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Celebrating Black History Month -- Napa Junction Magnet Elementary
Posted 2/17/23

In honor of Black History Month, we are sharing some of the projects NVUSD students are doing to learn about individuals and groups who have impacted our past and shaped our present.

Napa Junction Magnet Elementary School 2nd grade students in Audrey Johnson’s class are reading excerpts from Young Gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson, a collection of 52 biographies of black heroes from the past. After reading and highlighting their biography, Ms. Johnson expects each student to use facts gathered from it to practice writing an informative paragraph in preparation for the District Writing Assessment.

After modeling the reading and writing process using the biography of Mary Seacole, Ms. Johnson gave each student a handout of a biography from Young Gifted and Black, and a reading partner. Before setting them to work with their partner, she carefully reviewed their non-fiction close reading skills. To focus their reading and scaffold their writing, she also gave them a handout with sentence starters including, “One amazing thing that (he/she) did was…” and “It was amazing because…”. To help them identify amazing acts in the biography, she encouraged them to highlight what their hero did to make America a better place.

In pairs, the students found a comfortable place to read and took turns reading their biography to one another. As the students worked together, stories about Louis Armstrong, Samuel Coleridge Taylor, Ava Duverbay, Esperanza Spaulding, Maurice Ashley, Cathy Freeman, Bessie Coleman, CJ Walker, Nina Simone, Sidney Poitier, Alexander Dumas, Shirley Chisholm, Yanick Noah, Toni Morrison, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Maya Angelou filled the room. 

Students read biographies of black heroes in American history

To support the students, Ms. Johnson circulated from one group to another, asking questions to help them take the giant leap from learning to read to reading to learn by asking them comprehension questions about their biography, such as “What did the person overcome to be successful?” As students talked about their biographies with their partner and Ms. Johnson, their eyes lit up as they made connections between the hardships their heroes faced and why that made their accomplishments even more amazing. 

Ms. Johnson works with students as they read.

To wrap up the learning experience, once the students finished their informational paragraph about a black hero from the past, Mrs. Johnson had students read-aloud (an author's chair exercise) where they taught each other about their black hero.