K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Students will first conduct guided research about Bessie Coleman, the first African-American pilot. Next they will learn how to use the Mini Page online archive on their own to research the first American woman to go into space, Sally Ride. They will then use a student-friendly search engine to find more information about her. Lastly, they will make a poster comparing the two women. This is intended as an introductory lesson to research skills, and it does not include writing instruction. Teachers may wish to collaborate with a school librarian for this lesson. The school librarian will likely be able to find additional resources to support the research done in this lesson.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • conduct online research using The Mini Page Archive and other websites.
  • use appropriate keyword search terms to find relevant online materials.
  • analyze the difficulties faced by women at different times in US history.
  • compare two female aviators in US history by making a poster celebrating their accomplishments.

Teacher planning

Time required

3 one-hour class periods (Students may need additional time to complete their posters.)

Materials needed

  • Copy of the Vocabulary List — to project
  • Copies of the Bessie Coleman Research Graphic Organizer — one per student
  • Copies of the Sally Ride Research Graphic Organizer — one per student
  • Copies of the Research Comparison Chart — one per student
  • Copy of the Poster Instruction Sheet — to project
  • Copies of page one (for the Bessie Coleman activity) and page four (for the Sally Ride activity) of the Women Pilots Mini Page — one per student (optional)
  • Chart paper, poster board, or other large sheets of paper
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Notebook paper
  • Pencils

Technology resources

  • Computer with internet connected to a multimedia projector
  • Computer lab or individual student computers
  • Access to the websites used in this lesson
  • Access to the Bessie Coleman biography video


Bessie Coleman research graphic organizer
Students complete this handout while conducting research on Bessie Coleman.
Open as Microsoft Word document (69 KB, 2 pages)
Sally Ride research graphic organizer
Students complete this handout while conducting research on Sally Ride.
Open as Microsoft Word document (109 KB, 1 page)
Research comparison chart
Students complete this chart when comparing Bessie Coleman to Sally Ride.
Open as Microsoft Word document (121 KB, 1 page)


Prior knowledge

  • Students will be most successful if they already have some background knowledge of gender and racial discrimination in the US.
  • Students should also know the classroom behavioral expectations and procedures for computer use.

Teacher preparation

Before beginning each activity, teachers should make sure the students can easily access the websites either by opening them on the computer beforehand, posting the links on a class website or Symbaloo, or directing students to this lesson plan page and pointing out the correct links in the “Websites” section. The last option is not ideal for the Sally Ride activity, as the students are practicing their computer research skills and need to find them using the search engine.


Part one: Bessie Coleman

  1. Introduce the lesson by telling students that they are going to learn how to do research online while learning about important and interesting women in US history. Explain that these women were pioneers in their professions.
  2. Tell students that they will begin by learning about Bessie Coleman. Ask if anyone knows who she is. If not, tell students that she was the first African-American pilot in the US.
  3. Explain to students that in order to do research, you have to look at more than one source. Different sources have different information and points of view, and it is important to look at several sources to gain a complete picture. Tell the students that they will start by comparing two websites.
  4. Next, project the Vocabulary List for students to see, letting them know that they will see these words as they read about Bessie Coleman. Go over the words with the students and tell them the list will be visible while they are working.
  5. Pass out the Bessie Coleman Research Graphic Organizer, and project it for the students to see. Go over the graphic organizer with the students, explaining that they will use the Mini Page to answer the questions in the first column and then another website to answer those in the second column.
  6. Switch the projector view to the Women Pilots Mini Page. Explain that the Mini Page is written for kids like them and that it is published weekly. Show students that there are four pages, and they can see small thumbnail versions on the right side of the screen. The main pane will open automatically to the first page, so if they want to see another one they need to click on the thumbnail for that page. Tell them that for this day, they only need the first page.
  7. Instruct students to begin working (individually or in pairs) on the Bessie Coleman Research Graphic Organizer. Students can work on the computer or with copies of page one of the Women Pilots Mini Page. Walk around to monitor and answer any questions.
  8. When students are finished, have student volunteers go over the answers and clarify any misunderstandings.
  9. Tell students that now they will look at the Biography website about Bessie Coleman. Project the website on the screen, and direct students to access the website on their computers. Again, students can work independently or in pairs. Walk around to monitor and answer any questions.
  10. When students have finished, go over these answers. Ask students what they found most interesting about Coleman.
  11. Next, ask students for differences and similarities between the information found in both sources, and make a chart on the board to record their answers. This may lead to a discussion of audience, as the Mini Page is written for children while the Biography webpage is written for a larger audience.
  12. Tell the students that they will watch a short video about Coleman. Direct them to the back of their worksheet, and tell them they can answer the questions as they watch. For some students, it may be helpful to play the video twice.
  13. When students are finished, go over the answers. Ask them if they found the video different from the websites. They may say the video had a different, or stronger, point of view. Guide them toward talking about how the video talked more about her activism.
  14. Facilitate a class discussion:
    1. Which source did they like better?
    2. Which was the most clear?
    3. Which had the most interesting information?
  15. End the activity by emphasizing the importance of consulting more than one resource when doing research. They would have never known so much about Bessie Coleman without these three different pieces.
  16. Collect students’ handouts.

Part two: Sally Ride

  1. Introduce the lesson by telling students that they will now learn about a different female pilot, one who flew on a spaceship. Explain that they will continue practicing their research skills by finding information on their own.
  2. Hand out the Sally Ride Research Graphic Organizer, and project it on the board. Go over it with the students, explaining that they will search in The Mini Page Archive to find the answers to the questions in the first column. Then they will use a different search engine to find another article about Sally Ride and find different facts about her. Tell students that first they will look at the Mini Page archive together.
  3. Project The Mini Page Archive for students to see, and direct all students to that website on their own computers. Tell students that they will first search for information by typing keywords into the search box.
  4. First, ask students to type “Sally” into the search box, and do the same on your computer so all students can see the results on the board and on their own screen. Ask students to click on the first result (the Ah, To Have Lived Back Then edition).
  5. Ask students if they think this edition contains any information about Sally Ride, and give them a minute to look through The Mini Page. Remind students that they need to click on the thumbnails on the right side to look at different pages. Ask if any students know why this page showed up in a search result when searching with just the word “Sally.” Then show them that the name of a game for children called “Little Sally Walters” is mentioned at the bottom of page three. Discuss this search result, and use this as an example of why it is important to use specific search terms in order to get the information they want.
  6. Ask students to brainstorm a more specific search term. Guide students to determining that searching for “Sally Ride” will get more relevant results.
  7. Tell students that they will now search in a better way. Have students click on the “Advanced Search” link that appears at the top of the results page from the first search.
  8. Tell students that they will now search for information by typing the phrase “Sally Ride” in the search bar. Draw students’ attention to the drop-down menu to the left of the search bar. Show students all of the options by clicking the arrow, and tell students they should select the “the exact phrase” option. Explain to students that this means they will only see results that have “Sally Ride” together and not results that contain either “Sally” or “Ride.”
  9. Direct students’ attention to the drop-down menu on the right, clicking on it to show them the options. Tell them that because they are searching for an exact phrase, it is best to use the “All Fields” option. This means that every time Sally Ride is mentioned in The Mini Page, it will be in their results, no matter if it is in a title, a photo caption, etc. Use this picture to make sure the search is set up correctly:
  10. The advanced search feature of The Mini Page Archive
  11. Tell students that they should look for the Women in Science and Women Pilots Mini Pages. Tell students they should look at both of these to answer the questions in the first column.
  12. Give students about 15 minutes to look through the Mini Pages and answer the questions, walking around to monitor. When they are finished, go over the answers with the class.
  13. Direct students’ attention to the board again, and project the Sweet Search search engine page. Explain that because this search engine is designed specifically for students, they will be using it for their research.
  14. Explain that when you are looking for a phrase or a name, you should put that name or phrase inside quotation marks when searching (e.g., “Sally Ride”). If the phrase is not put inside quotation marks, the search engine will look for results that contain the word “Sally,” the word “Ride,” and the phrase “Sally Ride,” and it will give them some results they are not looking for. Using quotation marks to keep a phrase together when searching does the same thing that the “exact phrase” option does in the advanced search of The Mini Page Archive, and it will work for most search engines, including Google.
  15. Instruct students to do this search on their computer while you do it on your computer. This allows the students to look at the projected results to make sure they typed it correctly using the quotation marks. Direct students attention to the projected results, pointing out that in Sweet Search, a description of the site is listed under each individual result. Tell students that they are welcome to choose from any of the articles listed. Also explain that because this is a search engine for student research, all of the results are good (e.g., they are all from reliable sources). If students have worked with other teachers or the school librarian on deciding what makes something a reliable source, you could have a short discussion about that here.
  16. Switch the projector view to the Sally Ride Research Graphic Organizer, and direct students’ attention to the right column. Tell them that when they choose an article to read, they should write the source of it at the top of the column. Links to a few articles found in this Sweet Search are listed in the “Websites” section.
  17. Remind them that there is only one question to answer, and that they should then find three additional facts. Depending on students’ abilities and working styles, you may wish to say that if there are more than three things they find interesting, they can write them on the back of the page.
  18. Instruct students to begin working. Walk around to assist and monitor students. Stop the students about 10-15 minutes from the end of class, and ask volunteers to share what they found. When students share, also ask them where they got their information so students can see the differences between sources. Teachers may also wish to ask students about the research process (e.g., what they found difficult, what they found interesting, etc.) to see if any of the research skills need to be reinforced. Collect student work at the end of the discussion.

Part three: Making a poster

Before beginning this activity, teachers should have checked the research graphic organizers from the previous two activities. Teachers should also gather the poster-making materials. Posters may be completed individually or in small groups.

  1. Begin by telling students that they will now compare Bessie Coleman and Sally Ride. They will think about what is similar and what is different about their experiences. Remind students that these women were both pioneers and role models, and the students will make posters celebrating them.
  2. Tell students that before they make their poster, they will compare the women by using a chart. Hand out the Research Comparison Chart, and review it with the students. Next, pass out their completed research graphic organizers from the previous two activities. Tell students that they should use their research to assist them in making the comparisons.
  3. Instruct students to begin, and walk around to monitor. Once students have completed their comparison charts, facilitate a whole-class discussion about the women. Students should have come up with such similarities as:
    1. first American women to fly (Coleman was the first African-American woman)
    2. both smart women
    3. both are role models
    4. both faced gender discrimination

    Differences should include that Bessie Coleman had to face both gender and racial discrimination, and that Coleman was not able to study flying in the US. Other differences are that Ride was able to get an education in the United States, did not face racial discrimination, and depending on which article they read, was a lesbian.

  4. Tell students that now that they have made their comparisons, they will make a poster celebrating the accomplishments of these women. Project the Poster Instruction Sheet for students to see and go over them with the students.
  5. Once the instructions are clear, direct students to get materials for making their posters, and instruct them to begin working. Give students a time limit and periodically remind them of time remaining. Walk around the room to monitor student work.
  6. After their time is up, have students share their posters with their classmates.


Computer and research skills can be informally assessed during the class. You may choose to use the Bessie Coleman Research Graphic Organizer Answer Key and the Sally Ride Research Graphic Organizer Answer Key to assess to the students’ research graphic organizers. The students’ posters should be checked against the guidelines.

Supplemental information

Possible extensions

Teachers may wish to extend this lesson by having students pick another female aviator or another woman from US history and conduct their own research using the skills and strategies from this lesson.


Critical vocabulary

working to create positive social change (e.g., equal rights for women)
someone who works to create positive social change
a person who flies a plane
not liking someone or a group of people based on stereotypes; If a person is prejudiced, they decide they do not like someone before you get to know them.
the unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice; Example: Bessie Coleman faced both racial discrimination (because she was African-American) and gender discrimination (because she was a woman).
when pilots would perform by flying in rural areas
having to do with money
a limitation or restriction

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Writing

        • Grade 5
          • 5.W.7 Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Information and Technology Skills (2010)
      • Grade 5

        • 5.RP.1 Apply a research process as part of collaborative research. 5.RP.1.1 Implement a research process by collaborating effectively with other students.
      • Social Studies (2010)
        • 5.H.2 Understand the role of prominent figures in shaping the United States. 5.H.2.1 Summarize the contributions of the “Founding Fathers” to the development of our country. 5.H.2.2 Explain how key historical figures have exemplified values and principles...