Eleanor Roosevelt, Eve L. Ewing, Deborah M. Gordon

2024’s theme for Women’s History Month focuses on women who advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion. The Great Books Foundation holds these tenets dear to its mission of delivering high-quality, robust education and reading programs to learners all across the world.

This month, celebrate Women’s History Month with the following sample lesson plans appropriate for a wide range of grade levels and subject areas. All of the selections featured below are written by and about women, and the themes of these selections range from coming-of-age to politics to science.

“Plain, Ordinary Mrs. Roosevelt,” by Jodi Libretti

Junior Great Books Nonfiction Inquiry 5
For grades 4–5

This selection looks at Eleanor Roosevelt’s groundbreaking work as First Lady. Far ahead of her time, Mrs. Roosevelt defied conventional expectations of her role, choosing to travel independently and meet with sharecroppers, coal miners, and other groups of Americans who were suffering as a result of the Great Depression. During World War II, she worked to raise awareness of the plight of Jewish people in Europe, protested against government internment camps for Japanese Americans, and visited troops in military hospitals. Her rewriting of the unspoken rules about what the president’s spouse could do has had a lasting impact. Download these lesson plans for classroom sessions that will spur your students to consider the life and legacy of this remarkable American.

These lesson plans include:

  • Prereading activity
  • First reading with sharing questions
  • Second reading note-taking activity
  • Shared Inquiry discussion focus and cluster questions

“At work with my father,” by Eve L. Ewing

Junior Great Books Series 6
For grades 6 and up

Dr. Eve L. Ewing is a writer, scholar, and cultural organizer from Chicago. She is the award-winning author of four books: the poetry collections Electric Arches and 1919, the nonfiction work Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side, and a novel for young readers Maya and the Robot. She is the coauthor (with Nate Marshall) of the play No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. She has written several projects for Marvel Comics, most notably the Ironheart series, and is currently writing Black Panther. Ewing is an associate professor in the Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity at the University of Chicago.

Ewing’s poem “At work with my father,” first published in her 2017 poetry collection Electric Arches, draws upon the time she spent with her father on Chicago’s Navy Pier, a longtime city tourist attraction, as he was making a living drawing caricatures of tourists.

These lesson plans include:

  • Prereading activity
  • First reading with sharing questions
  • Shared Inquiry discussion focus and cluster questions

“The Collective Wisdom of Ants,” by Deborah M. Gordon

The Nature of Life: Readings in Biology
For grades 9 and up

Deborah M. Gordon’s research on the behavior of ant colonies has changed the understanding of how ants communicate and cooperate. She has established that ant colonies have no central control and that ants communicate with one another about changes in the environment, sometimes altering their roles in response. Gordon’s 1999 book, Ants at Work: How an Insect Society Is Organized, is based on many years of research on red harvester ants in Arizona.

Gordon is a professor of biology at Stanford University, where she also directs the Gordon Lab. In addition to studying how ants communicate about and respond to change, Gordon and her colleagues explore how insights into ant behavior may relate to other systems that function without central control, such as the immune system, the brain, and the internet.

These lesson plans include:

  • Content questions to assess students’ understanding of the selection
  • Application questions that go beyond the material covered in the reading and are designed to foster a deeper and more practical understanding of the significance of the ideas in the text
  • Discussion questions that support Shared Inquiry discussion, having more than one reasonable answer that can be supported based on the text. These questions require participants to develop ideas about the issues raised in the text, weigh support for different answers, and judge for themselves which answer is most satisfying.

Consider Junior Great Books for Your Classroom

We hope you enjoy these lesson plans and use them in your curriculum for Women’s History Month. Junior Great Books K–12 programs feature diverse authors, cover wide-ranging subject material, and offer rich content in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, social studies, and science. And, as you can see, our inquiry-based approach invites students to thoroughly explore every selection, building reading comprehension, critical thinking, and listening and speaking skills. To learn more, have a chat with your Great Books K–12 partnership manager.