Riding with Rosa

A photo prompt helps students experience history.
Grade Level

Ever wish you could go back in time and be part of history? With this activity, students can be "riding with Rosa" and join her on the journey that changed the world.

After children have learned the story of Rosa Parks refusing to go to the back of the bus, they are ready to travel back in time. For this activity you will need a copy of the famous, although staged, photograph of Mrs. Parks sitting on the bus and a head/shoulder photograph of each child in your class (a small copy of each child's school photo works best).

Copy the photograph of Mrs. Parks onto the top half of a piece of paper. On the bottom half, provide lines for the children's writing.

Tell the students that they are to travel back in time to 1955. They can use their imaginations as to how to accomplish this (e.g., a time machine, a magic wand, a magic wish).

Say to the children, "You have arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, and are actually on the same bus as Rosa Parks! Glue your picture onto the photograph so that you are sitting there close to Mrs. Parks. You hear the bus driver tell Mrs. Parks to go to the back of the bus. She sits still, refusing to obey. The bus driver threatens to call the police. Mrs. Parks speaks up for herself. What will you say, since you are there, too, to help support Mrs. Parks? What will you say to the bus driver? Write that down on the lines below the paragraph."

When the class completes their writing, take some time to give the children an opportunity to share what they wrote. Role-play the situation and have students take turns reading aloud what they've written to support Mrs. Parks, thus allowing each child to insert him/herself into the history of what happened.

Afterward, display the students' work for all to see, or compile it into a collection titled "Riding with Rosa" that can be checked out from your classroom or school library.

Michael Penkava
West Elementary School
Crystal Lake, IL


Teaching Tolerance Recommends

There are many books for young children that introduce the story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We suggest The Bus Ride That Changed History: The Story of Rosa Parks ($16; ISBN 0-618-44911-6), by Pamela Duncan.

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