A Deeper Look at Post-Modernism with MLK Jr.

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SWBAT analyze a set of texts, video, and images, including MLK's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" in order to describe how efforts to desegregate the United States have unfolded since the late 1940's.

Big Idea

So you're saying that despite MLK's eloquence and major Civil Rights efforts, some places are MORE segregated than they were in 1968?!


15 minutes

Last class period, students investigated Kennedy & the nuclear and space race more closely using primary sources.  This class period, we are continuing a historical look at Post-Modernism by discussing and creating real-world examples of Post-Modern ideals within current society.  When we did our survey of Post-Modern poetry two class periods ago, students downloaded a copy of the Modern vs. Post-Modern Characteristics that we discussed at that time.  In the mean time, they were to create questions & comments based on those notes that they would like to discuss during today's class period.  

We will begin today by filling out the Literary & Film Connections to Post-Modernism graphic organizer as a class to examine these themes more closely.  We will move through each Post-Modern theme and brainstorm present-day examples of literature and film that showcase each theme, and students will note these class examples on their own graphic organizer.  

Then, we will turn our discussion to the questions & comments students generated on the Modernism vs. Post-Modernism Themes notes.  Students will offer their opinions and questions, and wherever possible, I will reframe the conversation so that their peers can answer their questions based on their study of Post-Modernism so far.  Since we've talked about this before, I don't anticipate a TON of questions in this section, but as we all know, high schoolers can surprise you!

Building Knowledge

50 minutes

Video Introduction & Discussion (20 minutes)

After our discussion and connections, we will move to looking at another major feature of this time period, which was the Civil Rights Movement.  To do this, we will view John Green's "Civil Rights and the 1950s: Crash Course US History #39" while students note things that surprise them or that they didn't know about the time before watching the video.  After the video, we will discuss these surprising features.  

Like last class period's activity, the activities in this lesson directly lead up to our ability to read, understand, and evaluate a more complex, historically-significant complex text.  Without developing this background on Civil Rights, I've found that my students are often quite detached from the topic.  The more we can learn before we evaluate the text, the more proficient my students will be!  It's also a great way to model how they can go about accessing the complex text they are undoubtedly being exposed to in other courses. 

Delineate Major Issues & Rationale of 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Decision (15 minutes)

Next, we will "popcorn read" an article from the L.A. Times called "Brown vs. Board of Education: Here's What Happened in 1954 Courtroom."  While reading, we will pause to list the reasons justices found to end "separate but equal" doctrine from Plessy v. Ferguson on the board.

Timeline Analysis & Discussion (15 minutes)

Finally, students will independently engage with an interactive timeline of segregation law & effects on Tuscaloosa schools.  This is another fabulous resource that requires students to integrate multiple types of information (photos, graphs, text, etc.) to synthesize a larger understanding of the context surrounding a text.  During this time, I will circulate around the room and aid students wherever I can.  I will also give tips at how to efficiently use the resource, like to watch which section of the timeline the resource comes from (which shows whether the event is an Alabama issue, an issue in the courts, or a national issue).

After reading, students will summarize in a journal entry the path of desegregation attempts, noting how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact to get us to our current point today.  We will discuss these findings as a whole group after reading.


20 minutes

After students build an understanding of the historical context surrounding the Civil Rights Movement, we will begin reading an excerpt from the targeted text of the day: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."  While reading, students will work together on a collaborative Google Doc to create a list of the following text features:

  • Effective Rhetorical Strategies
  • Successful Argumentation Points
  • Particularly Beautiful, Engaging, or Effective Language

After students complete their reading and note their ideas on the collaborative Google Doc, we will discuss what they found particularly effective, beautiful, and engaging.  Before leaving, students need to download a copy of this document for their folders so that they have their group work to help them study for final exams.  


5 minutes

Finally, we will look at some present-day information to wrap up our look at the outcome of Martin Luther King, Jr., and other leaders' efforts during the Civil Rights Movement.  We will view a graph from a Huffington Post article entitled "School Segregation Across the Country Proves Students are Still Separate" and make inferences based on that graph and the material that we've covered today. 

I will direct students to view the graph (in the Resources section as well as in the article) on their computers, and I will also project it at the front of my classroom.  Then, I will ask students to orient themselves with the data and explain what the data appears to be showing.  Because there are several lines with different symbols and colors, it might take them a few seconds to wrap their minds around it.  Additionally, since it pretty much contradicts what they probably think it should look like (due to our study of the topic today), the reality might stun them.  I will be ready for that!  After students are oriented, they will explain to me what the data means and what the graph suggests.  Lastly, students will use their knowledge that they built today to infer WHY these graphs might appear this way.

Next Steps

Since this was our last class period before our mandatory final review day and final exams, students' only tasks will be to study hard and have a great, safe summer!