The story of Ruby Bridges

Author(s): Robert Coles


Social Justice focus: Racism

Synopsis: This is the story of Ruby Bridges, who at age 6 became the first Afro-American to be sent to an all-white school in New Orleans. She needed to be escorted to school by Federal Marshalls and for most of her first year Ruby sat alone in an empty classroom with her teacher. The other children had been kept home by their parents.

Lesson Plan: Rosanna Bernardo

Primary/Junior/Intermediate Lesson Plan (Abbreviated Template)

Consecutive and Concurrent Programs

Unit/Topic: Social Justice in Literature

Grade: 5

Lesson: The Story of Ruby Bridges

The focus of this lesson is to have students reflect on the words: segregation and equality. Students will understand how powerful these words are, and how they’ve impacted our society. Students will be asked to participate in a multitude of activities that will foster their oral communication skills and deepen their comprehension on the topic.

Curriculum Areas: What are possible connections to other curricular areas?

This lesson could connect with Social Studies – specifically the Grade 5 Unit “The role of Government and Responsible Citizenship” as students will address how history changed when the law stated that black children will be integrated in all-white elementary schools. Students will also analyze the impact Ruby Bridges made on society by facing prejudice with grace and courage.

Social Studies Curriculum Connection: Grade 5 Unit – The Role of Government and Responsible Citizenship:

  • B1.2 create a plan of action to address a social issue of local, provincial/territorial, and/or national significance specifying the actions to be taken by the appropriate government or governments, including Indigenous governments, as well as by citizens.
  • B3.8 explain why different groups may have different perspectives on specific social and environmental issues

This lesson could also be connected to Visual Arts Curriculum as students will consolidate this lessons’ learning by creating a visual representation of their reflections on The Story of Ruby Bridges, their understanding of prejudice and segregation, as well as their opinions on equality.

Visual Arts Grade 5 Unit:

  • D1. Creating and Presenting: apply the creative process (see pages 19–22) to produce a variety of two- and three-dimensional art works, using elements, principles, and techniques of visual arts to communicate feelings, ideas, and understandings;
  • D2. Reflecting, Responding, and Analysing: apply the critical analysis process (see pages 23–28) to communicate feelings, ideas, and understandings in response to a variety of art works and art experiences;

Curriculum Expectations: What Overall and Specific Expectations will be addressed?

Oral Communication: Overall Expectations

1. listen to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes;

2. use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes;


1. generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience;

Oral Communication: Specific Expectations:

Active Listening Strategies

1.2 demonstrate an understanding of appropriate listening behaviour by adapting active listening strategies to suit a range of situations, including work in groups


2.1 identify a variety of purposes for speaking

Visual Aids

2.7 use a variety of appropriate visual aids to support or enhance oral presentations

Writing: Specific Expectations:

Purpose and Audience

1.1 identify the topic, purpose, and audience for a variety of writing forms

Learning Goal(s): What are students expected to know, do and understand? We are learning to….

Students will recognize the importance of character and individual action. (K)

Students will reflect on how Ruby Bridges and others have faced prejudice and overcome social justice issue. (T)

Students will choose words that reflect their comprehension based on the criteria discussed in class. (T)

Students will work in groups to create a word wall as a representation of what the Story of Ruby Bridges means to them. (A) and (T)

Students will share their group work with the class. (C)

Success Criteria: How will students know they have met the learning goal? I can….

I will define what it means to be a real hero and identify leadership qualities. (K)

I will reflect on the value of civil rights, the intent to protect humanity, and how they have and continue to impact our society. (T)

I can express the significance of my words of choice. (A)

I will share, discuss, and present my final work with the class. (C)

I will collaborate contribute and participate during the presentations of my peers. (C)

MODIFICATIONS / ACCOMMODATIONS: How will I meet the needs of my students? Have I addressed any IEPs?


Construct word wall using a digital media resource instead of writing.

Present their work in a small group setting or to the teacher individually.

Take more time to complete the task.

Arrange a ‘check-in’ time to discuss the progress of the task.


Create an alternate task.

Provide a word list for students to use rather than coming up with their own, they can choose from the list.

Student can work with a partner rather than a group.

Minds-on: How will I connect to prior and future learning? How will I engage students and set the context for learning?

The Minds-On Activity will incorporate visuals to stimulate higher-order thinking. It will require partner and group work which will foster student motivation and engagement. Students will be asked a series of open-ended questions so that they can discuss, reflect, make connections, and draw conclusions.

Minutes: 15 min

Task: What will I be doing? What will students be doing?

Step One: Show the student two peeled hard-boiled eggs. Ask the students if these two eggs are more different or alike.

Ask the following questions to stimulate critical-thinking skills and promote comprehension:

  • Will they taste the same?
  • Will they both be nutritious?
  • Is the texture the same?
  • Do they both have a yolk?

Step Two: Ask if the students could tell that in fact one of these eggs had a brown shell and one a white shell.

  • Does anything about these eggs change with this new information?
  • How can what we just learned, be used as a metaphor for people? (Allow students to discuss with a peer before sharing with the class)

Step Three: Next, have students turn to their elbow partner and each one writes down the differences they note among their classmates. I.E what color eyes do they have, what color hair, what languages do they speak, etc.

The teacher will then chart down a few differences from groups that volunteered to share their answer. The teacher will point out that we are all different, possessing a variety of qualities that makes us unique. Although we are all unique, we all have an equal right to live and learn. Teacher makes note that our differences do not make one person better than the other. Relate it back to the egg activity where some eggs were given the privilege of being eaten while the other eggs could not – just for being different.

Introduce the book “The Story About Ruby Bridges” and explain that this is a true story about a girl who was told she could not have certain opportunities or privileges just because of the colour of her skin.

Introduce the term ‘segregation’ and ‘equality’. Define the term with the class and write the definition you’ve created on the board or in the slide.

Assessment: What is the Nature and Purpose of assessment?

The Action piece of this lesson is designed to be an Assessment for Learning. Here I will be taking Anecdotal Notes, observing how my students are collaborating, sharing ideas, and listening to one another’s perspectives. This book provides a relevant and historically appropriate opportunity to speak openly with one another about serious topics such as discrimination, privilege, prejudice, and heroism. My goal is to help students gain a deeper understanding of social justice and civil rights, thus the learning will stem from discussion. As I hold the class discussion, I will monitor how students as responding to the lesson and the questions. This will help both myself and the students because I will gain a better understanding of what my students have learnt, what they still need to know, and how I can improve the lesson to make it more effective.

Action How will I introduce new learning / reinforce prior learning / practice learning / scaffold learning?

Minutes: 80 minutes (Two 40-minute periods)


Step One:

As a class, the teacher will read The Story of Ruby Bridges.

Use the Digital Resource – Wordle (Wordle is a tool for creating a text cloud that uses the size of the text to represent the frequency of each word in the source sample)

The teacher asks the questions and the students will respond. Note which words grow larger – which will mean that multiple students are using the same word. Together you see opinions become artwork. Words will populate, and the teacher will address them. The answers are anonymous, so students can privately share their ideas.

Teacher: Use one word to represent your answer to the following questions: (Teacher will hold a brief discussion after receiving all the answers)

  • In your opinion, who was Ruby Bridges?
  • What did Ruby Bridges represent?
  • Why do you think Ruby was titled a hero?
  • Who is a hero to you?
  • How would you feel if you were Ruby? (Teacher will ask students who would like to elaborate as to why they wrote that word – this question highlights empathy and perspective)
  • What was the most inspiring part about Ruby’s story?

Step Two:

Next, ask a yes or no question which will spark class discussion: Does segregation still exist?

In groups of 4 – 5, students will create their own physical “Wordle word wall” using a Bristol board. The Word Wall topic will surround Ruby Bridges, equality, and segregation. Allow the groups to come up with a title of their choice. Encourage the students to use words that reflect and depict how this book made them feel. Provide students enough time to gather their thoughts.

The group will present their word wall to the class and share what their group has discussed.

Assessment: The purpose of this Assessment will be For Learning and As Learning.

For Learning: During the group work and presentations of their Word Wall, the teacher will take down notes on how students are working, behaving, responding to the learning content. Were students voicing their ideas/opinions/thoughts with their peers? Were they maintaining open communication with their group? The teacher will also take photos of each word wall and write down key points made during their presentation. This will demonstrate how rich the learning has been and if this activity was effective.

As Learning: Students will build their metacognition skills as they are reflecting on what they have taken from the book and what they learnt from the class discussions. Students will write the words that they have chosen to represent their own ideas about the topic – what matters to them and why?

Consolidation How will I reflect on the learning goal? How will I have students reflect on the learning goal?

Minutes: 25 – 35 min (Depending on the amount of time needed to finish)

Task: What will I be doing? What will students be doing?

Students will individually create an image using artistic tools of their choice to reflect what they’ve understood from The Story of Ruby Bridges, what equality means to them, and what kind of future they want for humanity. The students will attach their images as a border around their groups’ Word Wall. The teacher will put up the images around the classroom.

Assessment: What is the Nature and Purpose of assessment?

As this topic requires a significant amount of reflection, I have chosen to make the assessment of this task Assessment as Learning as students will have to think individually and privately throughout the entire lesson.


Minds On: Brown Eggs, White Eggs, Paper, Pens

Action: Wordle, Smart Screen, Chromebooks, Bristol Board, Markers

Consolidation: White drawing paper, Art tools (crayons, pencil crayons, paint, etc.)

Potential Resources: Individual Chromebooks, Laminator for final product of task

REFLECTION: Questions to determine the success of your lesson:

  • Were my students successful in meeting the learning goals and success criteria? How do I know?
  • Did my instructional decisions meet the needs of all students? If not, what are my next steps?
  • What worked well and why?
  • What will I do differently in the future when teaching this lesson? For the subsequent lesson?
  • What are the next steps for my professional learning?


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Social Justice Picture Books Copyright © 2019 by Ruth McQuirter, editor and Gurbinder Kaur, contributing editor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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