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Social Activism In The United StatesSocial-Activism-In-The-United-States

  • Subject: U.S. History
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will
  • Review some of the turbulent events that affected the United States during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.
  • Read a newspaper article that reported a significant event during this era.
  • Write a summary of the event.



  1. After watching Social Activism in the United States , ask students to recall some of the turbulent events that affected the nation during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Discuss each event and list it on the chalkboard. In your discussion, make sure that students are familiar with events surrounding the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the Watergate scandal.
  2. Next, hand out copies of the bulleted timeline below, which includes a link to The New York Times article that reported each event.
  3. Working individually on in pairs, have students select one of the events in the timeline. (You may want to assign events to make sure all are covered.) Explain that their assignment is to read the newspaper report of the event and answer the following questions in a written summary.
    • WHAT happened?
    • WHEN did this happen?
    • WHERE did it happen?
    • WHO are the important people involved?
    • WHY was this an important, newsworthy event?
    • HOW did this event shape the nation?
  4. During the next class period, give students an opportunity to share their summaries. Then discuss what students learned about U.S. history during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Ask: What do you think were the most significant events of the period? What do you imagine it was like to be a young person living in the U.S. during this time? Why were the generations often so divided?
  5. Conclude by examining the use of primary resources to study a past event. Ask students: What information did the newspaper article include that you might not get from a book or textbook published today? What information is inherently missing in a newspaper article written at the time of the event?

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:  Students recalled several events from the 1950s, '60s, and '70s; wrote an informative, complete summary of their newspaper article, answering all of the questions; were active in class discussions.
  • Two points:  Students recalled some events from the 1950s, '60s, and '70s; wrote a satisfactory summary of their newspaper article, answering most of the questions; participated in class discussions.
  • One point:  Students could not recall any events from the 1950s, '60s, and '70s; wrote an incomplete or vague summary of their newspaper article, answering few of the questions; did not participate in class discussions.

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civil rights
Definition: The nonpolitical rights of a citizen, especially the rights of personal liberty guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the Constitution and acts of Congress
Context: President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech on the importance of the civil rights movement.

Definition: A person or government that practices or supports communism, the political and economic system in which goods and means of production are owned by the state
Context: By an international agreement, the country was divided into two areas-the north, ruled by communists, and the south, ruled by non-communists.

Definition: A public display of group opinion about an issue, cause, or person
Context: In 1969, one million protestors from all across the country converged in Washington, D.C. It was the largest demonstration in American history.

Ku Klux Klan
Definition: A white supremacist organization founded in the South that used violence to promote its beliefs
Context: The Ku Klux Klan and other organizations emerged and, using violence, they tried hard to suppress the voices of the civil rights movement

Definition: An organization that promotes the rights and welfare of black people; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in 1909.
Context: In the early 1900s W.E.B. DuBois and others created the NAACP to challenge racist laws in court.

Definition: The policy of separating people on the basis of race
Context: As activists worked to end segregation, many whites in the South and elsewhere resisted.

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Academic Standards

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • U.S. History: Era 9-Understands how the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics; Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties
  • U.S. History: Era 10-Understands developments in foreign policy and domestic politics between the Nixon and Clinton presidencies

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The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go to
This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards:

  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
  • Power, Authority, and Governance
  • Civic Ideals and Practices

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