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How School Has Changed: The Story of Ruby Bridges

written by: Laurie Patsalides • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 2/7/2014

This lesson will show your elementary students how much school has changed. Teach about Ruby Bridges and the history of segregation in schools.

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    The story of Ruby Bridges is true. In the 1960's, Ruby went to a segregated school. She was terribly mistreated. Students will learn about the true history of American schools in this book.

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    Segregation is a Part of American School History

    Ruby Bridges Literature Connection: Coles, R. (1995). The Story of Ruby Bridges

    Begin by teaching students that in the past, schoolhouses were only used by Caucasian or African American students; the students did not learn together. Depending on what age your classroom is, they may not understand the concept of time, but tell them the dates anyhow.

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    Read, The Story of Ruby Bridges to students. Begin by asking the students:

    • How do they think Ruby felt walking through the mob every day to school?
    • Why did the people mistreat Ruby? How did Ruby overcome her fear?
    • What would you do if you were Ruby?

    Talk to the students about how school was segregated between black and white students in the past, but is no longer segregated. Teach the students that we should not be separated, nor should we gain or lose any opportunity based upon the color of our skin. Talk to the students about Ruby's strength and resolve.

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    • Pencils
    • Paper
    • Crayons
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    Have the students draw a picture of themselves with Ruby at school, or a part of the story they liked best. Have the students dictate a sentence for the picture. Display the completed pictures on a bulletin board titled, We Go to School Together.

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    Can students tell you what segregation is? Can students tell you why prejudice is wrong?

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    Finish with Ruby Bridges The Movie

    The Ruby Bridges movie is available on YouTube for free or it can be purchased or rented. You can click on this link to watch it:

    Rationale: Hearing the mob in the video and seeing Ruby as a “real-life" six year-old child will provide a connection to the story and main character for the students. Also, viewing a movie about Ruby Bridges and her family may help visual learners form another perspective about her life. Consider breaking the film up into several small segments and ask comprehension questions between the clips.

    After watching the movie, complete a Venn diagram with the students to compare the movie and book.