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Lesson Plan to Teach African American History to Preschoolers

written by: ElleB • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 8/2/2012

A selection of ideas to help with teaching African American history for preschool children. Here, you will find songs to sing, activities and recommended reading.

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    African American history for preschool children is a great lesson theme, as it encourages children’s natural curiosity about the past, and spreads awareness about the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a popular theme in January, especially around Martin Luther King’s birthday, the 15th Jan. Here are some great ideas for teaching African American history for preschool children.

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    Circle Time

    Introduce the topic by reading about Martin Luther King. If you have recently studied Rosa Park, you could ask the children to help you remember what Rosa did, and why. “The Story Of Martin Luther King” by Johnny Ray Moore and “Martin Luther King” by Marion Dane Bauer and Jamie Smith are both very good introductory books. You could also expand on the African American culture by reading books like “I Love My Hair!” by Natasha Tarpley and E.B Lewis.

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    Sing-A-Long

    This is a great song for celebrating Martin Luther King, and equality in general. It is often credited back to a preschool teacher from Michigan called Ester Yost. You could learn the words as a song, or as a poem.

    I have a dream, said Martin Luther King

    We're gonna make that dream come true.

    Let freedom ring, said Martin Luther King,

    It's up to me and you.

    It's not the color of your hair,

    It's not the color of your skin,

    It doesn't matter what you wear,

    It's the character within.

    I have a dream, said Martin Luther King

    We're gonna make that dream come true,

    Let freedom ring, said Martin Luther King

    It's up to me and you.

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    Make A Quilt

    Cut out squares of paper, and give one to each child. Ask the children what Martin Luther King’s dream was. Remind them that his dream was for everybody to be equal, and to be allowed to live and play together. Ask the children to think of what their own dream is, and draw a picture of it on their square. You may want to provide coloring crayons to decorate the pictures. Then punch a hole in the middle of each side on every square, and attach the squares with wool. Hang the quilt up in the classroom.

    Other craft ideas may be found right here at Bright Hub.

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    Dancing

    Celebrate African American cultures by creating some space in the classroom and playing the children African American songs. First, sit the children down and ask them what a traffic light is. Explain that traffic lights were invented by an African American called Garrett Morgan. Learn the following song with the children, and tell them that you will be saying the words while they enjoy the music. When you say “Stop”, the children must all sit down and be quiet. When you say “Go”, they can stand up and dance. When you say “Wait”, they must pause where they are.

    STOP says the red light,

    GO says the green,

    WAIT says the yellow light, blinking in between!

    Try to pick a variety of songs, such as “Pickin’ Cotton All Day Long” as a work song, and “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” as a soul song. You may also want to play some early hip-hop, spiritual music, blues and jazz music, to demonstrate the different music types available. Ask the children what songs were their favorites, and encourage them to dance and have fun. Not only will this increase their knowledge of African American music and culture, but it is also great for their physical development.

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