Boost Student Engagement Using the World Around You

Regardless of what you teach, you can boost student engagement by connecting your course material to relevant topics and current events. It helps keep content fresh and spark student interest. It can also help students retain more information when the skills they are learning are woven into larger mental maps.

61 years ago today, Rosa Parks decided not to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, triggering a bus boycott that eventually led to desegregation and an end to “Separate but Equal.” So, this week we have created a Deck for you with lots of example questions and discussion starters related to Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Give it a look and tweak it however you like to fit your age and subject areas.

For example:


In Math Class, you can get students thinking about the impact of the Boycott through numbers. Ask them how much money the Montgomery Bus System lost on that first day and throughout the year. You can ask them to think about inflation (how much money it would be in today’s terms). Dig deeper by asking them to think about why students came up with different answers — what variables would change how much money was lost that year (like the fact that the number of protesting riders probably wasn’t consistent from day-to-day).




Civics or Government

In a Civics or Government Class, you can prompt students to look at how legislation changed over time to more explicitly extend rights to all citizens. You can also look at how the court impacted segregation over a 60-year period.




In a Language Arts class, you can ask your student questions to flex their writing and interpretation skills while considering Rosa Park’s words and actions.



Or ask them to write from the point of view of someone their age in 1955 — how would they describe the events in a journal entry or a letter to a friend?


In an Ethics class, ask students to consider their own scales of injustice. What things seem reasonable to them and what seems unjust? Ask them to explain their answers or discuss them. Not only will this help student orient their own ethical compass, it will also increase their empathy and understanding of different points of view.





In a history class, you can help students understand the specific events that led up to Rosa Park’s arrest and the subsequent Boycott. First, tap into prior knowledge by asking students what they already know. Then, let them see the diagram of the bus that was included as evidence in the court case.


You can find the Deck and Presenter Notes here. We’d love to hear about the conversations you have!