Use this lesson plan about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott to introduce your children to Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement in America. It includes discussion questions and a free printable you can use to create a Rosa Parks Bus Book.
Rosa Parks lesson plan with free printable bus book
In this lesson about Rosa Parks, children can:
:: learn about Rosa Parks and her role in the American Civil Rights movement
:: develop reading comprehension skills
:: recall and sequence a story
:: analyse the events surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and consider the roles of different people
:: relate Rosa Parks’ actions to their own experiences
:: discuss the ethics and morals of rule following
:: use fine motor skills, scissor skills, and drawing skills to create a Rosa Parks Bus Book (with free printable)
:: Rosa Parks Bus Book printable (one per child) – see below for details on how to get this free printable
:: writing pencil or pen
:: coloured pencils including yellow and green
:: either additional paper/card and glue stick or a stapler – see below for the two book format options
How to teach this Rosa Parks lesson
In this lesson we will:
:: teach children the story of Rosa Parks and her involvement in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955
:: open a discussion about equal rights and the ethics and morals of following rules, with discussion question prompts
:: make an interactive Rosa Parks Bus Book using the free printable download
The Rosa Parks Story
Begin by asking your children if they have heard of Rosa Parks, and what they now about her.
Then read them the Rosa Parks story. You can use the free printable story that accompanies this lesson plan (see below) or select your own book. Tell your children this is a true story that really happened.
The printable includes a six-part, simple re-telling of the Rosa Parks story. It includes key facts in a clear format for children to read, as follows:
On December 1st, 1955 Rosa Parks was travelling home from work on the Cleveland Avenue bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
At that time there were rules that said black people had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person told them to. A white man ordered Rosa Parks, who was black, to give up her seat so he could have it.
Rosa was tired of being bullied and on that day she politely said no. The bus driver called the police and Rosa was arrested. Many people thought this was unfair. They began a boycott and stopped using the buses in Montgomery.
On December 20th, 1956, because of Rosa Parks and the bus boycott, Montgomery city had to change their rules so that everyone could use the buses equally, with the same rights for black and white people.
Rosa Parks spent the rest of her life working to get equal rights for all people.
“I have learned that in order to bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try. Each and every one of us can make a difference.”
– Rosa Parks
You can also find picture books and early reader books that re-tell the Rosa Parks story.
After you have read the story, open a discussion about what happened to Rosa Parks. You might do this as a whole class, in groups, or in pairs.
You could use these discussion prompts. The first questions check comprehension of the historic events. The later questions explore the issues involved in the events and develop the conversation into ethics, morals, and your children’s own experiences and thoughts.
:: What happened to Rosa Parks?
:: When did these events happen? Where did they take place?
:: What were the rules about who could sit on the bus at that time? Do we still have those rules? What do you think about them?
:: Who were the other characters in the story? What did they do?
:: Do you think the bus driver should have called the police?
:: Do you think the police were right to arrest Rosa Parks?
:: How did the bus rules get changed?
:: What three words would you use to describe Rosa Parks?
:: Do you know about anyone else who has worked to get unfair rules changed?
:: Have you ever spoken up about something you think is unfair?
:: Do you always follow rules? Do you think it is OK to sometimes break rules? How do you decide which rules to follow?
How to make the Rosa Parks Bus Book printable
To complete the lesson, you can make a Rosa Parks Bus Book. This allows children to creatively re-cap the story, including sequencing the events in the correct order, and gives them a lasting reminder of this historic event.
To make the book:
Print the Rosa Parks Bus Book printable – see below for details. You will need one printable per child.
The printable has two buses in it, one each for the front and back cover of your book.
Colour in the bus using the Montgomery city bus colours of yellow and green. You can see the actual bus that Rosa Parks was on above. It has been restored and is on display at The Henry Ford museum.
Draw Rosa Parks sitting in the window of the bus.
Cut out each bus according to the book format option you choose (see below).
Then create the inside pages of your bus.
There are two versions of the inside pages. One set gives the whole story; the other set has spaces left so your children can fill in important words to complete the story. You can decide which version would best suit your children.
There are two ways you can complete the Bus Book:
Option one: a simple stapled book
For this version, cut across the text pages of the printable to create six pages. (See picture)
You will need to cut out the bus pictures in the same way.
Place the pages in the correct sequence to tell Rosa Park’s story.
Use a stapler to fasten the ordered pages together, including your bus pages to make a front and back cover.
Option two: a zig-zag, fold-out book
For this version, make a simple zig-zag folded set of pages from paper or card. You will need six pages in your zig-zag. Each page needs to be the same size or slightly smaller than the bus cover pages.
For this version you can cut out around the bus, including around the wheels, to give a great shape to your book.
Use a glue stick to attach one end-page of your zig-zag card to the inside of the front-cover bus. Then stick the other end of the zig-zag pages to the reverse side of the back-cover bus.
Cut out the six story panels from the printable and place them in order to follow the sequence of the Rosa Parks story.
Use the glue stick to stick each text panel onto one of the pages of your zig-zag card.
You can fold and unfold the Bus Book to read the story of Rosa Parks.
More Black History Month lesson plans and resources
Rosa Parks is an inspirational role model and was an influential figure in the American civil rights movement. Her story should be included in every history curriculum.
She is also an excellent African American to include in your Black History Month observance. Click here to see more resources and Black History Month lesson plans.
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