Digital Exhibitions

Lesson Plans (High School and Middle School): Columbia Avenue Riots, 1964

High School Lesson Plan (45-50mins.)
Columbia Avenue Riot: Teaching about a historical event with primary sources
Middle School Lesson Plan (45 min.-50 min.)
Columbia Avenue Riot: Using a historical event to teach primary source use
Lesson Plan (High School and ELL): Columbia Avenue Riots, 1964


Students will have an understanding of the causes, events, and aftermath of the Columbia Avenue Riots, and how this event is connected to similar events of the civil rights time period and in the present day. This lesson is connected with the larger Civil Rights movement unit that will be taught in class with special emphasis on the social reaction to demand social change. The students are in high school and should have a familiar background with the Civil Rights movement, understanding its basic concept and a few famous people. These students come from a diverse background and may contain English Language Learners.

PA State Standards:
8.3.12 – United States History, 12thGrade, Evaluate how continuity and change has influenced United States history from 1890 to present.

Desired Results

  1. SWBAT describe the causes, events, and aftermath of the Columbia Riot of 1964.
  2. SWBAT compare riots of the Civil Rights to Occupy Wall Street or the Arab Spring
  3. SWBAT formulate the causes of a riot of social unrest.
  4. SWBAT evaluate the relationship of the Columbia Riots to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.


Assessments of student knowledge will be determined through:

  1. Thoughts and opinions of students after group analysis of project will be recorded, as well as evidence of their conclusions.
  2. All students being motivated to participate in class by the discretion and creativity of the teacher.
  3. All projects will be collected and graded after in class presentations so that the teacher may fully assess the quality of work put in by students.

Learning Plan

By the 12thgrade, students should have at least a general understanding of the Civil Rights movement, the volatile situation of the time period, which groups were fighting for rights, key leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., and have a good understanding of current events. High school seniors should also be able to research facts, and connect facts into conclusions in order to prove a thesis.


A. Notebook
B. Computer
C. Microsoft Power Point
D. Classroom projector
E. Access to

This lesson will stretch for 90 minutes and introduce students to the Columbia Avenue Riots as well as push them to connect the Riots to the overall Civil Rights movement and to present day protests. Research strategies and drawing conclusions will be used during the project time. Conclusions drawn by students will be discussed with the entire class.

Phase 1:15 mins
The teacher will start the class with an attention grabbing question related to the topic of the class, such as, “Has anyone seen a riot on TV or in person?” The teacher will take answers as students eagerly share their stories. The students will be familiar the teacher’s participation rules and motivations and contribute their answers. The teacher will transition the discussion with the question, “What causes a riot?” The teacher should encourage educated guesses as well as write these responses on the board. The teacher will then move closer to the class topic by asking, “When did a lot of riots happen in the US?” There will be many correct answers, but when a student arrives at the answer of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, the teacher will ask, “Does anyone know of any riots that happened here in Philadelphia during the 1960s?” After a few educated guesses, the teacher will introduce the topic of the Columbia Riots with a PowerPoint presentation using material drawn from the Northern City website and other sources.

Phase 2:15 mins
This will be the instructional phase. The teacher will teach the students information about the causes of the Columbia Avenue Riots, the events that happened during the riots, and the aftermath in Philadelphia. During the instruction, the teacher will only present some of the information while asking students questions through scaffolding to help facilitate thinking so that they may draw conclusions on their own instead of being force fed all their information.

Phase 3:40 mins
Students will break into groups of four. These groups will be pre assigned so that each group will have a mix of slow learners and performers and fast learners and great performers.Students will be asked to review the Northern City website andother sources to create a short PowerPoint presentation about how the Columbia Avenue Riots connects with the Civil Movement of the 1960s, how the riot connects with today’s riots and protests of such as Occupy Wall Streetor the Arab Spring, and how they think a riot can be prevented. Students will research facts from the Civil Rights movement and current events, and use higher order thinking to draw connections between the two events, as well as explain their logic and present their evidence to support their case. Students will be informed that there is no one correct answer for their project in order to encourage a variety of opinions.

Phase 4:20 mins
Students will present their PowerPoint slides with the class and the teacher. They will present the findings of their research, how they feel the riot was connected to the Civil Rights movement, how they think the riot is connected to present day riots and protests, and what they think can prevent riots from happening. Students will provide proof of their conclusions with arguments from their research and with their new knowledge from the instruction portion of the lesson. After the presentations are complete, the teacher will ask for final questions and comments before the end of the class. Each group will e-mail the teacher their power point presentations for further grading by the teacher to assess how much they learned.

This lesson will meet learning needs since it will provide students with new material they have not been introduced to before. The main point of the lesson involves students practicing how to research, and how to discriminate among types and sources ofinformation. Students will practice using evidence to support their thesis, and how to connect what they already know with another topic by finding similarities as well as cause and effect relationships. They will also connect what they know with a current event which helps them realize how the lesson at hand affects their lives.

If there are ELL students in the class, the teacher will teach the class at a slower pace and focus more attention on key events and terms that will be simplified during instruction. The key terms and events will be highlighted in the power point presentation. The teacher will call on the ELL student with easy questions to boost their confidence in the material.

If there are special education students in the class, the teacher will teach the instruction at a slower pace so that they can catch up with the material and place extra emphasis on important and key events, and highlight them during the power point instruction.

For the group work,the teacher will encourage the ELL and special education student to participate in the activity so that they do not miss out on the skills being learned and practiced during the project. They will be excused for using simple vocabulary or not knowing which words to use during the construction of the project or the presentation. They will be allowed to work at a slower pace and would be given more help from their peers or the teacher. Encouragement will be provided, and participation in the same activity as the other student will help the ELL and special education students push themselves to achieve the same standards as the regular students.