Lesson plan

Who Was Amelia Boynton Robinson?

Take your fourth and fifth graders on a deep dive into the civil rights movement with this lesson on Amelia Boynton Robinson. A key activist in the movement, Amelia played a critical role in organizing the Selma to Montgomery march. Your students will read, annotate, and analyze her biography through multiple reads, before discussing the text with their classmates.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to annotate a nonfiction text on Amelia Boynton Robinson and discuss her impact on history using text evidence.

(5 minutes)
  • Ask students what they know about the civil rights movement. Allow students to share their background knowledge and take notes of their thoughts on the chart paper.
  • Discuss their input and correct any misconceptions. Students might bring up Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks. Define the civil rights movement as the national movement in the 1950s and 1960s for black people and their supporters to end racial segregation and gain equal rights in the United States. Jot down the definition on the chart paper, as well.
  • Tell students that today they will learn about an important activist and leader of the civil rights movement named Amelia Boynton Robinson. Show pictures (see materials section) of Amelia throughout her life to give students a visual idea of who she was and the work she did.
(15 minutes)
  • Explain to students the objective of the lesson. Have them restate it to a partner.
  • Define an activist as a person who fights for political or social change. Record the definition on the chart paper with the previous notes on the civil rights movement. Have students think of other activists they may know.
  • Inform students that they will experience three reads of the text, and that each read will have a specific purpose.
  • Distribute copies of the Biography: Amelia Boynton Robinson to students and display a copy on the document camera.
  • Tell students that for the first read, their job is to figure out the main idea and key points of the text by listening carefully as you read the text aloud.
  • Read the biography aloud, skipping the directions at the top of the page. Throughout the read, pause to think aloud for any important observations you have as a reader regarding the main idea of the text.
  • Pass out an index card and have each student reflect on main idea and key points of the biography. Ask the following questions to guide them as they write:
    • What is the main idea and key points of the text? What is the text all about?
    • Who was Amelia Boynton Robinson and why are we learning about her?
    • Have a few students share their responses with the class.
    • Instruct students to hold on to their index cards as they will be used again at the end of the lesson.
(15 minutes)
  • Assign students a partner. Tell them that they will read the text a second time, this time with a partner. The purpose of the second read is to go deeper with the text and figure out how it is structured.
  • Explain that they will annotate the text as they read. Read the directions at the top of the worksheet aloud to students. If necessary, remind students how to make annotations in a text and show some examples from the first paragraph. Underline important parts of the text and place a question mark by a section that you have a question for.
  • Have students take turns reading paragraphs from the text and annotating as they go.
  • Once they have finished reading and annotating, ask students to discuss how the biography is structured or organized (e.g. it is organized by sections to show the different parts of her life), and consider why it is structured this way (e.g. to help the reader see the chronology of events in her life).
(20 minutes)
  • Ask students to preread the comprehension questions at the end of the worksheet.
  • Instruct students to read the text independently for a third read, with the purpose of analyzing what the text means. Then have them answer the comprehension questions on their own.
  • Emphasize that since they have now read the text three times, they are highly equipped to respond meaningfully to the questions.
  • Give them ample time to read on their own and write their responses. Circulate to offer assistance as needed.


  • Put students into mixed-ability partnerships for the guided practice part of the lesson.
  • Provide sentence starters to support students with the partner discussion.


  • Ask students to write an essay or prepare a presentation on Amelia Boynton Robinson to share with the class.
  • Have students research another lesser known civil rights leader and use the Biography Research graphic organizer (see materials section) to compare and contrast with Amelia Boynton Robinson.
(10 minutes)
  • Ask students to find a different partner to discuss the question they wrote on the last prompt on the worksheet.
  • Tell them to share the question or wondering they had with their partner and discuss possible answers with them. Make sure each partner has a chance to ask their question and discuss possible responses.
  • Have students take out the index card they used at the beginning of the lesson.
  • Instruct students to reread their thoughts about the main idea and key points from the beginning of the lesson. Then, have them flip the card over and ask them to write any additional learnings and understandings about Amelia Boynton Robinson that they developed throughout the multiple reads and discussions they had. Encourage students to use their annotations, responses to the questions, and their partner discussions to write.
  • Display the same reflection questions asked earlier to guide them as they write, and add one more for further reflection:
    • What is the main idea and key points of the text? What is the text all about?
    • Who was Amelia Boynton Robinson and why are we learning about her?
    • What was Amelia Boynton Robinson's impact on U.S. history?
  • Use the index cards to determine how well students met the objective of the lesson.
(5 minutes)
  • Invite students to share their new understandings written on the index cards with the whole class.
  • Remind students that during important social and political movements, we often learn about just a few key leaders and changemakers, when in reality, usually there are many more people who fight hard and tirelessly to bring about positive change. The story of Amelia Boynton Robinson as an important female black leader and activist is one of the lesser known stories that reminds us that there are often so many more layers to history than we typically learn about.

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