Skip to main content
What to Teach in May

What to Teach this Month: May

May 1, 2024

What to Teach this Month: May

Check out these lessons for Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month as well as topics spanning Memorial Day, Law Day, Mother's Day, the Tulsa Race Riots and more.


Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Pinterest
Share On LinkedIn

As a child growing up in Missouri, I always looked forward to May because school would be coming to a close, and I would begin to dream of warm days spent at the pool and nights spent catching lightning bugs. I’m not sure if it was knowing that summer break was right around the corner that made school lessons in May seem more fun, but before the stress of finals set in during those later years of school, the last few weeks of school felt magical. All schools across the country don’t end their school year in May, but the year is still beginning to wind down, and all educators can sprinkle some magic into their classrooms with the exciting teaching opportunities that present themselves in May. 

The month can be an exciting time to dive into teaching students about numerous topics, such as, how Asian/Pacific Americans and Jewish Americans have enriched the U.S. You can explore lesson plans and resources in SML’s Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month collection and SML’s Jewish American Heritage Month collection to get students immersed in these topics. We also recognize Memorial Day and take time to honor those who have died in service to our country.

The exciting teaching opportunities in May don’t stop there though. There are so many celebrations and anniversaries to choose from, and to help you get ideas, I have included a selection below, along with lesson plans and activities you can use in your classrooms.

May 6-10, 2024 is Teacher Appreciation Week!

In celebration, Share My Lesson is running a new sweeptakes! Enter by May 30th for a chance to win a visit from Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC, a classroom set of his book, Darryl's Dream, and $500 to choose books of your choosing from the First Book marketplace. Enter now!

Labor History Month

In addition to May being Labor History Month, we also celebrate Worthy Wage Day and International Workers Day on May 1. Teaching labor history is essential, as it deepens students' understanding of economic and social rights, such as fair wages and the right to organize. It also illustrates how collective action, championed by unions, led to significant improvements like the 40-hour workweek and weekends. This history instills an appreciation for the labor rights we enjoy today and prepares students to be informed citizens, advocating for justice in their future workplaces. Check out these resources:

Mental and Physical Health

In May, we also recognize Mental Health Awareness Month, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, Better Sleep Month and World Meditation Day on May 21. Focusing on our mental and physical health year-round is important because it influences our ability to think clearly, engage with others and handle daily stresses. Explore these preK-12 collections and resources to find ways you can incorporate the importance of health into your teaching this month.

Law Day (May 1)

Celebrating Law Day provides an opportunity to dive deep into civic education, inspiring respect for the rule of law and kindling public participation in our legal processes. It's a day to enlighten both young and old about their rights and responsibilities, fostering a community well-versed in critical thinking through discussions on pressing legal matters and current challenges. Engaging in Law Day activities not only highlights access to legal resources—bolstering justice for all—but also fortifies our democratic processes and enhances our collective understanding of how profoundly the law influences societal dynamics. It's a chance for us to come together, learn and appreciate the foundational role that law plays in shaping our society. Get started with these resources:

Yom HaShoah 2024 (May 5-6)

Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, is a solemn day observed annually to honor the memory of the 6 million Jews and millions of other victims who perished in the Holocaust. This day of remembrance also acknowledges the heroism of the Jewish resistance during this dark period. Established in Israel in 1953 and anchored in Jewish tradition and history, Yom HaShoah is a day of commemoration when the stories of the victims are revisited, and their names are recited in ceremonies. Explore these resources for guidance on how to teach about this topic in your classroom:

Anniversary of the Opening of the Transcontinental Railroad (May 10)

On May 10, 1869, a monumental achievement in American history was realized with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, marked by the ceremonial driving of the golden "last spike" at Promontory Summit, Utah. This historic event, orchestrated by Central Pacific Railroad President Leland Stanford, symbolized the uniting of a nation from coast to coast, facilitating unprecedented economic growth and expansion westward. Integral to this colossal project were the tireless efforts of many Chinese immigrants and Black men, whose contributions were crucial yet often overlooked. The Black workers, many of whom were formerly enslaved, and Chinese laborers displayed incredible perseverance and skill under grueling conditions. Their hard work not only shaped the physical landscape of America but also the very fabric of the nation's identity, embodying a spirit of determination and resilience that continues to inspire. Teach students about this moment in history with these resources:

Mother’s Day (May 12)

I am blessed to have an incredible mom, and I’m so glad that there is a special day set aside each year where I get to celebrate her and what she has done for me . Celebrating Mother's Day in the classroom can be a special way for students to express their gratitude and love for their mothers or mother figures. To make this day memorable, teachers can organize a variety of thoughtful activities that engage students in creating personal and heartfelt gifts for their mother or a loved one in their life.

It’s also important to recognize, however, that not everyone may have a mother present in their life. Reading a story about different types of families and the many forms that love can take helps foster inclusivity and respect for diverse family dynamics, making every student feel included in the celebration regardless of their personal circumstances.

Mother’s Day May Not Be Easy for Some Grieving Students

Handout | PreK, Grades K-12, Professional Development, Paraprofessional and School Related Personnel

Brown v. Board of Education decision (May 17)

The Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision was made on May 17, 1954. Teaching aboutthe decision is essential in understanding America's complex history of racial equality and the ongoing struggle for civil rights. This landmark court case, which declared state laws establishing separate public schools for Black and white students to be unconstitutional, is a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement. It underscores the profound impact of activism, legal challenges and judicial decisions on societal change. By integrating this case into education curriculums, educators empower students with knowledge about the fight against systemic racism and the legal battles that have shaped the nation's policies on equality and justice. Further, discussing Brown v. Board helps foster critical thinking about the role of law in social reform, and encourages students to consider the current issues of education equity and segregation that persist today, connecting past struggles with present challenges.

Harvey Milk Day (May 22)

Harvey Milk Day, celebrated on May 22, marks the birthday of Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S., who was assassinated in 1978. This day is an opportunity to broaden students' perspectives, promote diversity, and teach important lessons about justice and advocacy, which are central to forming a well-rounded educational experience. These discussions not only honor Milk's legacy but also support the development of thoughtful, informed and empathetic citizens. Check out these lessons to get you started:

Tulsa Race Riots (May 31)

The Tulsa Race Riots, also known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, occurred over May 31 and June 1, 1921, in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Okla., once known as "Black Wall Street" for its affluent African American community. The violence began after a young Black man was accused of assaulting a white woman, leading to racially charged tensions that escalated dramatically. White mobs attacked Greenwood, looting, burning homes and businesses, and engaging in acts of violence against Black residents. The destruction was extensive, with hundreds of Black-owned businesses and homes destroyed; the death toll remains disputed but is estimated to be in the hundreds. This tragic event is one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history and remained largely unmentioned in history books for decades. Ensure it is taught in your classrooms, and use these resources to help:

What are you teaching in May? Let us know in the comments.

What to Teach This Month Series

There are so many holidays, events, and anniversaries that mark our calendars each month that it can be hard to keep track of all of them. The Share My Lesson team has created a blog series, "What to Teach This Month," where each month a member of our team highlights free lesson plans and resources for grades prek-12 on some of the relevant topics you might want to incorporate into your curricular agenda for the month.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Want to see more stories like this one? Subscribe to the SML e-newsletter!

Megan Ortmeyer
Megan Ortmeyer is an SML Team Member and has worked in the AFT Educational Issues Department since fall 2018. She received her M.A. in education policy studies in May 2020 from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University. Prior to working at the AFT,... See More

Post a comment

Log in or sign up to post a comment.