Key Stage 3 History:
Free at Last? How far had the Civil Rights Movement come by 1963?
How far have Afro-Americans come in their struggle for equality
over the last 160 years? With many schools operating a 2-year Key
Stage 3 curriculum, it is important to offer a few quick overviews of
topics you’d love to teach in greater depth, but simply don’t have the
time. Rather than work through the topic chronologically and then
run out of time, the approach with the full enquiry is to range over the last 160 year
period asking the question about the true extent of equality for
Pivotally, this lesson asks what the starting point was in 1950 and how
far equality had been achieved by 1963. Students all
investigate one incident each from the period 1950-63 but must
eventually see these in terms of the overview. How much did each
incident advance the cause?
The outline below forms the second part of a four lesson enquiry which spans the
- Pupils can identify and explain the main turning points in the
Civil Rights movement between 1950 and 1963.
- They can analyse and assess the relative significance of each
event, giving reasons for their judgement and applying significance
- Pupils can use a range of words and phrases to describe
- Pupils can grasp and simply explain why not all accounts of this
period attach the same degree of significance to each event
To engage pupils’ interest they are told from the outset that they
have to create a museum display to show how far the Civil Rights
Movement had developed by 1963. (Slide 2 could act as a stimulus
here.) In order to do this, they need
both a clear chronology of events and a sense of the pictorial evidence
that exists. The first activity links the two. Pupils are told
that a museum in the US has sent a file of images for us to use but has
not sent any captions or even dates. Can we work out, from what is
shown on the pictures they have left us, what the images are referring
to and what they are telling us? This open-ended start enables
able pupils to predict, using any prior knowledge they may have, whilst
lower-attaining pupils can still make simple deductions based on
‘internal’ clues’. Rather than showing just one image per event, I
have included 2 or 3 to make it easier for those who will need more
help. To assist them further, pupils can also access their textbooks.
You can of course, remove some images from each lettered page to
increase the level of challenge. Many will want to rise to the
challenge of working it out for themselves first, without recourse to
There are classroom organisation issues to consider here. If you have
access to an ICT suite or set of portable laptops you could give the
students the images on PowerPoint for them to caption and use
Slidesorter to sequence. If you have a spacious classroom, pin the
images (which you have printed from the PowerPoint presentation) around
the room in random order, as if it was a picture gallery. Pupils
then visit each image with a clipboard. They make notes on each
image. Alternatively you could have images on table tops and ask
pupils to pass them round in an orderly way.
Just when the pupils are nearing the end of the first task, tell them
that an email has arrived from the Civil Rights museum giving you the
captions, but alas still no dates. So at least we can match the captions to
the images. Print a copy of slide 11 for all pupils to add their own
detail later as well as the letter of the image it is matched to. The
timeline can easily be provided, on paper or electronically. These are
Pupils now need to sequence the 8 events they have identified. Clearly, at this stage, pupils’ understanding of the events
themselves is quite sketchy and needs strengthening before they can
attempt the main part of the lesson.
With all the images now placed in chronological order, with a basic
caption for each, it is time to consolidate and deepen pupils’
understanding. You have now just received a PowerPoint
presentation from the Museum showing their actual panels containing many
of the images the pupils have just been working with. But what do
the pupils think each panel will say? Quickly tour through slides
11-18. After each one, ask them to predict what will be shown next
on the next slide. This allows for prediction and reinforcement as well
as being visually appealing. When you come to the last picture
(slide18), ask which
slide is missing. It is the Birmingham church bombings. A
short BBC clip
could be shown here. This is often left out of textbooks, as is the
story of Emmett Till, but some think it is important.
Pupils now work in groups researching ONE incident of their choice.
They have the lesson and a homework to do this. Encourage them to
communicate their findings by email or Facebook to each other. At the
start of the next lesson each group is given 10 minutes to prepare a 60
second presentation on their topic. These are best presented in
chronological order. Stress that all students need to listen
carefully because they will be using the information later.
Step 6 (The second lesson)
With the presentations made, which normally takes the preparatory 5
minutes and the subsequent 10 minutes of presentations, the really hard
work starts for the pupils in the next 35 minutes of this second lesson.
They have to quickly recall, in correct chronological order, the 8
events between 1950 and 1963 to feature in their museum. These
should be written on blank slips of paper (about 1 cm wide, 8 cm long - NOT
provided). These should then be placed in chronological order and turned
through 90 degrees so they are at right angles to the table. A set
has been provided as a downloadable resource (subscribers only), in case
you need the pre-prepared cards.
Pupils then have to make a decision about the relative importance of
each event. If it is very important move it high up the table, if less
important not so far up. Stress that each event usually builds on
the previous success. Pupils now transfer the strips onto the
template which you need to copy from slide 20. You could use slide
21 of the PowerPoint to show them the type of shape that might be
expected, (both these slides are available to subscribers only) but
don’t leave it displayed for too long, or pupils will simply copy it!
The aim is that pupils make fine adjustments to this living graph after
they have heard different arguments. I have deliberately left the
copy blank for you to draw the line as you see it. It helps if you
can talk the pupils through your thinking as you draw. This
metacognitive approach - i.e. the pupils hearing your thinking is very
powerful. You might stress key points such as the relatively
fallow time in the late 50s and the big surge in the early 60s.
When they have created their refined shape, ask a few volunteers to
come to the front and draw their approximate shape on the Interactive
White Board. Do all groups agree? Modifications could be
made in another colour or use the ‘rubber’ facility. As these
modifications are made, stress three things:
- we need criteria for judging significance (slide 22 offers some
- we need a language to describe degrees of importance (slide 26,
gives 10 great examples);
- we need examples of how historians have described significance
from textbooks (slides 23, 24) particularly where writers have
clearly disagreed about importance (slide 25).
When you have put your own gloss on the graph’s shape, it is time for
pupils to make their own copy which they then annotate to show the three
most important improvements. NOTE POWERPOINT SLIDES 22-26
ARE AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS ONLY
For the rest of the lesson, pupils work in groups to produce a panel
for their one event. They have just 60 seconds to write why it was
important. Having spent time considering the event’s significance it is
hoped that the captions on the panel will be more analytical and not
just not plain description.
Pupils are now shown a short 90 second YouTube
clip of an interview with Malcolm X who asserts that the Civil Rights
movement had not achieved anything worthwhile. Pupils have to write a blog commenting on the Youtube video saying whether they think Malcolm X
has been unfair to Martin Luther King and others. They have just 100
words to summarise their view.
This then leads to a similar approach to the period 1964-2010,
continuing the living graph but focussing mainly on where the graph
should end. Are Afro-Americans really equal?