A guide for teachers
October marks Black History Month in Britain – this is our opportunity to celebrate the outstanding contributions that the black community has made to British society.
Black History Month provides schools with great opportunities to highlight key moments in black British history and helps to celebrate and support the diversity that shapes our classrooms and society at large.
Education is a key theme and is encouraged throughout Black History Month and so we have put together a few ideas on how you can celebrate Black History Month in your classroom.
1. Celebrate the achievements of Black Britons
Of course you can share biographies of ‘famous’ black Britons such as Idris Elba, Alex Scott and Lenny Henry, but why not challenge your students to do their own research on a well-known black figure from history or the modern day and produce a piece of art, prose, fact-file, video or presentation? Get students actively engaged rather than passively absorbing information. The Black History Month website is a useful tool for information and profiles on a variety of people and events and includes some very cool resources.
2. Use creative writing and storytelling to explore Black British history and experience
Learning about the experiences of black British people can help students understand about racism, issues surrounding implicit bias and systematic racism. One way to explore these themes and key events from history is through a proactive and engaged approach such as using creative writing and poetry. The British Library have some fantastic resources to prompt creative writing on the topic of Windrush for Primary students and Secondary students. You may have missed Windrush Day due to your school being closed in June, but that doesn’t make the themes any less relevant today.
For new reading material, check out these authors:
3. Celebrate the achievements of your Black Alumni
Did you know that your alumni are much more than just a ‘database’ and can actively help your school and current students in many ways both inside and outside of the classroom? Your former students could be an untapped resource full of wisdom and expertise that they’re willing to impart to their younger counterparts. They just need to be asked. Why not consider inviting your black former students back to the classroom to talk about their lived experience, offer guidance and advice and motivation for the next generation? To request a free template email for alumni support, or a free Black History Month activity pack including assembly and workshop plan, get in touch with us.
As part of our membership packages, we can also produce posters for your school featuring your former students like the ones above.
4. Do an inclusivity audit – showcase Black voices
In 2020 a report was published on the representation of ethnicity in children’s literature in the UK. The results weren’t great; 7% of the children’s books published in the UK over the last 3 years featured characters of colour – this in comparison to the 33.5% of children attending school who are from a minority background.
We know that it’s easy to simply turn to the same books in our school libraries or reading corners that we’ve used again and again, or pick the same film to show, but Black History Month presents us with the opportunity to question our ‘go to’ texts and media and really think about who is telling whose story, to whom, and why?
Puffin’s lists of books on teaching Black history and The National Literacy Trust’s lists of texts that exemplify the principles of the Black Lives Matter Movement are a great place to start. Into Film have put this list of films together for Black History Month; your music lessons can get a revamp while you and your students explore the history of blues and rag time or even calypso music in Britain; consider showcasing diversity in your science lessons by showing students this video and why not use the opportunity to explore Black History through Food Tech the options are endless…
5. Don’t ignore the Black Lives Matter movement
Black History Month is a living, evolving thing – the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement is an example of history in the making and cannot be ignored.
You have hopefully already started the conversation with your students, but October really is a good opportunity to set aside some time to look at the wider picture and discuss societies progress and areas of concern with your class.
6. Don’t confine Black History Month to… Black History Month
Black History Month is an opportunity to look at the curriculum as a whole, diversifying texts and material for the academic year ahead. It’s also a good time to look at your promotional material – are all ethnicities represented in your photographs, prospectuses, and websites? The resources used in your classroom? Use the tips in this blog throughout the year – not just in October and check out this Guardian article by English teacher and columnist, Lola Okolosie, on how schools can improve their race relations right now.