Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Civil Rights and Diversity Lessons -- School Librarian Tells How to ‘Teach Till’ Without Frightening Children

Media Release
Tuesday, July 13, 2011
Susan Klopfer
1712 Redrock Drive
Gallup, NM 87301

How to ‘Teach Till’ Without Frightening Children: A Resource Guide for Teachers

You are a classroom teacher. The anniversary of Emmett Till’s death is coming up, and you want to present a meaningful lesson for your students. How can you talk about the murder of Emmett Till -- a significant civil rights events -- without frightening children.

Patricia Fua, a 20-year-plus high school teaching veteran and librarian, believes she has answers and has developed a teaching guide for Help With Teaching a Lesson on Emmett Till. Fua shares this guide as this 46th anniversary of this important modern civil rights event arrives:
Resources for the Classroom

For ongoing classroom lessons which emphasize tolerance and diversity visit Teaching Tolerance through the link below.

This organization offers a free magazine for educators with articles for adults, and stories to share with your students. The magazine also offers many ideas for handling discipline and a wealth of lesson plans. The yearly program sponsored by this association is called “Mix it Up for Lunch”. This is a great activity which is strongly recommended as a school wide program for all ages and one that will have a lasting effect on both students and staff.

Preparing the Class for your Lesson on Emmett Till

The Emmett Till story evokes many strong feelings in modern day teenagers. No matter how you choose to introduce this story to students the result will be basically the same, many will be shocked, some angry, while others will be confused.

Initially, before introducing the story the activity below called “Information Circle” can be used to ease students into a topic which might make them uneasy. Using “Information Circle" at the beginning of your lesson allow students who have little or no knowledge of the Emmett Till story to acquire information from their peers, and to practice passing information along.
The general discussion time at the end of the activity allows the teacher to correct and modify any information which was shared which might be inaccurate. It is recommended that students have other lessons throughout the year which extend on this story so that they realize it was not an isolated event, that it led to a great movement in American History, and so that they can draw inferences to Jim Crow laws and racism in literature and history as they study throughout the year.

Closure on this lesson

Students will need some closure which will allow them to put the feelings which have surfaced into a proper context. Again using the activity below students might be given a specific assignment by the teacher to make the sense of closure more eminent. For example students might write a short sentence which they repeat to each student they meet in the circle when the music is stopped. It can be a pledge of what they will do to help end racism in the future, or a specific fact they found in their research. The slow movement together with the music should help to contrast this second staging of the same activity from the first. There should be a quiet sense of peace, a grieving time if you will in this closure activity.

After this activity a solemn pledge might be considered. Students could place their pledge which they read to one another into a small special container to be included in a school time capsule, or a pledge wall might be made in the hallway to show their peers how they feel. Ideas are unlimited and depend on the personality of the group.

For more closure activities see the Social Studies links provided under the high school section or visit .


Information Circle

This activity is suited for all ages including high school.

Before and after your lesson on Emmett Till a rewarding activity allowing students to review the information as well as voice their emotions is to play “Information Circle”.

Two circles are formed, one inside (circle A) and the other outside (circle B) thus including all the students in the classroom. Music is played, and in this instance Delta Blues should be used to set the mood.

Students walk in a circle slowly with each circle moving opposite of the other. When the music stops the students stand facing that person from the other circle and they exchange for 10 seconds each their knowledge of the event prior to the lesson, and their feelings about race in America after the lesson. The music is started again and a slow walk resumes to the next stop in the music. The teacher should facilitate the 10 second switch by monitoring the time and calling out, “A speaks” and then “B speaks”.

At the end of the activity (suggested overall time is 3 to 4 minutes) a class discussion can be held which is monitored by the teacher. All students will be ready to participate after gleaning information and opinions from others during the activity.

Springboard Lessons

Language Arts

Elementary School
Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson with illustrations by Hudson Talbott

Middle School
Everyday Use by Alice Walker

A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson (sonnets, especially the crown sonnet form)

High School

Language Arts

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

and the
Scottsboro Trial


US Race Relations After WWII

Analyzing Primary Documents

Time line of the Civil Rights movement

Social Studies Segregation Voting Rights  Wall of Tolerance Civil Rights Memorial

Miscellaneous Resources PBS Teacher Guide to Activities

for use with the video
The Murder of Emmett Till

(Editor's Note: I have also added the following video by Keith A. Beauchamp:)

PBS Videos and Lesson Plans 

Glossary taken

from “Eyes on the Prize

Short profiles
* * *
Patricia Fua has taught school for 20-plus years and is currently the Librarian at a public high school in rural Nevada. Some of her most beloved teaching experiences have occurred in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and a troubled inner city school in Central Los Angeles. Through all of these experiences Patricia holds fast that, “Young people are the same everywhere. They are concerned with fairness and equality, and they want to do their part to make the world a better place.”

Winner of two Christa McAuliffe fellowships Patricia has stretched across the board in education creating programs for the arts in Micronesia, setting up and acquiring funding for computer labs in both Samoa and Saipan and working as a volunteer to help accredit schools at each school where she has taught. Her first love is teaching Broadcasting and Drama but says she has a true passion for teaching tolerance.


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