Developing High Quality Lesson Plans Using Historical Resources

Quality Lesson Plans




Quality lessons allow students to engage in the content in ways that lead to the acquisition and understanding of knowledge and concepts.  The lesson must grab the attention of students and call upon their prior knowledge about the topic.  Knowledge and skills should be explored in ways that are aligned with students’ learning preferences. Multiple perspectives are critical for fully comprehending concepts and for problem solving.  Opportunities for utilizing new knowledge should be provided in ways that are meaningful for students. Students should be given multiple ways to demonstrate and apply what they have learned.  


A multicultural curriculum is concerned with equity and social justice. Multiple perspectives of events or issues are one of its most powerful hallmarks as it gives voice to those who have been silenced, ignored and forgotten. It is through looking at issues, problems, and events from different lens – that one can see all sides of an issue which leads to much greater understanding.


A multicultural approach allows students to learn about themselves as well as those who are different from them. It allows them to view the world from a perspective that may be very different from their own. It teaches students to value the differences that enrich the world and to look at cultural differences as assets – instead of deficits.


To create a multicultural lesson, materials must be accurate. If there is evidence of bias – it must be addressed by presenting information in ways that reveal the bias. The presence of bias demands discussions that identify the bias and why it is present.


The focus with this unit is developing high quality multicultural lessons that give accurate accounts of history about the Underground Railroad using historical resources from multiple media. While developing lessons, careful thought has to be given to your own students’ cultures and backgrounds. Students need to be guided in the exploration of materials and discussions about their findings through the use of critical questions. In addition to learning through multiple lens, students need to be encouraged to engage in creative problem solving and social action.


Begin by viewing the examples below and compare a traditional lesson about the Underground Railroad to one that is considered to be a multicultural lesson.


Traditional Lesson


Secret Signs (of The Underground Railroad)



Multicultural Lesson


Navigators (Seeking Freedom Through the Underground Railroad WebQuest)



Ask yourself, what were some differences you noted between the Secret Signs and Navigator lessons?

  •  Were students taken out of their shoes into the shoes of "others"
  •  Were various learning styles of students considered?
  •  Were accommodations made for students with different levels of readiness?



Developing Multicultural Lessons


Multicultural Ed  Presentation


To identify the significant differences between the traditional lesson, Secret Signs, and the multicultural lesson, Navigators: Journey to Freedom WebQuest, view the Multicultural Education presentation








Banks/Bloom Matrix


The Banks/Bloom Matrix is very helpful in evaluating a multicultural lesson as well as developing a multicultural lesson. It combines two valuable models: Bloom’s Taxonomy and Banks’ Multicultural Content Integration Model.  


  • Bloom’s Taxonomy helps us identify what kinds of thinking we are eliciting with our questions and activities.  It is an excellent tool for developing more complex, challenging and higher level questioning. This type of questioning is required for problem solving and for creativity.  
  • Banks’ Multicultural Content Integration Model helps evaluate whether a lesson is truly a multicultural lesson providing multiple perspectives as well as multicultural content.  The combination of these two models create a very comprehensive tool for evaluating and developing multicultural lessons.

Using the same sample lessons, Secret Signs and Seeking Freedom WebQuest: Navigator, examine how the lessons would look when evaluated by the Banks/Bloom Matrix.



Using the chart below – identify these elements in each lesson.



Comparing traditional and multicultural lessons


Using the chart below, think of ways you can improve each lesson.



How can you improve a traditional lesson?




Next, compare your ideas with the completed matrices below. Take a moment to reflect on your experience. Where able to identify the critical elements associated with each model? How challenging was it to apply the Multicultural Cultural Elements to the lesson? If you found the process difficult, why do you that was so?





The Secret Sign Lesson is a creative lesson that involves students in group activities with hands-on experiences involving problem-solving.


The Navigator lesson offers a different kind of learning experience for all students with a variety of hands-on experience involving problem-solving, inquiry, accessing technology and using it to demonstrate what they have learned. In addition, the information students explore is accurate and gives them authentic problems that are similar to that of freedom-seekers preparing for travel on the Underground Railroad.





Create a multicultural lesson using the elements of multicultural curriculum. After its completion, evaluate it using the Banks/Bloom Matrix and improve it, if needed. For a high quality multicultural lesson, activities should reach the Banks’ Transformation Level and students should be asked to engage in application, analysis, and evaluation.


Banks/Blooms Template



Lesson Plan Examples


Use the following examples to self-assess your own work. By educators who have completed the hybrid course.



For additional resources, visit The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History's Underground Railroad: the struggle against slavery portal. The site contains a large searchable database of Underground Railroad lesson plans created by other educators. Take a moment to browse through the lessons, which are organized by grade level. Notice also the Education Resources section which provides a rich array of curriculum materials for planning and implementation.


Self Assessment


Use this Quality Lesson Plan Checklist to self-assess the lesson plan that you created.




The purpose of multicultural curriculum is to bring about educational equity. It includes ensuring opportunities for all students to learn by providing positive educational outcomes for all students. It includes providing a curriculum where all students can see themselves in affirming ways. It means providing students with learning experiences they can relate to and are designed for the ways they learn best.


The next section, explores strategies that will help educators teach Challenging Topics related to the Underground Railroad.


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