Celebrating Black History: The Children's Crusade

  • African American child w/ glasses holding a sign says D-Day is Coming: from the children's march in Birmingham. CONTENT AREA: Social Studies, Language Arts

    Social Studies TEKS      Language Arts TEKS

    Grade Level:  5-9

    Objective 1: Students will recognize that any individual, regardless of age, has the power to help bring about social change. Students will be able to explain and/or summarize the contributions made by children during the Civil Rights Movement.

    Objective 2: Students will read a section of a book about the Children's Crusade and create a presentation of their interpretation. 

    Objective 3: Students will learn meanings and signs for new words, the spelling of those words, and use their newly-acquired vocabulary as appropriate.

    Objective 4: Students will write a fictional short story told from the perspective of a child participating in the march using their newly-acquired vocabulary.

    • To help students see beyond the dynamic leaders of the movement, and focus instead on the many contributions made by people who are not included in the history books.
    • To make connections between the role of youth in the African American freedom struggle and the role of youth in current struggles for justice and equality.
    • To encourage reflection on the events of the African American freedom struggle as they apply to our own lives
    • To evaluate and interpret primary source documents
    Materials not included in this lesson:  
    • Book:  The Children's Crusade of 1963 Boosts Civil Rights by Heather Adamson  (Digital version available free through GetEpic.com free membership or paid through Amazon)

    Note:  Aside from chapter worksheets, this lesson can be adapted to any book about the Children's Crusade of 1963.

    Optional Video   |    Introduction   |    Book: The Children's Crusade of 1963 Boosts Civil Rights   |    Culminating Activity: Short Story |   Extension Activities

  • Optional Video

    Younger students may appreciate clarification on "segregation" and what it means.



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    Whole-Group Activity: Discussion and Video

    African American children being loaded into a paddy wagon

    Project the image above and ask students to comment on what they see.  


    • When do you think this photo was taken?  Why do you think that?
    • Where do you think it was taken?  What details led you to believe that?
    • What do you think is happening in the photo?
    • Hold old do you think the people in the photo are?
    • If it doesn't come up, ask students what they know about segregation.

Video: No More

After watching the video, refer back to the image projected earlier. Ask children if their opinions about what was going on have changed. Have them substantiate their answers with what they saw in the video. 

  • Individual Digital Activity: 

    Note: The teacher will not be able to record answers unless he/she has a free EdPuzzle.com account.  To create an account, click here.

    To open this activity in EdPuzzle, click here.

Book: The Children's Crusade of 1963 Boosts Civil Rights

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    Book: the Children's Crusade of 1963 Boosts Civil Rights

    Individual Activity: Pre-Reading

    Students skim the book or look at the glossary to make a list of words they do not know. Students use the internet to research the meaning of the word and the ASL sign for that word.  

    Individual Activity: Vocabulary

    Children's Crusade Word Search

    Word search

    Paired Digital Activity: Vocabulary Flipgrid

    Flipgrid Logo


    • If you don't have a free Flipgrid account, create one here.
    • Create a new topic called Children's Crusade Vocabulary. Post the link for your students to access.
    • Divide the number of vocabulary words and assign to students. 
    • Have students video each other signing the word and its meaning.
    • Have students upload to the Flipgrid. 

    Small-Group Activity: Reading 

    In groups or pairs, students will prepare a presentation on an assigned chapter of the book that they will teach to classmates. 

    Book:  The Children's Crusade of 1963 Boosts Civil Rights by Heather Adamson

    Digital version available free through GetEpic.com free membership or paid through Amazon.

    Guiding questions:

    1. How can young adults and children positively affect their communities?

    2. How were African Americans impacted by segregation, racism, and violence during the 1950s-1960s? 

    3. How were children able to help with the Civil Rights Movement?

    Whole Group Activity: Presentations

    Students present in order of the chapters to their classmates.  

    Oral presentation rubric Presentation Rubric

Culminating Activity: Short Story

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    Students write a short story told from the eyes of a child during the Civil Rights Movement.

    Video and Discussion

    Encourage students to express what they think life might have been like for children in 1963.  Urge them to describe their thoughts and feelings.

    The Children's March: Video and Discussion


    Video link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5c113fq3vhQ

    Discuss as a group how these individuals must have felt as children and the things they must have witnessed. 

    Optional Extension activity: Read the first-person accounts of people who lived during the Civil Rights Movement.

    Analyze First-Person Narrative Writing

    Refer to the poster and image links below under Classroom Resources. 

    Project poster and go over the tips. Then project one of the following stories:  Short Story List 

    Go through the first few paragraphs and, referring back to the poster, ask the students whether or not the author followed the tips. 

    Pair students and assign them 1-2 of the stories to analyze using the worksheet.  

    Analyzing Short Stories Worksheet

    Analyzing Stories Worksheet

    Play the first-person narrative game. 

    This is is a different take on the Story-Telling game where students take turns adding one sentence to the story. 


    1. Students and the teacher form a circle. The teacher starts the story using a story prompt. 
    2. Next, the person to the teacher's right adds to the story. 
    3. Continue going around the circle until everyone has had an opportunity to add to the story.  
    4. Continue in this vein until the story either comes to a natural end, or the time allotted for the activity has elapsed.


    1. If a student starts to bring the story to a close, or if the story is starting to wane, interject the word "Suddenly!"
    2. Have each student end with "and then..."  In this way, you can keep the story going.
    3. Encourage students to refer to the narrative-writing checklist as they tell the story.

    Story prompts: (Inform students that all the stories are set in 1963.)

    • I don't know why they called the day D-Day, but that was the day my friends and I jumped out of the school windows. Then...
    • The rule is:  Blacks have to sit at the back of the bus.  But today, my grandmother decided she was not going to follow the rules anymore. Instead....
    • Last night, I met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and...
    • This morning I woke up and ate breakfast and got dressed for school just like it was any other day.  But it wasn't any other day; because today I got arrested. It all started when...

    Short Story Writing

    Students write a short story told in the voice of a child living in 1963. They should write their stories from the perspective of a child (Black, White, Hispanic, etc.) of their own age who was present the day of the Children's Crusade.  They could be a participant, someone in the crowd watching, or anyone else who would be present that day.


    Story Planning Worksheets (adapted from Project Share lesson website)

    Use the following worksheets according to student skill level:

    • Group 1:  These worksheets allow students to draw out and label parts of the story.
    • Group 2: These worksheets guide the students through visualizing, describing, and then writing their story.
    • Group 3: Using these worksheets, students generalize their story parts in a few sentences before writing.
    • Additional planning:
    • Preplanning: Students answer a series of questions while planning their story.
    • Redrafting: Students work in pairs to critique each other's stories using the framework of this plan.


Extension Activities

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    Recommended viewing: Ruby Bridges, the story of an African American 6-year-old who helped integrate the schools of New Orleans.

    Turn your classroom into a living museum:  Have students choose one person from the Civil Rights Movement to learn more about.  Students then create posters to describe their chosen individual and relate the impact that person had on the Civil Rights Movement.  See example here.

    Read and discuss the story One Friday Morning.  

    Make a timeline of the Civil Rights Era and/or explore the interactive Civil Rights Time Line

    Pictionary Game:  Cut out the cards.  Have students draw the word and the rest of the class guess.  Cards 1  Cards 2

    More Activities and Ideas

    For more ideas on Black History Month activities, including writing tie-ins, bulletin board ideas, art projects and more, visit our Black History Month Pinterest board.