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Historical Figures of Texas

Context for this Lesson


Topic: Historical Figures of Texas Project : Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman

Focus Question: What were the important contributions of these leaders in American History?


Questions From a Hat

Students can either sit at their desks or in a circle, depending on the energy of the room. The teacher takes the hat from person to person (that way they can help read if necessary) and the student will pull a slip of paper out of it with a question on it and answer the question out loud. "Let's see how quickly we can go around the room and answer these questions. If we are going to do this quickly, what do we have to remember?” “If anyone would like one of the teachers to read their question, that's ok too."

The questions read:

  • If I wasn't able to sit with my friend on the bus, I would...
  • If I was not allowed to eat out with other people at a fancy restaurant, I would feel...
  • If I couldn’t play baseball, I would…
  • If I couldn’t go to school with my friends, I would feel…
  • If I couldn’t live with my family, I would feel…
  • When others are mean to my friends, I…
  • If I couldn’t drink water from our water fountain, I would…
  • If I had to play on a different playground from my friends, I would…

Activity Processing/Reflection: Students may remain seated as the teacher asks these questions.

Describe: What did we do in this activity? How did these questions make you feel?

Analyze: Did you have the same feelings about other student's questions? Why or why not?

Relate: What did this tell you about how Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Jackie Robinson, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman may have felt? Or why they may have made the choices that they did?

Transition: ”Now that we’ve explored how we might have felt li we were separated from other people in our community or what it would have felt like to not be able to do the things we wanted to do, let’s talk about about MLK Jr., HT, ST and JR. They weren’t allowed to do certain things. Can someone tell me why?” “Let’s move into a circle and we’ll talk a little more about this by playing a game.”


Exploding Atom

Students make a standing circle. The teacher explains the procedure for Exploding Atom. "If you agree with the question, you will move to the center of the circle. If you disagree, you will move to the outer edge. If you are unsure or don't completely agree or disagree, stay towards the middle area." Let them try this out. "Everyone move to where they would agree."..etc. “What if I said, I am a first grader, show me with your bodies where you would go.” “Not everyone had the same answer(these are 1st and 2nd graders), and that’s ok, but I might ask a volunteer to tell me why they put themselves where they did. Here’s another statement. I like being a first grader.” Students adjust. “So that was different because it was a statement about what it felt like to be a first grader. Everyone might have a different feeling about that. Can someone raise their hand and tell me why they put themselves where they did this time?”

Continue with statements about the historical figures:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. helped a lot of people.
  • Jackie Robinson was a brave man.
  • Jackie Robinson was not the first black man to play baseball in the Major Leagues.
  • Sojourner Truth believed in freedom.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in segregation (separation of white and black people).
  • Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape to freedom.
  • Harriet Tubman was a selfish woman.
  • Sojourner Truth was a good citizen.

Ask students to volunteer and explain why they have put themselves where they have. Add questions that will allow the students to back up their opinions with knowledge of the history. If they are not sure, take the question to the class. This can become a wonderful discussion that reflects more about acquired knowledge than just opinions.

Reflection: Students sit to reflect.
Describe: What did we do in this exercise?
Analyze: Did you learn anything new about our characters from history? Were you surprised by anything you knew or didn't know?
Relate: What do you think you might have done in the same situation? Does anyone still have any questions about these characters?

Transition ”Let’s explore some of the questions we still have by creating pictures of some moments in history.” Use the moments that students are still unclear about to create the following images.

Stage Picture

Students make photographs of scenes in history taken from the stories of the historical figures. "Let's think about the moment when Rosa Parks rode the bus...(see below or explore moments that students need review reflected in the previous relate section)". Ask for a volunteer to make a picture of Rosa Parks on the bus. "Who else was on the bus with Rosa.” Chose one character to add at a time. “How do you think the bus driver felt or what might he have said? Can I have a volunteer to be the bus driver?" Add up to 3 characters in this way. Be sure that the students are able to hold their positions. As each character is added, the teacher asks “What thinking in this moment?” “What might she say at this moment?” “What might happen next?” Review these moments fully through the questions.

  • Rosa’s bus ride
  • Martin’s speech
  • Jackie’s first day in the locker room
  • 1st Jackie Robinson day at Dodger Stadium
  • Rosa’s arrest
  • Sojourner’s escape
  • Harriet helping a slave escape
  • Sojourner meeting President Abraham Lincoln
  • Sojourner being sold away from her family when she was 9
  • Martin boycotting buses

Reflection: This can be done quickly after each sculptured photograph is complete.
Describe: Who was ....... in this picture?(describe the role each of the students portrayed)
Analyze: What do you think....was thinking at this moment in history?
Relate: What did you learn about (main character) in this exercise?


What did you discover or learn about one of the historical figures today?

What did you discover or learn about yourself today?