Creative Practices

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Creative Practices’s Docs Understanding the Civil Rights Movement - middle school Social Studies Lesson

This is a middle school lesson that uses process drama and Thought-Tracking to introduce the Civil Rights Unit.

Some modifications: The task that the students are assigned in the pre-activity is not too important – I choose that as a means of accessing the students prior knowledge.  It can be changed to anything  arbitrary as long as it is pretty obvious that one shape is being favored over the other.

Lesson Plan Title:      Introduction to the Civil Rights Movement

Grade:                                    4th – 6th



Central Question:                                       How does this dramatic activity teach students about the way people were treated during the Civil Rights Movement?



PURPOSE OF LESSON:                               How did the treatment of some people lead to the Civil Rights                                                                                 Movement?





Students will

  • Be able to connect with the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Explore using their bodies as a form of conveying meaning.
  • Be exposed to another person’s point of view


MATERIALS NEEDED                                                pens, paper, name tags with circles, name tags with squares,                                                                                    coins (candy)



Columbian Hypnosis

  • Students will make a circle in the center of the classroom.
  • The teacher will ask for a volunteer to follow her hand with their nose.
  • The teacher and volunteer will switch roles. (The volunteer student becomes leader)
  • Students will pair up with their neighbor and perform Columbian Hypnosis, each taking their turn to be leader.
  • As a short reflection, the teacher will ask the students how they felt in each role of the activity.



Process Drama

  • The teacher will place a name tag in front of each child after the warm-up activity.
  • Students will be asked to get into two groups corresponding with their name tag. (circles or squares)
  • Students will be asked to take out a piece of paper and in their groups write everything they know about the Civil Rights Movement thus far.
  • The teacher will tell the students that the group will receive a “reward” for the work they do.
  • The teacher will pass out coins/candy to each team without looking at their work. 

– Circle team will get more than the square team.

-Teacher will make remarks such as “Of course, the circles know more than the






Group Tableaux and Thought-Tracking

  • Each group will have 30 seconds to split themselves in half, creating four groups.
  • In their small groups, students will be asked to create a tableau that represents how much freedom/power/oppression their group has based on the number of “coins” they were awarded.
  • The teacher will ask each group to share their tableau with the rest of the class. 
  • After all groups have shared, the teacher may have a brief reflection to ask students what they saw and how they felt in their tableau.
  • The teacher will then combine each “circle group” with a “square group.”
  • Students will then have to combine their tableaux.

-Remember – how might you display status and oppression? (levels, body                                 language, spacing etc)

  • The combined groups will then share their new creation with the class.
  • The teacher will ask students to share this tableau a second time, this time adding Thought-Tracking.  What would your character say at this moment?

– As students are in their frozen image, Teacher will tap their characters’ shoulder

one at a time.

– Student will provide a one word or phrase dialogue representing what their

character is thinking and feeling.




Teacher Led Reflection

Teacher will lead a group discussion to reflect on the activities.

What did you see? What did you hear?

What did you notice? Feel?

What do you wonder?

(Does this struggle of power/oppression ever happen in real life? What could the circle group represent in real life? What about the square group? How did it feel to be a circle/square?

How does this struggle relate to what you know about the Civil Rights Movement?