In the previous lesson students compared and contrasted The Story of Ruby Bridges with a second text about Ruby. At the end of the lesson, they read a nonfiction account of Ruby’s life to the present day. In today’s lesson, they will examine the biography in greater detail in order to expand their knowledge about the real-life Ruby Bridges and the issues that concern her. They will also consider the question of the author’s purpose in writing the biography.
I want students to begin to make a personal connection to the courage Ruby demonstrated in breaking the school segregation barrier. I open the lesson by writing the word courage on the board and ask volunteers for a definition. (bravery, standing up for someone or something, caring about how others are treated, believing strongly in something, etc.) Then I ask everyone to write down the name of someone they think is courageous and what this person did or does that shows their courage. I ask volunteers to share their examples, and we have an open discussion about the ways that people can show courage.
I want students to connect courage and empathy and ask, "What are some reasons that someone would act in a caring way toward another person?" (love, concern, understands the other person’s situation)
Then I tell students that we’re going to reread and examine the biography of Ruby Bridges we looked at in the previous lesson and that they will respond to questions about the biography using evidence from the text.
I explain that we can read for simple enjoyment or we can read for some other purpose. Today, we’ll read in order to answer some questions. We’ll develop our answers as we read based on evidence we find in the text.
Our first question is actually a two-part question: "What is the purpose of this biography? How do we know this?"
I begin to steer students toward an answer by asking, "What are some reasons someone would write a biography?" I ask volunteers to share responses. Then I tell students that we’ll read the first and last paragraphs of the biography to see if we can find a clue to the author’s purpose. I read the first paragraph aloud and note that it gives quite a few facts about Ruby’s life when she was a toddler. I read the last paragraph and “think aloud”: “In this paragraph the author tells us about the Ruby Bridges Foundation and what Ruby was doing as an adult. The author’s perspective about Ruby seems to be positive.” I write on the board, "This biography was written to inform us about Ruby Bridges life and her fight for equal rights. I know this because the author gives facts about events in Ruby’s life in the opening paragraph and tells what she was doing when she was in her forties in the last paragraph."
I read the second question aloud and paraphrase, "This question is asking how information is arranged, or organized, in the text". This is a great time to ask questions to gauge which types of text structure—cause and effect, chronological order, problem and solution, order of importance—students are clear about and which might need review. If understanding seems to be low across the board, I write brief definitions on the board that students can refer to as they formulate answers.
I then have students skim and scan the text for signal words such as dates and transition words. Once they have gathered enough evidence to formulate a response, I have students discuss their answers and evidence with a partner. Then I call on individual students to share their responses and have classmates signal "agree" or "disagree.”
Students write their responses to the first two questions on their worksheets. Then they continue working on the remaining questions independently. I set a timer for 20 minutes and circulate around the room and help as necessary. (Many students needed help with the term upbringing in question 3.) I have early finishers go back and add questions, comments or thoughts to the biography to share later with the class.
Here are examples of good response and poor response worksheets to use to determine levels of understanding and abilities.
When students have finished writing, I bring the class back together and pose this question: "What made Ruby Bridges life important enough that someone would write a biography about her?" Students share responses and we discuss the question as a class.
Then I ask a question we discussed in our first lesson in this unit: "What makes someone a leader?"
I project the picture of Ruby Bridges and President Obama and ask, "Do you think Ruby Bridges is or was a leader ‘like generals and presidents’? Why or why not?” I close the debate over this question without resolution because I want students to still be thinking about it when we read and discuss segregation issues in other lessons.
I end the lesson by reading aloud the first three lines from the quote from Ruby's mother: "Our Ruby taught us all a lot. She became someone who helped change our country. She was part of history."
I want students to take from the lesson the realization of the impact on our history and the change for better made by a small child so that they keep in the back of their minds that they are capable of the same.