Civil Rights Movement Lesson Plan


Unit Essential Question: How do we pursue political progress?


California History/Social Science Standards


11.10 Students analyze the development of federal civil rights and voting rights.

2. Examine and analyze the key events, policies and court cases in the evolution of civil rights, including Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, and California Proposition 209.

4. Examine the role of civil rights advocates (e.g., A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Thurgood Marshall, James Farmer, Rosa Parks), including the significance of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream” Speech.

5. Discuss the diffusion of the civil rights movement of African Americans from the churches of the rural South and the urban North, including the resistance to racial desegregation in Little Rock and Birmingham and how the advances influenced the agendas, strategies, and effectiveness of the quest of American Indians, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans for civil rights and equal opportunities.

6.   Analyze the passage and effects of civil rights and voting rights legislation (e.g., 1964 Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act of 1965) and the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, with an emphasis on equality of access to education and to the political process. 


Essential Question: What is an unjust law? 



  1. Brown v. Board
  2. Little Rock
  3. Civil Rights Act
  4. Voting Rights Act
  5. Zoot Suit Riots
  6. Birmingham
  7. Martin Luther King Jr.
  8. civil disobedience




Socratic Seminar: Students will engage in a Socratic Seminar to discuss the resistance strategies that Martin Luther King Jr. advocated during the Civil Rights Movement.



Day 1

Time: 1.5 hours

Objective: To learn about significant civil rights decisions and cases





Warm up:  Describe an experience when you were treated unfairly because of your ethnicity.  Explain. 



Read Zoot Suit Riots Begin

Question: What do these pictures show about race relations in Los Angeles in the 1940s?



Zoot Suit Riots Begin  

Case Studies:

Directions: Split class into groups of four.  Present the case.  Give each group an opportunity to discuss.  Have one person from each group share out.  Have students take notes on what actually happened.  Each case study cycle should be 15 min.

  1. Case 1: Brown v. Board
  2. Case 2: Little Rock
  3. Case 3: Civil Rights Act
  4. Case 4: Voting Rights Act


Case Studies


Major decisions



3-2-1 Reflection


3-2-1 Reflection

HW:  Type up reflection to Ning.  Read and comment on two other reflections.




Day 2

Time: 1 hour

Objective: To examine the meaning and context of Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail





Warm up: Have you ever had to follow a policy you thought was unfair?  How did you react?  Describe.




Read Letter


-          Highlight main ideas

-          Write questions in the margins

-          Discuss in pairs



Letter from Birmingham Jail

Answer questions/ Come up with questions for the Seminar


Socratic Seminar Notes

HW: Re-read text.  Prepare to ask good questions in the Seminar. 





Day 3

Time: 1.5 hours

Objective: To read and respond to King’s resistance strategies identified in his Letter from Birmingham Jail






Warm up



Discuss Procedures

-          Listen to each other and take notes

-          Speak loudly and clearly

-          Take turns speaking

-          Offer ideas and insights that are clear and logical

-          Use text to support your opinions

Introduce Sentence Stems for Classroom Discussion

-          Encourage students to use stems during discussion to talk to one another



Socratic Seminar Rubric


Sentence Stems for Classroom Discussion

Socratic Seminar

-          Start with opening question: Who is King writing to and why? 

-          Core questions:

o       What is civil disobedience?

o       How does King advocate civil disobedience? 

o       What do you think will happen to people who follow King’s advice?

-          Final question

o       What is an unjust law?

o       How should we respond to unjust laws?

-          Encourage students to ask/answer each other’s questions based on the text throughout the seminar


Socratic Seminar Rubric


-          Ask students to use the Socratic Seminar Rubric to grade their own performance

-          Write comments


Socratic Seminar Rubric



  1. Write one key idea you learned about the Civil Rights movement based on the seminar. 
  2. What did you do well?
  3. What could you do better?

Type and submit to Ning








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