A Lesson on Ruby Bridges

A Lesson on Ruby Bridges

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I wrote and taught my first official lesson plan of student teaching last week. I kind of love it, and I thought I’d share it on the blog in case anyone wanted a really stellar Ruby Bridges activity for their 3rd grade classroom. For this activity, the students had already learned about Ruby’s “early life,” which really just constitutes everything before first grade. They had also done one Visual Learning Strategy to make some predictions about how it felt to be Ruby during her first year of school. Enjoy!

Common Core Standards:

  • 3.RIT.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as a basis for answers.
  • 3.RIT.7 Use information gained from illustrations and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of a text.

Illinois State Standards: 

  • Social and Emotional: 2A.2b Describe the expressed feelings and perspectives of others.
  •  Social Science: 16.A.2a Read historical stories and determine events which influence their writing.

Essential Questions:

  • What sort of ways can students feel ‘left out’ at school?
  • What can I discover when I compare my experiences to another person?
  • In what ways has the experience of school changed from the 1960s to today for black students?

Enduring Understandings:

  • I can use facts from a text to explain the feelings of another person.
  • I can create a Venn diagram to make text-to-self connections.
  • I can examine an image from the past to help me better understand what life was like during that time.
  • I can connect what I’ve read in a text in order to ask and answer questions about the world.

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Teacher will ask the students to take out their reading journals and open to the first blank page. Teacher will say to the students, “I am going to show you a painting by Norman Rockwell. In your journals, I want you to write down three things you notice in the painting. I also want you to write down one question you would like to ask about the painting. You will have five minutes to do this.” Teacher will display Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Problem We All Live With” on the screen.


Teacher will ask for students to pair and share some of their observations. Teacher will then ask for some of the students to share their questions. If not uncovered from the observations or questions, teacher will ask the students, “Who do you think the girl in the picture is? How do you think the girl feels? How can you tell?”

Teacher will say, “Today we are going to continue to learn about Ruby Bridges.  Can anyone help remind me what we learned about her so far?” Teacher will scaffold thinking by asking for the year she was born, where she lived, and what we know about the time period she lived in.

Teacher will ask for students to explain integration and segregation. Teacher will say, “I want to demonstrate how Ruby Bridges felt by playing a game. I am going to walk around the room and give you all stickers that will let you know which group you are in.” Teacher will then say, “If you have a blue sticker, congratulations! You get to learn from me today. Please go stand on the carpet.” Teacher will then ask the red group, “Does this seem fair to you? Do you want to learn too?” After students respond, teacher will say, “All right, I think we should integrate, but we better start slowly. Only one of you will get to join the other students.” Teacher will select one student and have them join the others. Teacher will then ask the blue group, “Are you happy to have a new classmate from the red group? Does being from the red group make her different from you? Why?” Teacher will finally say, “Okay, it is time to integrate our class! Everyone sit on the red carpet.” Teacher will let the students debrief with observations about the activity.

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Teacher will say, “Now that we have experienced a little bit of what it felt like to be segregated, I think we are ready to read about Ruby Bridges’ first year of school. Today I would like you to especially listen for how Ruby might have felt about her experience.” Teacher will begin reading. Teacher will ask questions throughout the text that help the students compare education in 1960 to education today and that uncover some of her character traits. Teacher will continue to make notes about Ruby Bridges as we read.

At the end of the chapter, teacher will say, “For our activity today, I want you to compare Ruby’s experience to our own using a Venn diagram. Can someone explain to me what a Venn diagram is?” Teacher will then say, “On one side of your Venn diagram, I want you to list at least four things about your life that is different than Ruby’s. On the other side, I want you to list at least four things that are different for Ruby. In the middle, I want you to list four things that are the same. Try to use facts from the book and memories from Ruby to come up with your comparisons.” Teacher will ask for examples, scaffolding a factual comparison (the year she was born/the year you were born) and one feeling comparison (Ruby felt lonely her first year of school/Do you ever feel lonely at school). Teacher will tell the students they can work in pairs to get started and that the activity will likely extend into the next day.


Teacher will say, “Let’s take a look back at the image from the beginning of class. Does this painting do a good job of showing how it felt to be Ruby Bridges? Why or why not?”

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