Black History Month Poetry Activities

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

In America, the month of February is celebrated as Black History Month. In this resource, you will find activities to connect Black History Month with poems. These activities are designed with middle and high school students in mind.

Black History Month

The month of February is known as Black History Month to honor the struggles and triumphs of African-Americans throughout history. Black History Month can easily be paired with a unit on poetry to help students make connections across the curriculum and enhance their understanding of what African-Americans have contributed to the history of the country. These activities were designed for middle and high school history or language arts classrooms. There are opportunities for group and individual work in this resource.

Acrostic Poem (Group Activity)

For this activity, students will work in small groups to create an acrostic poem using the phrase ''Black History.'' This activity works well at the end of a unit on Black History, where students already know information on famous leaders, the struggles African Americans have faced, and the history of the Civil Rights Movement.

In an acrostic poem, each line begins with the first letter of the words. So, in this case, the poems will be 12 lines long. Students should create a phrase or sentence to go with each letter. Their poem may be rhyming or non-rhyming. The purpose of their poem should be to convey the most important points of African-American history to the reader.

After the groups have finished, they should write up their poems and display them around the room or in the hallway. Groups should also be prepared to share the poems with the class.

  • Materials Needed: None

Poem Focus (Individual Activity)

For this activity, each student in your class will be assigned a poem by a famous African-American poet. Although you may choose any poems and poets you wish, a great beginning point of poets includes: Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovani, Phillis Wheatly, James Weldon Johnson, Alice Walker, and Claude McKay.

After selecting the poems for your students, distribute copies to each student. Students should spend about 10 minutes reading and reflecting on the poem. They should underline and annotate on the copy of the poem you give them. After this, they should pick out one or two of the most powerful stanzas from the poem.

On the back of the poem, students will write out these stanzas and illustrate them in some way. They should also include the title of the poem and the author. Collect their final product and use them to decorate a bulletin board.

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