The February Dilemma

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As a high school English teacher, I faced a dilemma every February. Throughout the year, I assigned texts by African American writers, including Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neal Hurston. After all, their voices were central to any discussion of American literature.

For Black History Month, however, I wanted to pay special tribute to the writers and orators whose voices had been instrumental in the struggle for citizenship and equality. My problem was finding a resource or lesson special enough for that February tribute.

Of course, Wheatley, Douglass, and the other writers offer fascinating and valuable stories and insights based on their own experiences. I wanted a resource that combines texts, audio recordings, and images to present multiple perspectives and give students a broader understanding of the African American experience. As it turns out, what I was looking for was Discovering African American Writers.

This SAS Curriculum Pathways interactive tool helps students understand the challenges African Americans face in remembering their past as they build their future. The tool is organized into three sections: Focus, Explore, and Respond.

Focus: Students look at images about important moments in African American history and respond to questions that prepare them for reading. Topics include the Emancipation Proclamation, the Underground Railroad, the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and the Birmingham protest marches.

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Students can enter a response to a focus question for each image.

Explore: Students read literary passages and analyze themes important to African American writers. They use audio, vocabulary, and interpretive aids to enhance reading comprehension. The passages are by Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Jaki Shelton Green.

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Interpretive comments are available for each passage.


Respond:
As a final assignment, students apply what they’ve learned, synthesizing their earlier responses in Focus and Explore to answer a key question.

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Students respond to a focus question about the African American experience.

There’s no doubt that reading the poems of Langston Hughes or Countee Cullen can be a rewarding experience. But when you can add powerful images, audio recordings, and instructional aides, you just might have the perfect solution to the February dilemma.

Check out more SAS Curriculum Pathways resources to help celebrate Black History Month:

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About Author

Terry Hardison

Terry Hardison oversees the development of English language arts resources for Curriculum Pathways. Prior to joining SAS, Terry worked for 21 years as a teacher and as a district-level English language arts supervisor.

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