Opening Doors to Social Studies with Children's Literature

1. Book Title: Mississippi Bridge

2. Author: Mildred D. Taylor

3. Publisher and Date: Bantam Books, 1990

4. Curriculum Developer: JoAnn DeLange

5. Summary: A young white boy in the rural south circa 1931, grapples with racial issues. He observes racial discrimination against blacks when they are forced to leave a bus because a group of whites boarded at the last minute and demanded their seats. The bus begins to cross a river and is swept off of the side of the bridge. One of the young men who was forced off of the bus jumps into the water to save those lives that had just moments before refused to let him ride the bus.

6. Social Studies Relevance: This book is a great insight into the Great Depression, segregation, racism and the Mississippi culture/dialect and geography.

7. Grade Level Focus: This book would be exceptional for the fifth grade.

8. Relationship to Social Studies State Core:

6050-0105- Evaluate with other class members right and wrong actions, according to universal standards, as being morally acceptable or unacceptable.
6050-0201- Outline the major historical events, people, wars, and documents that played a significant role in united states history from 1492 to the present.
6050-0204- Compare the interdependence of the various cultures of the Western Hemisphere.
6050-0303- Identify on maps, the major landforms, elevations, physical regions, major rivers, and mountain chains of the Western Hemisphere.
6050-0304- Use maps to explain the geographic setting of historical and current events.
6050-0503- Identify major values in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

Lesson Plans

Title of Lesson:

Decision Making, Take a Seat or Get off the Bus


Students will be able to list the positive and negative consequences of choosing to fight against discrimination.

Materials Needed:
decision tree outline overhead


1.Have students read Mississippi Bridge up to the point where Josias pauses after being told to get off of the bus to make room for the white people who had come onto the bus late (p.46).

2. Read to the students the story of Rosa Parks in the Book of Black Heroes from A to Z. by Wade Hudson and Valerie Wilson Wesley: "Rosa's feet ached as she walked to the Cleveland Avenue bus stop. It was 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. People were rushing home after a hard day of work. When the bus arrived, all seats were quickly taken. Some people had to stand. Black people could only sit in the back of the bus. The front section was for white people, the bus driver ordered her and three other black people to give up their seats to white people. Rosa refused and she was arrested. Rosa's refusal to give up her seat helped to start a movement against segregation."

3. Call on students randomly to list the positive and negative consequences of both leaving and staying on the bus.




Positive Consequences:

  • stands up for his rights
  • goes to his job on time

Negative Consequences:

  • ridiculed by the white people
  • may result in violence


Positive Consequences:

  • no possiblity of violence
  • will not be ridiculed by whites

Negative Consequences:

  • misses his job opportunity
  • hurts his pride
  • family will suffer from lack of money

4. Explain to students that there are always positive and negative consequences to any one decision

Student's contributions and participation in making the decision tree will give ample evidence of the students understanding the concept of decision making consequences.

Title of Lesson:

Story Mapping


Students will be able to make a map that includes the given criterion of the places in the story, Mississippi Bridge.


1. List the places of importance or interest in the book on the board.

Rosa Lee creek
Mr. John Wallace's store
Miz Georgia's house

Explain to the students that the book gave some fairly clear descriptions of where these places/landmarks were in relationship to each other. For example, we know that the Rosa Lee and bridge are within walking distance to the store, but you can not see them from the store.

2. What are some of the things and places that the author mentions, but leaves the exact placement to the imagination? List them on the board:

Josias' family sharecropping farm
Jeremy's family tenant farm
Amos' family farm
creek where Josias and Jeremy fish together (Is it another creek other than the Rosa Lee?)

3. In what direction is the town situated? What clues does the author give? "About once a week the bus come down from Jackson, ... then gone on west over the bridge that crossed... Rosa Lee." (pg 9) Which way does the creek run?

4. Give each student a large piece of paper. Have them draw the town and neighboring landmarks. Display and explain the requirements.

Must show direction: north, south, east, west.
Must have at least three of the four important places listed in step 1.
Must have Jeremy's, Josias' and the Amos' farms
Fill in the spaces between the landmarks with either other farms or wilderness


Examine the student's maps to see if they comply with the above criterion.

Title of Lesson:

Mississippi Bridge Time Line


brightly colored paper cut into cards or strips


*Students will be able to recall events from the story and place them in sequence on a time line.


1. After having read the story, make a yarn time line by stringing yarn across the room or chalkboard. Then, randomly call on the students to list the major events that happened in the story. Some of them might be:

Miz Hattie and Mr. Wallace discussing the hat and trying it on
Josiah's and Pa's encounter in the store
Josiah's being thrown off of the bus
Cassie insisting that Big Ma sit in the front of the bus
the bus going off of the bridge
Josiah and Jeremy pulling people out of the river.

2. You may choose to have the event cards/strips already made or have the students write them as they make the list. Place the events in chronological order as they happened in the book. You may either have the students direct you where to place the events, or have the students themselves place the events.

3. After the majority of the major events have been placed on the time line, ask the students to recall the more specific events that happen. Some examples might be:

The Amos children crossing the bridge to take milk to Miz Georgia's.
Mr. Wallace telling Rudine that she couldn't try on the hat.
Jeremy comforting Josiah's after his father had humiliated him in the store
Jeremy running to get help/ ringing the bell

4. After listing several events in the story, ask the students what was the very first thing that happened. Have that student place their event card or strip on the time line. Continue the process until the last event. (If needed, give students a copy of the book to review and refresh their memory.)

5. Explain to students that it is very easy to forget exactly what happened after we see or read something. A time line gives us an outline of the events of the story so we can refer back to them accurately.

* Note this activity is a good way to review the book before a culminating activity, such as the guided discussion that follows.


The cross-section of students called upon to give an event and place it in chronological order will be adequate to detect if the children understand the concept of placing events in sequence on a time line. Students who demonstrate difficulty with the concept will be noted, and given individual attention/help.

Title of Lesson:

Closure: Guided discussion on the main themes of the book: racism, discrimination etc.


*Students will make at least one contribution to the discussion about civil rights and discrimination.



1. Arrange the class into a circle. This arrangement should facilitate a feeling of equality in the room.

2. Give each student 3 checkers/chips.

3. Explain that when someone contributes to the discussion, they have "used up" one of their checkers and then place it in the bucket or hat. Each student needs to use up at least one checker. No one can use their second checker until everyone has commented at least once. This strategy should encourage those who would not normally contribute to the discussion to comment, and keeps those students who have a tendency to monopolize the conversation in check.

4. Explain the rules of the discussion:

Whoever has the foam ball should be the only one talking.
Do not interrupt, instead raise your hand to request the ball.
Respect other viewpoints and opinions.

5. Begin the discussion by asking these questions:

What is discrimination?
Are people made fun of simply by the way they look?
How would you feel towards Pa and the bus driver if you were Josiah?
How would you feel towards the people who took your place on the bus?
Do you think Josiah is a forgiving person? Why?
Do you think Jeremy loves his father even though he doesn't seem to agree with him?


Each student will have demonstrated their participation by using up at least one chip.