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Ruby Elzy: A Mississippi Jewel lesson plan

OVERVIEW

Singing in church at age four. A childhood lived in poverty, but with a strong mother. A beautiful soprano voice and big dreams. A desire to learn. Making it in New York City. A tragic death at age 35. A mostly forgotten life, but one with a rich and inspiring legacy. Students will learn of a little-known figure from Mississippi’s past as they research the life of Ruby Elzy. Her story speaks of obstacles and difficulties, but ends with honor and recognition. It is hoped that students will be inspired as they learn how Ruby Elzy worked to fulfill her dreams.

CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 3, 4, and 6. 

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12.

MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT

Mississippi History Now article, “Ruby Elzy: A Mississippi Jewel”

Six (or more) poster boards, colored pencils, markers, yarn or staples

Rating scales on construction paper

OBJECTIVES

The student will:

assemble an illustrated bio-book, with chapters detailing the life of Ruby Elzy;

assess the contributions of Miss Elzy as a singer, as an advocate for eliminating racial barriers, and as a role-model;

acknowledge the inspiring legacy of Ruby Elzy’s life.

OPENING THE LESSON

Lead a discussion regarding the term legacy to determine that students understand the meaning of the word. Ask students to think of particular people in their lives whose legacies have affected them. Call out specific names of Americans and ask students to think of how our lives might be different without their contributions (George Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Betty Friedan, or others). Determine whether or not students have heard of Ruby Elzy. Tell them that they will explore, in this lesson, connections between Ruby Elzy and the term legacy and that they will create a picture book about her life.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1.

Divide the class into six groups, each of which will be responsible for producing a chapter for the bio-book. Assign each group one of the following topics on which to collect information from the Mississippi History Now article:

a.

obstacles/difficulties faced by Miss Elzy as a child and college student;

b.

disappointments she encountered as an adult;

c.

helpers/mentors who assisted Miss Elzy during her lifetime;

d.

ways Miss Elzy was recognized and honored;

e.

personality traits, set of beliefs which set her apart;

f.

accomplishments of her life

Teacher will visit each group as they work to determine that students are gathering the appropriate information.

2.

Once research is completed, each group will design a large poster board page, or two, for the bio-book on which they will illustrate the events they researched.

3.

Each group will make a presentation to the class regarding their chapter. It would be interesting to allow students in the audience to “guess” the meaning of the illustrations, then have the group members explain them. Students will need to take notes on each presentation on a bubble (web) organizer. Teacher should lead a brief discussion after each presentation. (The book can be put together with staples or yarn after the presentations.)

4.

Working in the same or different groups, students will analyze the effectiveness of Ruby Elzy as a role-model, singer, and advocate for eliminating racial barriers. Give each group a piece of construction paper on which three simple rating scales have been printed, with 1 being the least effective and 10 being the most effective. An example:

Least Effective

Most Effective

1__2__3__4__5__6__7__8__9__10__

Students will discuss the three areas, come to consensus on each one, and mark their rating scales. They must give reasons for their rankings as they post them in the room, or as they give an additional class presentation. (There should be some variety in the rankings as some groups see Miss Elzy as being more effective in some areas than in others.)

5.

Remind students of the prior discussion regarding the word legacy. Ask them to compose a jellyfish graphic organizer like the one printed below. Students will include ways Ruby Elzy’s life and influence have had a lasting affect on our society. (Students may need to add additional boxes.)

6.

Ask students to take their jellyfish organizers home and share the story of Ruby Elzy with their families.

CONCLUDING THE LESSON

1.

Let students voluntarily share their experiences from telling their family about Ruby Elzy.

2.

Ask students to write a short work (essay, poem, script) EITHER telling how life today would be different had Ruby Elzy not lived as she did, OR how her story has affected their personal lives.

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

1.

Participation in class discussions and group work

2.

Completion of chapter in bio-book

3.

Class presentation

4.

Completion of two graphic organizers

5.

Participation in rating scale activity

6.

Essay or poem

EXTENDING THE LESSON

1.

Students may wish to make a list of adjectives that would describe Ruby Elzy and then discuss which ones are the most descriptive.

2.

Write a newspaper article for the fictitious Pontotoc Gazette detailing an upcoming visit by Ruby Elzy to perform in her home state.

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