The Day Mrs. Parks Was Arrested
This moving play tells the story of one of our country’s civil rights heroes
This engaging read-aloud play about an important part of our country’s history has a special emphasis on cause and effect.
Cause and Effect
Social studies: history
Cause and effect, plot, key details, main idea, explanatory writing, close reading, fluency, vocabulary, setting, summarizing
This article and lesson support the following standards:
Common Core anchor standards: R.1, R.2, R.3, R.4, W.2, SL.1, SL.2, L.4, L.6
TEKS: 3.2, 3.3., 3.4, 3.7, 3.20, 3.29, 3.30
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Set a Purpose for Reading
•Call on a volunteer to read aloud the Think and Read box on page 20 for the class. Ask: Who is the woman mentioned in the Think and Read box? What do you think the fight for fairness was about? Invite students to share what they already know about Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement.
Preview Text Features (5 minutes)
• As students look at the illustrations in the play, point out Rosa Parks on page 20 and Martin Luther King Jr. on page 25. Tell them that this drama is historical fiction, and that Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. were real people. Look at the character box and discuss which characters were real. (Rosa Parks, James Blake, Policeman, and Dr. King) Tell them that their lines are based mainly on words these people actually spoke.
Introduce Vocabulary (10 minutes, activity sheet online)
• While the story does not include vocabulary words in the text itself, there is a vocabulary activity online that previews challenging words and allows students to list the words that are unfamiliar to them. Project or distribute the activity to go over the words.
• Challenging words: sermon, equality, humiliated
Bridging Decoding and Comprehension
• Storyworks Jr. plays provide a perfect opportunity for students to build fluency. Point out to students that characters in the play often speak with strong emotions. Ask: Why do they feel strongly about what they’re saying? Encourage them to show the characters’ emotions in their voices.
• As a contrast, draw students’ attention to what Mrs. Parks says in Scene 1. Ask: Does she speak angrily or calmly? Why? What does this show about her?
Reading and Unpacking the Text
• First read: Read the play as a class.
• Second read: Project or distribute the close-reading questions. Discuss them as a class, rereading lines or scenes as necessary.
• Separate students into groups to discuss the critical-thinking question. Then have groups share their answers with the class.
Close-Reading Questions (20 minutes, activity sheet online)
In Scene 1, what do you learn about what life was like for black Americans in the 1950s? (key details) Black people were forced by segregation laws to stay separate from white people. White people were treated better than black people.
• What did the black community decide to do in Scene 3 to support Rosa Parks? (plot) They decided to boycott the buses.
• How did the first day of the bus boycott go? (key details) It was a success: There were no black passengers on the buses.
• In Scene 5, what is the main idea of Dr. King’s speech? (main idea) The main idea is that black people were tired of being treated unfairly, and that they should peacefully fight for equality.
• In the Epilogue, what do you learn about how the bus boycott ended? (plot) The bus boycott ended after a year. The Supreme Court ruled that the segregation laws were unfair.
Critical-Thinking Question (7 minutes, activity sheet online)
•How did the actions of Rosa Parks cause a big change? (cause and effect) When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and got arrested because of it, the black community was inspired to support her. They organized a boycott, which brought attention to the unfairness of segregation. This led to the end of segregated buses.
Exploring Cause and Effect (15 minutes, activity sheet online)
• Have students complete the cause and effect activity. They should also write a response to the Think and Write question on p. 25.
For some extra context, you can show your students this clip from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Rosa Parks clip
In 1995, Larry King interviewed Rosa Parks, and you can show your students a 3-minute clip here.
Etymology of "boycott"
Fun fact: the word “boycott” actually comes from a specific man: Charles Boycott was an Irish land agent in the 1800s. When he tried to evict some of his tenants, they decided to shun him. Nobody would work for him or trade with him. It was big news, and his name started to take on a new meaning as a verb.
This play takes place in Montgomery, Alabama. You can share with your students that Montgomery continued to be an important location in the civil rights movement. Ten years after the events of this play, activists marched to Montgomery to protest the practices that made it hard to black people to vote. The protesters were subjected to terrible violence, and the Voting Rights Act was passed as a result of their action.
Virtual field trip
The new National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C., has more than 37,000 artifacts on display. You can take a virtual trip to see this highly in-demand museum’s collection of Civil Rights memorabilia, including a dress sewn by Rosa Parks.