Lesson plan

Learning About Black Visionaries

Use this lesson plan as an introductory activity to kick-off a short, project-based learning unit where students will research black visionaries and share what they learned.
Grade Subject View aligned standards
  • Students will be able to compose opinion pieces.
  • Students will be able to conduct research on a black visionary using books and online resources.
(3 minutes)
  • Gather the students together in a group.
  • Explain to the students that today, they will begin research on an important black person who has helped to make the world a better place.
  • Ask the students to turn and talk to a partner, explaining what research means.
  • Allow students to share their ideas. Clarify that when we research something, we learn more about it using resources, like books, articles, and videos.
(15 minutes)
  • Project the A-Z African American Visionaries poster on the whiteboard, or display it on a wall so students can see.
  • Point to the word "Visionaries". Explain to the students that a visionary is someone who has clear ideas about what should happen or be done in the future. Visionaries sometimes have powerful imaginations that help them to dream big and take risks to do really great things.
  • Read through the names on the poster, and explain to the students that they will get to choose one of the visionaries to research.
  • Choose one of the visionaries on the poster (e.g., Maya Angelou) and model how to look up Maya Angelou's name on safe and developmentally appropriate websites, such as Britannica Kids. Read through the information, and model drawing pictures or writing short sentences to show what you learned. The Note-Taking Sheet can be used to record important information about the person, or use a modified version to support student needs.
(30 minutes)
  • Take the students to the school library (if possible) and show them how to look up books about the visionary they chose.
  • Provide students with time to reseach their visionary, and guide them as needed.
  • Allow students to work in partnerships and provide each student with their own Note-Taking Sheet worksheet, or allow them to bring their writer's notebooks to record information.
(15 minutes)
  • Bring the students back to the classroom and explain that they will have the next week or two to research their visionary during a chosen block of time in the school day (social studies, ELA, passion project, etc.).
  • Allow the students time to look through the books they checked out from the library, or conduct further research using devices and computers.
  • Rotate around the classroom and support students as needed.


  • Allow students to work in a small, teacher-led group as they conduct research.
  • Provide students with assistive technology that reads text aloud.
  • Support students in recording the information gathered through drawing pictures, words, and simple sentences.
  • Teach students a mini-lesson about their chosen person.


  • Challenge students to compare/contrast their findings from two different sources (e.g., what does Briticanna Kids say about Malcolm X compared to the book, Malcolm Little, which his daughter wrote?) Encourage students to think about why their findings contrast and relate it to who wrote the book and their perspective.
  • Allow students to access computers or online devices for their research.

Assessment will take place at the end of the unit

  • At the end of the short project-based unit, have students complete the My Opinion Matters worksheet.
  • Write the sentence stem on the whiteboard: ____ is a visionary.
  • Explain to the students that they will write this sentence stem in the box labeled "Opinion" with the name of their chosen person.
  • Explain to the students that an opinion is what someone believes to be true based on their experiences and research.
  • Use the worksheet as a draft, and have students re-write or type their final opinion piece.
  • Allow students sufficient time over the course of a few weeks to create blogs, posters, plays, and/or art to teach others about what they learned through their research.
  • Set up a "gallery walk" and have students walk around the classroom to check out each other's projects.
  • Use the opinion writing pieces and student projects to assess student learning.
(5 minutes)
  • Gather students together after the introductory lesson and ask them to respond to one of the following prompts:
    • One thing I learned is ____.
    • One thing I'm still wondering is ____.
    • I used to think ____, but now I know ____.
  • Explain to the students that they will continue their research tomorrow (or whenever you will continue the project-based unit).

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