Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963

Patricia Wachholz
Colleges and Universities - Florida


Students use graphic organizers and create timelines to make an historical connection to the 1960s as a prereading activity for The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963.


The student uses prereading strategies before reading (for example, a KWL or skimming text headings, bold type, and other text features).

The student uses print and electronic sources to locate books, documents, and articles.

The student writes notes, outlines, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of sixth grade level or higher content from a variety of media.

The student participates in classroom discussions using effective speaking strategies (for example, asking questions, making observations.

The student participates as a contributor and occasionally acts as a leader in a group discussion.

The student understands chronology (for example, knows how to construct and label a timeline of events).


-Music from the 1960s
-CD player
-Classroom set of [The Watsons Go to Birmingham] -1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, New York: Yearling/Newbery. ISBN# 0-440-41412-1
-Newsprint roll paper
-Magic markers
-Internet connected computers


1. Secure materials in advance.
2. It is helpful to cut the newsprint in advance into sheets about 3-4 feet long.
3. Gather a collection of 1960s music appropriate to the age group.
4. Check all weblinks prior to making assignment. Remove any inactive links.


Prior knowledge: Students should be familiar with computer usage, including searching, downloading and printing.

1. Introduce the period of the novel by having students brainstorm what they know about the 1960s on a KWL Chart (see attached example).

2. Next, brainstorm what the students WANT to Know (W) on the chart.

3. Divide the class into groups. Each group will go to a computer station and use the Internet to research the decade of the sixties. (Use directed research -Sixties Documentarians- document to focus students toward appropriate sites.)

4. Each group will create a timeline on sheets of newsprint roll to illustrate events that took place from 1960-1970. They may illustrate their timelines with hand-drawn pictures, or use magazines to cut out interesting print that will help illustrate their timelines. Remind students that automobiles in today's magazines as well as many modern innovations such as computers will not work on a 60's timeline. However, many fashions are making a comeback. They may want to look for similarities in 60's fashions and today's fashions.

5. Play 1960s music while students do their research and timelines to create a sixties mood.

6. Each group will present its timeline of events, and timelines can be displayed around the classroom.

7. After timeline presentations are complete, complete the KWL chart to summarize -What We Learned.-


Groups will complete a group assessment of their work (See Associated File).

Use the following checklist for each student. The final group timeline should be formatively assessed but no summative grade should be assigned since this is group work.
-----Student uses Internet appropriately for research.
-----Student downloads and prints Internet info correctly.
-----Student demonstrates skimming of text.
-----Student uses Internet index to locate sources.
-----Student takes notes.
-----Student participated in class discussion.
-----Group's timeline demonstrates understanding of chronology.

Note: Circulate and formatively assess students as they use the technology tools. Provide assistance for students who are experiencing difficulty and monitor accordingly.


This is a pre-reading activity for the study of the novel.
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