University of Washington Black Student Union


University of Washington Black Student Union



Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State



Grade Levels


In this focused inquiry, students investigate the question Can student action make change?
Students engage in deep reading of primary sources, annotation of sources, small and large group discussion, and develop an argument answering the compelling question.

Lesson Objectives

  • Students will be able to use analytical reading skills to identify the main demands of the UW’s Black Student Union and the response of the University President.
  • Students will collaborate with peers to understand how different perspectives influence historical events.
  • Students will develop a claim with evidence and reasoning to answer the compelling question.
  • Students will brainstorm ideas for change within their own school and submit a list a demands and reasons for change.


Common Core English Language Arts Standards, History/Social Studies
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1.  Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6.  Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
Common Core English Language Arts Standards, Writing
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.B.  Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources.
College, Career, and Civic Life Framework
(See C3 Framework to adjust to the grade level of the audience of this lesson)
  • D2.His.14.6-8.  Explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in the past.
  • D2.His.16.6-8.  Organize applicable evidence into a coherent argument about the past.


Focused Inquiry

Staging the Question

Compelling Question:  Can Student Action Make Change?

Share the following image of student protest at the University of Washington. Have students answer the following questions

  • What do you notice first?
  • What are the people and objects that you see?
  • What is the physical setting of the picture?
  • What is happening in this picture? What do you think is happening just outside of the frame?
  • What questions do you have?

When students are done individually analyzing this picture, have them get into pairs or small groups and share their ideas. Teachers may want to have a large group discussions to answer questions that students may have.

Background to share with the students:  Students should have a background knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement, and how it played out on college campuses.

Formative Performance Task

Supporting Question:  How did the University of Washington respond to the demands of the Black Student Union?

In pairs student will read Response by University of Washington President and BSU Letter to Odegaard, May 6, 1968. Individually, students will read and annotate only one of the articles. Note to teachers: both of these letter are long, you may wish to excerpt the sources to meet the needs of your students.

  • Annotations should include: confusions, understandings, important vocabulary, questions and connections.
  • After they complete their reading and annotation, students should share their information in a paired discussion. Have the students complete a T-chart that has the students identify what the Black Student Union wanted and President Odegaard’s response.
  • Students should then research images of the Black Student Union on the University of Washington campus in the 1960’s. Students should analyze these images using the same questions from the “Staging the Compelling Question” section.
Taking Informed Action

Argument:  Students research images of the Black Student Union on the University of Washington campus in the 1960’s. Students should analyze these images and use the information they gained from the images and the T-chart to individually answer the compelling question. Their response should include a claim, evidence, and reasoning.

Have students brainstorm ideas for change within their own school. After the brainstorm:

  • Have student focus on one or two themes or ideas that around which they would most like to see change
  • After this, have the class collectively write a list of demands what have clear reasons for the need for change.
  • Students could then invite stakeholders in to be a part of a class discussion around those issues.
UW Black Student Union Lesson Plan with Activity Sheet.pdf
Response by the University of Washington President Charles E. Odegaard
Focused Inquiry (T-Chart) Activity Sheet.pdf