Grade 4 lesson plan

Expressing Respect

Grade 4 lesson plan

  • Lesson theme: Respect
  • Integrated subject: Language Arts
  • Grade level: Fourth grade
  • Time: 45 minutes (30 min art lesson)
  • Lesson authors: Erica Abrams, Taylor Muia, and Nina Powell of Miami University of Ohio.

Lesson Overview:

This lesson will be focused around respect during the Civil Rights movement. By 4th grade students should have a good idea of what it means to be respectful to others, but this lesson will dig a little deeper in their understanding of how in the past some people were not treated with respect. Students will be introduced to some major Civil Rights leaders and there will be discussion about why we should respect them and the work that they did to fight for equality. Through writing letters and creating stamps the students will be able to portray what respect and equality look like to them. Some questions that might lead to a discussion on respect are:  

  • What does respect mean to you?
  • How can you tell if somebody is not being respectful?
  • What can you do to show respect to a friend, teacher, or family member?

Visual Culture Component: 

We see postage stamps almost every day. They are an essential part of our postal system and necessary whenever we want to send letters, postcards, or even packages in the mail. Typically the postage stamps we see are pretty standard and basic but there are many different types of stamp designs out there that represent many different stories, ideas, and historical events. Ask students what kind of stamps they are familiar with and when/where have they used stamps before in their lives. 

  • Why were these images chosen for stamps?
  • Where do you see stamps?
  • Civil Rights Stamps 

Ohio Standards of Learning / Common Core: 

Common Core English Language Arts standard met for 4th grade

Ohio Visual Arts Standards met for 4th grade

5PE: Link ideas in and design of works of art to the emotions and moods expressed in them

1PR: Identify, select and vary art materials, tools and processes to achieve desired results within their artwork 

2RE: Develop and share their ideas, beliefs, and values about art 

Lesson Objectives: 

Students will:

  • compose a letter that conveys ideas and information about respect (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2
  • sketch a postage stamp that portrays respect (5PE)
  • identify at least 3 different colors to include in their stamp (1PR) 
  • peer evaluate at least two postage stamps  (2RE)

Vocabulary / Academic Language: 

  • Respect – how you treat someone, treating someone the way you want to be treated
  • Stamp – a small sticker that is attached to an envelope and is needed to send letters
  • Informative – (in a text) will include information that will teach the reader something 
  • Civil Rights Movement – social movements in the United States whose goals were to end segregation (separation of blacks and whites) and discrimination 
  • Sketch – a rough drawing of an image you want to create
  • Composition – arrangement of of elements that you include in your drawing 
  • Value – how light or dark you color something 

Powerpoint Presentation: 

  • Includes all images and exemplar work to guide students through learning process 

Historical/Cultural/Artist Information:

Freedom Summer Image:

Two Freedom Summer volunteers teaching children in Freedom School
  • How do you see respect in this picture?
  • Who looks like the leader in this picture? 
  • How do you think this classroom is the same as our classroom? Different than our classroom?

Image Description: This image came from the Freedom Summer Archive. By looking at the picture we can see that the setting is in what looks like a classroom and it seems that there is teaching and learning going on. We can infer that this is one of the Freedom Schools that was set up during Freedom Summer. There are many African Americans sitting down listening to two Caucasian adults, one male one female. We can see respect happening in this image because the students seem to be listening to their teachers and respecting what they’re saying. In this particular image the two Caucasian adults seem to be the leaders because they are standing up and talking toward the students, but their body language seems to be respectful of their students. We can see a lot of similarities and differences in this image compared to a standard classroom today. 

Contemporary Art Image:

painting of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Why is Martin Luther King Jr someone we respect?
  • How could you show bravery like Martin Luther King Jr?
  • How did Martin Luther King Jr respect others?

Image Description: This image is from a series called Americans Who Tell the Truth by Robert Shetterly. The mission of this series is to highlight citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental and economic fairness. Martin Luther King, Jr was chosen because of his work during the Civil Rights movement in his fight for racial equality.  He believed in peaceful protest and did not want to use violence to get his voice across. 

*Many paintings from this series are displayed in McGuffey Hall at Miami University.

Freedom Summer Envelope
  • What do you think people wrote in their letters?
  • Who did they write letters to?
  • Why do we write letters to people? 

Image Description: This image came from the Freedom Summer Archive.  It is an envelope addressed to Mr. & Mrs. LaVerne Gross.  The creator is anonymous and was found in Davenport, Iowa. This image is related to our topic as is shows letters that many people wrote while they were at Freedom Summer, and it shows a stamp that was used during that period.  Written letters allow people to convey their ideas or thoughts while going through experiences and who they want to share experiences with. When writing letters it is important to think about what kind of respectful language you want to include, and how you write about an experience either in a respectful or non-respectful way and how it will influence who you are sending the letter to.  

Freedom Summer Summary:

  • Freedom Summer occurred in Mississippi throughout the years 1963-1967, Mississippi was also known to be the most racist state in the nation. 
  • The main purpose was to encourage as many African Americans as possible to register to vote because Mississippi had excluded African Americans to vote in the past.
  • Freedom summer training took place at Western College.  College students were trained on how to protect themselves without hurting others once they arrived in Mississippi.  College students were also trained to work in Freedom Schools. 
  • The Freedom Schools were held in a church and the schools focused on teaching the kids how to read and write. They also wanted to teach them about general health. 
  • College students also focused on going into African American homes and try to convince them to go vote. In order for African Americans to be able to vote they had to be able to pass a test.  The process of convincing these African Americans to go vote and passing the test to be able to vote was very difficult.
  • The majority of college students were not taking the training seriously until they heard about the brutality happening down in Mississippi.
    • One event that really started getting the students to take the training seriously was when three students who had been involved in the training went missing down in Mississippi.  These men were murdered upon arrival in Mississippi just because people knew what they were there for, it took 10 days to convince President Johnson to send in the FBI to investigate these missing person cases.
  • Freedom Summer had a significant impact on all Civil Rights movements, the events of Freedom Summer made Americans open their eyes to the treatment African Americans were receiving and how something needed to change.  

Lesson Procedures: 

  • When I say the word respect, what does that mean to you? (Students respond.) What are some different ways you can show respect? (Students respond.) 
  • Mention that you have been studying Civil Rights and that equality and respect are an important part of that. Many people were not treated with respect because of the color of their skin. How do you feel about that? (Students respond.)
  • Show the images of artwork that represent respect (refer to historical/cultural photos). Ask the questions that follow each image.
    • Freedom Summer classroom image first,
      • Talk about Freedom Summer with students, refer to Freedom Summer summary
    • Martin Luther King, Jr Image 
    • Envelope image  
    • Show stamp images, refer to visual culture component, ask questions that follow 
      • All of the steps above are estimated 10 minutes
  • Today we are going to be writing our own letters and creating our own stamps.
  • In addition to the letter we are also going to be creating a stamp that goes with the letter. 
  • A US Postage stamp includes
    • Country of Origin (where it was made) 
    • Stamp Value 
    • Subject
  • The stamp you create should have a U.S origin 
  • The stamp value can be up to you
  • The subject of the stamp should be based around respect
    • It could be a portrait of a Civil Rights leader
    • It could be a scene of something from Freedom Summer
    • It could be anything that demonstrates respect during the Civil Rights movement 
  • Teacher will demonstrate how to create the stamp (5 minutes)
    • First you are going to be given a 4×4 piece of white construction paper 
    • Then you are going to take a pair of scrapbook scissors and you can cut around all 4 sides so it has ridges around the whole square
    • Once that is finished then you will need to decide what image you are going to draw on your stamp. 
      • Remember it needs to be based around respect 
    • You must include 3 different colors in your image 
    • Once your image is finished you will add a U.S country of origin in the top right corner
    • You will also get to decide how much your stamp is worth 

Once demonstration is complete, teacher can hand out materials to the class and they can begin creating their stamps.  The art component should take about 30 minutes to complete. 

  • Once the stamp is completed, students can get started on their letter to a Civil Rights leader. The letter must tell why you respect them and any questions you might want to ask about their Civil Rights journey. (Letter can be completed on a separate day if necessary) 
    • List of Civil Rights Leaders they can write to:
      • Rosa Parks: Rosa Parks got arrested after she refused to move to the back of the bus where people of color were meant to sit.  After her arrest, a city-wide boycott occurred, forcing the city to lift the law requiring segregation on the buses.   
      • MLK: Martin Luther King Jr. is known for his “I Have a Dream” speech.  He was arrested several times in his life participating in marches and protests to end segregation.  After his “I Have a Dream” speech, there was much more public support for civil rights. 
      • Freedom Summer teacher: College Students who came to Freedom Summer were trained to teach in Freedom Schools in Mississippi.  They taught children how to read and write and about general health.  These schools were held in churches.
      • Freedom Summer participant: Many college students came to Western College to learn about Mississippi and their voter rights.  However, many of these students did not realize how dangerous Mississippi was so they started to get trainings about the events that occurred in Mississippi.  They learned about nonviolence resistance training and how to protect themselves.     
    • Letter must be written to one of the 4 Civil Rights leaders previously mentioned
      • Rosa Parks
      • Martin Luther King Jr
      • Freedom Summer Teacher
      • Freedom Summer Students
    • Letter must include 2 reasons why you respect the leader and 1 question you want to ask them about their civil rights experiences  
  • After letter completion, students will peer evaluate two stamps
    • Two things they like about the stamp
    • One thing they would change about the stamp


  • Students composed a letter that conveyed ideas and information about respect (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2
  • Students sketched a postage stamp that portrays respect (5PE)
  • Students identified at least 3 different colors to include in their stamp (1PR) 
  • Students peer evaluated at least two postage stamps  (2RE)

Materials and Preparation: 

  • 4×4 squares squares of white construction paper – 1 for each student 
  • Scrapbook scissors- 2 or 3 pair per table 
  • Colored pencils to share amongst each table 
  • Lined paper to write letter on – 1 for each student
  • Pencils to write letters – 1 for each student
  • Rulers – 1 for each student


Student Examples: