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Lesson Plan #: AELP-WCP0219
Submitted by: Jeanne Guthrie
Email: rjguthrie@kc.rr.com
School/University/Affiliation: Retired Teacher
Date: April 24, 2003

Grade Level: 5, 6, 7, 8


  • Language Arts/Writing
  • Language Arts/Literature
  • Social Studies/US History

Duration: 6 class sessions

Description: While most students know and love the game of baseball, many do not realize that the great African American players in the major leagues today would not have been allowed to play in the first half of the 20th Century. Segregation existed in the country and in baseball. Using computer resources to study the Negro Baseball Leagues, students will learn about the players, teams, and social conditions that existed from the 1900’s until 1946. They will culminate their study by using poetry forms to express their knowledge and their feelings about this historical time in the United States.

Goals: NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts :

  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students us spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).


  • Students will study the Negro Baseball Leagues.
  • Students will learn of the segregation that existed in the first half of the 20th Century.
  • Students will study the poem, Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer.
  • Students will learn the poetry form for haiku, cinquain, diamonte, and adjective poems.
  • Students will express their knowledge of the Negro Leagues, its teams, and players in poetry form.
  • Materials:


    Teacher Preparation:
    Become familiar with the poems, Casey at the Bat and I Dream a World. Review the Web sites. Have copies made of the Poetry Questions, Poem Interpretation Graphic Organizer, the KWL chart, Poetry Task, and the Poetry Rubric. Make a transparency of the Introduction to the Negro Leagues, or copy it for group or individual reading. Instruction and Activities:

    Day 1:
    Begin the unit by asking students if they like baseball and if any of them collect baseball cards. As the discussion occurs, ask students to name some of their favorite players. No doubt many of those named will be African American players. Continue by telling the class that from 1900 until 1946 these players would not have been allowed to play in the major leagues. Explain that during those years segregation existed in the United States. Let students know that they are going to begin a study of the Negro Baseball Leagues, its teams, and its players. Hand out the Introduction to the Negro Leagues sheet. It can be put on a transparency and used on the overhead for a full class discussion, or handed out to groups to discuss, or handed out for individual reading and study. After discussing the Introduction, use the KWL chart to write down what students have learned. (A large chart for the class could be made of butcher paper, but students should have a copy to record their findings after using the Internet Web sites.) Continue by asking the class what other questions they have about the Negro Leagues. List these questions under the Want to Know section of the chart. (Again, these can be written on the large chart for students to refer to as they research.) Tell the class that tomorrow they will be using the Web sites to further their knowledge of the Negro Leagues. Offer extra credit for those bringing in baseball cards to share.

    Day 2:
    Let students use the Web sites to start their research. Working in pairs allows one student to use the computer and the other to write on the KWL Chart. The two positions could be traded at each Web site. At the end of the class period, meet back as a class. Have students discuss what they have learned, and which Web sites were of particular interest. (If enough computers are not available, different groups of students can research and then report back to the class by putting learned information on the large chart to be copied by the rest of the class.)

    Day 3:
    Depending on the amount of data collected, this day can be used as another research day or a day to introduce the poetry that will use the information learned. Start by handing out the poem Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer. Ask if students have ever read or heard the poem. (Books are available and can be read to the class.) Discuss the poem and the feelings that the audience experienced when Casey struck out. Talk about each of the other players and the reaction of the crowd to them. Stress that poetry is a literature form that allows the poet to express what he is thinking, sometimes humorously as in this poem, and sometimes more seriously as in the poems of Langston Hughes. Let students work in groups of two or three to complete the Poetry Interpretation sheet. Come back for whole group discussion on their ideas.

    Day 4:
    Have students read, I Dream a World by Langston Hughes. Discuss the different mood of this poem compared to the one by Thayer. Give students another Poem Interpretation sheet and let them fill it in. Working in small groups of two or three will allow students to share their ideas. Come back to the whole class for a discussion of the Langston Hughes poem, their interpretations of it, and how it compares and contrasts with the poem read during the last class period.

    Day 5:
    Tell students that today they are going to learn to write their own poetry about baseball and the Negro Baseball Leagues. Encourage them to use the information they have written on their KWL charts. Hand out the Poetry Task with examples of the different poetry forms. Let students write and share their cinquains. Introduce the diamonte poem that begins like the cinquain, but continues on.

    Day 6:
    Introduce students to the three remaining poetry forms, the haiku, the adjective poem, and the name poem. Let students continue to write and to share. When students have completed their poems, rewritten in correct form for an audience, let them illustrate their pages, and bind the poetry into a booklet for each student to take home or give as a gift.

    [ Author’s Note: While the above is slated for 6 class periods, the unit could easily take two weeks.]

    Assessment: Students will be assessed through teacher observation, the poetry rubric, class discussions, and the poetry produced.

    Useful Internet Resources:
    * Negro League Baseball: The Glory Years

    * Negro League Baseball: Jackie Robinson

    * Get That ‘Negro’ Off the Field!

    * History of Black Baseball and the Negro Baseball Leagues

    * Negro Baseball
    Compiled by Robert Harrison

    * Negro Leagues Player Bios

    * Negro Baseball Leagues

    * NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts

    Special Comments: This lesson would also be appropriate for students needing individualized instruction or home schooled students.