Watsons Go To Birmingham Unit Plan

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

Engage your upper elementary or middle school students in a novel study of 'The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963' by using this unit plan to guide your instruction. The plan includes resources for lessons, discussion, review, projects, and extensions.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

A novel study of The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 can incorporate both historical and literary perspectives. Tie the two together using this unit plan with your upper elementary or middle school students. Although most resources are geared toward middle school students, they can be easily modified to meet the needs of upper elementary students, as well. The unit plan includes an in-depth historical context, exploration of literary elements, resources for discussion and review, as well as project and extension ideas.

Historical Context

In order to fully grasp the themes of this novel, students must have a thorough understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and the political and social climate of the South in the 1960s. Introduce the basics using this Civil Rights Lesson Plan and engage students further by using some of these Civil Rights Movement Activities. Provide students with a comprehensive overview of the time period by incorporating these Civil Rights Movement Gallery Walk Ideas in which students travel through different experiential stations to learn about many aspects of the Civil Rights Movement.

Literary Elements

Provide student with an overview of setting, plot, conflict, and theme using these resources. Begin by discussing setting, as it is so important to this novel. Use these Setting Activities & Games to reinforce the concept. Consider asking students to reframe the story in a new setting, after completing your novel study. What would the essential conflict be in a present day story of facing inequality?

After building background of plot and theme, use these Plot and Theme Activities to reinforce the concepts. Consider having students track both plot and theme using organizers, keeping track of details along the way. The characters within this novel face many conflicts, both internal and external. Use this Literary Conflict Lesson Plan to explore and discuss both types. Have students relate the conflict concept to their own lives.


During reading, break for frequent discussions. Consider teaming or partnering students and providing them with a list of The Watsons Go to Birmingham Discussion Questions, which are separated by chapter sections. You may also want students to craft a written response to one or more of the discussion questions for each section in order to assess their individual understanding of the novel.

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