Units on African-American Culture
by Niki Thompson
Art DramaExperiencesLiteratureListening
Social StudiesSpeakingScienceTechnologyWriting

Cooperative LearningDiscovery CenterEvaluationsStrategies

Lesson 1, Day 1
Subject: Social Studies, Writing, Art
Title: What is culture?
Grade: Fifth
Time: 50 minutes
Objectives: Students will be able to: write their definition of what they think culture is, complete a culture chart, and help to complete the culture bulletin board.
Materials: Culture chart, bulletin board materials, culture map.
Pre-Lesson: Ask students if they know what culture is? Discuss their definitions of the word. Then write this definition of culture on the board. Culture has to do with our manners, feelings, about other people, our religion, what we think is right and wrong, our education, what we want to be when we grow up, the holidays we celebrate, the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, and the games we play. We learn these things from our parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, churches, and schools.
Lesson: Discuss with the children the things they have learned from each aspect of their cultures. Make lists of the ideas they brainstorm on the chalkboard. Teachers can put this material in a chart like the following for the students to use throughout the unit.
What I Learned From My ...
Parents Grandparents Teachers Friends School Church

I will then discuss school songs, cheers for athletic teams, school colors, jump rope jingles, family stories about things the children did when they were babies, birthdays, and holidays. The goal of this discussion is for children to learn about themselves and the ways they are like other people and different from them. This discussion should serve as an introduction to the idea that different people come from different cultures.
Give each child a culture map to complete for themselves. Each student should put their name in the central circle. You may want to enlarge the maps so children can draw pictures or cut them out from magazines to illustrate their culture maps.

My Country My Friends

Neighborhood My Family

My School My Church

Use the diagram to fill in information about your culture. Write things about each subject that you think are unique. Think about how all of these areas influence you and help make you who you are.
Post-Lesson: The students will design and create a bulletin board with each students’ culture map.

Lesson 2, Day 2 & 3
Subject: Social Studies, Math, Reading, Spelling
Title: Discrimination
Grade: Fifth
Time : 1 hour and 40 minutes
Objectives: Students will be able to cooperatively participate in the discrimination activity, play the Nsikwi game, take the spelling pre-test, and complete the assigned reading.
Materials: The book Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor, one orange for each group, and a dry corn cob for each student.
Pre-lesson: The teacher will tell the class that for the next few weeks they will be reading the book Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor. This story is about an African-American family named the Logans. They are trying to survive in Mississippi during the Great Depression. The teacher will state that the book tells us many things about African-American culture, which will be our focus for the next three weeks.
Ask students to pick a number between 0-100 and write it on a piece of paper with their name on it. Collect the papers and explain that the class will be participating in an experiment in discrimination today. Explain that some students will be discriminated against and some will not. Tell students who wrote an odd number to move their desks to the back of the classroom. For part of the day, limit their privileges, place them at the end of the line, and ignore them as much as possible. Tell students who wrote an even number to move their desks to the front of the room. Give them normal privileges and pay a great deal of attention to them. Half way through the day switch roles. At the end of the activity, take time to discuss students’ feelings and reactions.
Lesson: The students’ will play Nsikwi, which is a popular bowling game among Nigerian children. Divide the class into cooperative learning groups. Then use the following directions to have your students play Nsikwi in a way that gives them the opportunity to practice math skills. Prepare each corn cob by cutting off the thick end so it is flat and can stand on its end. If possible, take students outside. Have each group sit in a large circle. Have students stand their corn cobs on end to their left. Have students decide who will do first in each group. To begin play, have the first student try to knock over another player’s corn cob by rolling the orange on the ground. If the student id successful, they have the chance to score a point by responding correctly during a specific activity. (See "Ways to Use the Game" for some suggested activities to use with students.) Other students in the group confirm that the response is correct. The student continues to play until they miss the question, fail to knock a corn cob down, or have knocked down all of the corn cobs. The corn cobs are reset. Play continues as the orange is passed to the left and each student takes their turn. Have students keep score. The winner is the person with the greatest number of points at the end of a time period that the teacher specifies.
Ways to use the game. Randomly assign each student a number. To score a point and roll again, the student who is taking a turn must multiply his or her number times the number of the person whose corn cob was knocked down. Randomly assign each student a measurement, such as 6 cm, that will represent a rectangle’s length or width. To score a point and roll again, the student who is taking a turn must determine the area or the perimeter of the rectangle. Adapt the game to provide students with practice in other math areas, such as inequalities or fractions.
Post-Lesson: Read a few pages of the book aloud to the class. Assign students to read chapters 1-3, and vocabulary words. (Vocabulary words are: meticulously, tormentor, monotonous, admonished, billowed, raucous, briars, inaccessible, moronic, relent, conspiratorially, stealthily, occupants, and gloat.) They will be responsible for knowing the meaning of all vocabulary words, and the correct spelling. Give a spelling pre-test so they know what vocabulary words they need to work on as they read.

Lesson 2, Day 3 & 4
Subject: Writing, Social Studies, Poetry, Math, Reading, Art
Title: Maps of Africa and Mankala
Grade: Fifth
Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Objectives: Students will be able to: identify the setting and the major events in the chapter, compare the climate and population map of Africa, write a couplet poem, play Makala, and play vocabulary hide and seek.
Materials: Story Map handout, Comparing Maps handout, pencil, egg carton, tape, bean seeds, and 2 red markers, index cards with vocabulary terms and definitions written on them and a book of Famous African Americans.
Pre-Lesson: Fill in the story map for chapters 1-3, and complete a daily writing activity.

Story Map

The Setting:

Statement of a Problem:

Statement of Solution:

Have a student read out of the African Americans book highlighting one person of their choice.
For the daily writing activity, pretend you are one of the characters in the book. Write a diary entry telling what you think and feel about your situation as that character.
Lesson: Students will complete the Comparing Maps worksheet. The worksheet focuses on comparing the climate map of Africa to the population map.
The teacher will then introduce a couplet poem by giving the definition. A couplet is a two-lone verse. The last word in each line rhymes. A poem can be made up of one or more couplets. Next, I would give an example, and then giving students guided practice as we create a poem together. Then the students may work independently, with a partner, or in a cooperative learning group to write a poem.
The student will play the game Mankala. Mankala is an Arab game d called Kalah. They took it to Africa, where it has many different names. In East Africa they call it Mankala. You can make this game out of an empty egg carton. Build the game by separating the top and the bottom of the egg carton. Cut the top section in half and attach each half to a side of the bottom section. Each of the two end cups becomes a player’s cup, where he or she collects the beans (points). The player’s cup is on his or her right. Game directions: 1. Have students pick a partner and sit across from each other. Tell them to put three beans in each of the twelve cups in the egg carton. 2. Have students decide which player goes first. The first player pick out the beans in the cup immediately on his/her left. This player should then put his/her red marker in the empty cup. 3. Going counterclockwise away from the red marker, have the first player place one bean in each cup until all three beans have been used. 4. Look in the cup opposite the cup where the last bean was dropped. Have the first player take those beans out and place them in end cup to his/her right. These beans are now the first player’s points. 5. Tell the second player to do the same thing that the first player just did by repeating the third and fourth steps. 6. When it is the first players turn again, he/she finds his/her red marker and takes the beans from the cup to the right. That player distributes those beans as described in step 3. If there are no beans in the cup to the right, that player put his/her red marker into the empty cup, and it becomes the other player’s turn. It is important to remember to move the red marker so that you know which cup to start with for your next move. 7. Continue to play until there is only one bean left. The last player to put any beans in his/her end gets the last bean. 8. Both players count their beans. The player with the most beans in his or her cup wins the game.
Post-Lesson: Play vocabulary hide and seek with chapter 1-3 vocabulary words. Before students enter the class room, hide index cards around the room, some with vocabulary words written on them and others with definitions on them. When the class arrives, divide students into two teams to play Vocabulary Hide and Seek. Allow students to search the room for a designated period of time. Teams can score points by matching a word with its definition. The winning team is the one with the most points at the end of the time period.
Assign chapters 4-6 to be read and vocabulary words: discourse, mercantile, clapboard, glade, guttural, sharecropping, felling, malevolently, subdued, verandah, retaliate, warily, wheedle, clabber.

Lesson 3, Day 5 & 6
Subject: Reading, Language Arts, Music, Life Skills
Title: What’s Cooking
Grade: Fifth
Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Objectives: Students will be able to: complete the spelling test, complete the story mapping for chapters 4-6, cook stew form Zaire with assistance from the teacher, and write a summary which includes vocabulary words for chapters 4-6 vocabulary words.
Materials: paper, pencil, African American book, ingredients: 2 onions, 1/4 cup oil (vegetable or peanut), 1 chicken, cut into pieces, 1 tomato, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 cup water, 2 cups, tomato juice, cayenne pepper, oven, kitchen and cooking supplies.
Pre-lesson: Give them the final spelling test with the vocabulary words from chapters 1-3.
Have a student chose a African American to read about out of the African American book.
Lesson: Students will fill in the story map for chapters 4-6.
Students will complete a daily writing activity by working with two or three other students to write a song. The song can be a tribute to an African American, or it can be about a topic presented in this unit.
With the help of the teacher the students will cook Stew from Zaire. 1. Take the skin off the onion and dice into small pieces. 2. Use paper towels to wipe off any excess moisture on the pieces of chicken. 3. Place the oil in a pot and heat on medium for one minute. 4. Put the chicken and the onions into the oil and brown them. Use a spatula to keep turning the mixture over. Once the mixture is brown, remove it from the pot and put it on a plate. 5. Pour out the oil. Then place the chicken and onion mixture back into the pot with two tablespoons of oil. 6. Slice the tomato into sections and then add them to the pot. Mix in the salt, pepper, water, and tomato juice. 7. Cook for 45 minutes over low heat. Make a gravy for the stew by stirring 3 tablespoons of flour into 3 tablespoons of hot water. After the gravy has thickened pour it over the chicken. Serve and encourage all students to try the stew. Clean up.
Post-Lesson: Students will write a summary of chapters 4-6 using vocabulary words. Students should underline any vocabulary words they used in their summary.
Students are assigned chapters 7-9 and vocabulary words: locusts, aristocracy, caldron, resent, shantytown, eviction, revenue, wisteria, forerunners, persnickety, ventured, and premature.

Lesson 4, Day 7 & 8
Subject: Reading, Language Arts, Science
Title: Warming Things Up
Grade: Fifth
Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Objectives: Students will be able to: complete the story mapping activity, complete the daily writing activity, build an insulator, play vocabulary hide and seek.
Materials: Story map, African Americans book, pencil, paper, a large jar with the top, a small jar with the top, a small glass, a pitcher with warm water, cellophane or masking tape, cork, two pieces of aluminum foil, scissors, and index cards with vocabulary words and definitions.
Pre-Lesson: Students should complete a story map for chapters 7-9. A student will chose an African American to read about out of the African Americans book.
Lesson: Students will complete the daily writing activity by writing a letter to one of the people or characters in the book. You may wish to ask that person about events that happened in the story.
In this activity you will learn how insulation can help store heat. As you experiment remember to formulate a hypothesis, observe and record your results, and draw a conclusion. Directions: 1. Tightly wrap two pieces of aluminum foil all around the outside of the small jar. Be sure the dull sides of the foil are showing. 2. Carefully pour warm water into the small jar until it is almost full and immediately close it with the top. Then pour some warm water into the small glass until it is also almost full. 3. Position the cork inside the bottle of the large jar. Use the cork as a stand on which to place the small jar. Once the small jar is in position, tightly close the top of the jar. 4. Wait for ten minutes. 5. Open the jar and take out the small jar. Then open the small jar. 6. Test the temperature of the water in the small jar. Then test the temperature of the water in the small glass. the teacher will then lead a discussion to answer the following questions: What did you think would happen before you did the experiment? What happened during the experiment? What can you conclude from the experiment?
Post-Lesson: Play vocabulary hide and seek. Assign chapters 10-12 to read and vocabulary: mortgage, ham hocks, lethargically, grating, reproachfully, throng, jauntily, recitation, frenzied, despicable, and hastened.

Lesson 5, day 9 & 10
Subject: Language Arts, Reading
Title: Let’s Talk and Classify
Grade: Fifth Grade
Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Objectives: Students will be able to: create a story mapping for chapters 10-12, discuss the book Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, and classify information.
Materials: Story Mapping and Classification handout, and a pencil.
Pre-Lesson: Fill out the story mapping for chapters 10 -12.
Lesson: The class will discuss the entire book. We will sit in a circle and have a round table discussion about what they thought about the book. Both positive and negative thoughts and social issues will be discussed.
Post-Lesson: Students will classify information. Classification is the process of arranging things into groups or categories according to common characteristics. In this activity the students will classify information from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. First, select the category to write in each oval. Some examples of categories include prejudice, Great Faith School, foods, and jobs. Then use information from the book to give five examples of things that can be classified in each category. Write these examples, using words or phrases, in the rectangles that are connected to each oval.


Lesson Six, Days 11&12
Subject: Language Arts, Reading
Title: Future wheel
Objectives: Students will be able to: evaluate and describe personal attributes of the characters in the book, predict consequences, and compare and contrast using a Venn diagram.
Materials: Paper, pencil, Polar Opposites, Future Wheel, and Venn Diagram handouts, transparency of Character Map.
Pre-Lesson: Students will write short sequel chapter to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and share it with the class.
Lesson: After reading Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, try this polar opposites rating activity to evaluate the characters and events in the story. Then write information from the story that provides evidence to support the rating you have chosen.
Character Map

Create a character map by choosing a character from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and place his or her name in the center square. In the connecting ovals, write attributes that describe that character. In the rectangles, provide evidence from the story for each attribute you list. We will do this as a whole class on the overhead.
Example: T.J. lazy would rather cheat than study for a test
Students will predict consequences by using a Future Wheel. Use the graphic organizer to study the process of decision making. Follow the steps below. 1. Write a topic in the center rectangle. 2. In the extending ovals, write the immediate effects caused by the original action. You may wish to draw additional extending ovals if they are needed. 3. In the extending triangles, write the immediate effects written in the ovals. You may wish to draw additional extending triangles if they are needed. 4. Use the information in the future wheel to write a short paragraph that will persuade a friend to make the best choice.
Civil Disobedience
Break a Might get
rule or law arrested

Rule might will have
be changed a criminal record


Post-Lesson: You can use a Venn Diagram to improve your comprehension of the stories you have read in this unit. Use the diagram shown below to compare and contrast two people, places, things, or events. Suggested topics are: Cassie/Lillian, Stacey/T.J., Great Faith School/ Jefferson Davis School, Mr. Logan/Mr. Morrison.
Venn Diagram

Lesson 7, Day 13 & 14
Subject: Art, Drama, Language Arts
Title: African Village, and Puppet Show
Grade: Fifth Grade
Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Objectives: Students will be able to: create an African village, and present and create a puppet show.
Materials: Oatmeal boxes, brown and green construction paper, earthtone, brown and green tempera paint, glue, scissors, clay, small sticks, dirt, rocks, grass, a sock, cotton balls or tissue, different colors of yarn, a variety of materials such as fabrics, buttons, bows, felt, permanent marker, and glue.
Pre-Lesson: Read the following information to your students: Most large cities in Africa have homes and apartments that resemble those in other cities, but a large part of the African population still lives in traditional dwellings. They types of houses in which people live depend upon the region and the climate. Along the coast in West Africa people live in houses built on stilts. In Chad the homes have walls made with grass and mud, topped with thatched roofs. The Dogon tribes from Mali build their houses of woven straw and mud, perching them on rugged mountain sides. Nomadic tribes like the Masai construct their houses of sticks, mud and cow dung. Whenever they need to move, they simply take the houses apart to move with them. Today we are going to make a replica of an African thatched roof village. Everyone will make their own. Directions: 1. Cut the oatmeal box in half. Cut out a door. Paint earthtone color. 2. Make a cone for a roof and glue on the top of the oatmeal box. 3. Use green and brown paint to decorate the village with sticks for a wood pile, rocks for cooking a fire, and put dirt and grass throughout the village. 5. Make village people out of clay. Paint the clay figures to show different types of African American dress. 6. Use dirt and grass to make a field for growing crops, and clay to make a herd of cattle. 7. Make trees for the village with green and brown construction paper.
Lesson: In this activity, you will make the fictional characters or real life heroes you have read about in this unit come alive through puppetry. Work with three or four other students to pick a scene or event that you would like to present as a puppet show. Write a script for your puppet show. Then make a puppet to represent each of the characters or heroes. Directions for making a sock puppet: 1. Use cotton balls or tissue to stuff the end of the sock to make the head. 2. Loosely tie a piece of yarn below the stuffing to make the neck. You will need to be able to get one finger through the neck and into the head. 3. Put your index finger into the puppet’s head. Then on each side of the sock cut a small hole, one for your thumb and one for the other finger next to your index finger. Your thumb and finger will be the puppet’s arms. 4. Use yarn for the hair and other materials to make the hero’s face and clothing. Each group will then present their puppet show.
Post-Lesson: Each student will write a reflection about their thoughts on the days activities: what they liked, disliked and what they learned.

Lesson 8, Days 15 & 16
Subject: Language Arts, Reading
Title: Feelings and Biased
Grade: Fifth grade
Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Objectives: Students will be able to: identify and write a simile, compare experiences that evoke certain feelings, and determine the difference between balance and bias.
Materials: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, paper and pencil.
Pre-Lesson: Define similes for the students. A simile compares two things using the words like or as. "Like cat eyes in the night" is simile that the author, Mildred Taylor, used to describe the headlights of a car. Have the students locate similes in the story and write what they are used to describe. Then ask the students to write sentences in which they use similes to describe something or someone from the story.
Lesson: Throughout the story you can find examples of how Cassie’s actions reflect what she feels. Write a brief paragraph describing a situation in which Cassie exhibited each of these feelings: fear, pride, courage, hope, sadness, happiness, impatience, anger, embarrassment, and love. Then, write a few sentences to tell about times when you experienced these feelings.
Many people experience discrimination in their daily lives. Cassie Logan had to deal with racial bias form the Simms. The Logans also felt discrimination from Harlan Granger and others. Sometimes discrimination is directed towards a person’s race and sometimes towards a person’s gender. Read the following statements and decide if there is a bias or prejudice. Decide if it is: gender, racial or no bias. 1. Boys are naturally better in math than girls. 2. More women than men watch soap operas. 3. The operation by the lady doctor was a success. 4. The musicians practiced for the concert. 5. Asian children make excellent students. 6. My younger sister reads better than I do. 7. Moms are better cooks than Dads. 8. Firemen must always be ready to answer the alarm.
9. Hispanic children are naturally kind. 10. Black people have more rhythm than white people. Hold a class discussion about these statements. Does everyone agree? The class will write their own definition of bias.
Post-Lesson: Students will reflect on the days activities, and write a reaction to information covered. (Feelings and bias/prejudice).

Lesson 9, Days 17, 18, & 19
Subject: Culture Days
Grade: Fifth
Time: 5 hours
Objectives: Students will be able to: use knowledge and gain new knowledge about African Americans. They will prepare and present a chosen activity dealing with African-American culture at the culture fair.
Materials: Butcher paper, markers and any other materials need by the students.
Pre-Lesson: The student will be told that we will be hosting a Culture Fair put on by them this Friday. They will be given extra class time to prepare for the event. Divide the class onto cooperative learning groups. Have students brainstorm a list of activities they could use to tell other people about the African American culture, or use the suggestions below. Then have the students make the necessary preparations for Culture Day. Have students invite other classes, parents, and community members to participate in this event.
Lesson: The students will chose one of the following activities (or others with teacher approval) and begin researching and preparing for Culture Day.
Culture Day Activities:
Invitations: Have students make invitations to ask other classes, parents, and community members to this special event. Have them make advertisements to display in the hallway that will make teachers and students want to attend.
Guest Speakers: Invite people in from the community to come to speak to the students about the different cultures and what makes each special. Encourage the guests to tell about their personal experiences and share any photographs or objects that provide students with the opportunity to get real-life view and a better understanding of the things that are important to different cultural groups.
Murals: Have students plan and draw murals that show some of the important contributions that people from the African American culture have made throughout history.
Heritage Quilts: Have students create heritage quilts a that tell about people from different cultures, such as the African Americans that were studied in this unit.
Recipes: Have students locate and make recipes from the African American culture. Family members and local restaurants may be valuable resources for recipes.
African America Hero Scrapbook: Have a group work together on an American Hero Scrapbook. Have students include articles about and pictures of heroic people from different cultures.
Post-Lesson: Discuss the successes and pitfalls of Culture Day with the class. Find out if it was something they enjoyed and learned from, would they do it again in the future?