projects. Other world issues such as poverty, religious conflict, human rights and so on would be so welcome. Keep up the great work! Lucy

Reply to Comment

Lei Kayanuma(Author)

Thank you for the positive feedback, Lucy! We're happy to hear that you are enjoying the projects. I will pass on your suggestions to the publishing team. In the meantime, we have a great Social Justice collection that has various lessons on other world issues!

Ashley B.(Teacher)

Thank you for this blog post. I am planning to do this research project with my intermediate English Language Learners. We're doing the Black History Month activities first and then moving into this research inquiry.

Reply to Comment

Ann Dickson(Author)

Hi Ashley,
Thanks for your comment. I'm so happy to hear that your learners will be exploring the lives of these inspiring activists.

Reply to Comment
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