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Case Study: Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America

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The Foundational Reading and Language Standards Resources Package for Grades 3–5

Use this guide to build additional literacy blocks alongside the module lessons.


In the second unit of this module, students will complete a close read of the book Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, by Sharon Robinson. As the author (Jackie Robinson’s daughter) states in the book’s introduction, this photographic biography is about “a man who was shaped by American history and who had an impact on American history.” While reading the book, students will focus on the craft of writing opinion pieces, and specifically, how writers use evidence and logically ordered reasons to support their points of view.

The mid-unit assessment will gauge students’ proficiency at explaining how authors support their opinions with reasons and evidence. Their reading and analysis will prepare students for writing their own opinion piece, an essay about Jackie Robinson’s legacy. The end of unit assessment will test students on their ability to state a opinion and support that opinion with strong evidence from the text.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How have athletes broken barriers during the historical era in which they lived?
  • What do biographical texts teach us?
  • Athletes are leaders: strong physically and mentally, with unique opportunities to lead.
  • Individuals are shaped by and can shape society.
  • Biographical texts about individuals also tell a bigger story from which we can learn.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies and Science content that many teachers may be teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum

Theme 1
Individual development and cultural identity: “Personal identity is a function of an individual’s culture, time, place, geography, interaction with groups, influences from institutions, and lived experiences.”


Texts to buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please refer to Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
Promises To Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America
by Sharon Robinson
One Per Student
ISBN: 978- 0439678759, 0439678757



Optional Activities

Invite a civil rights expert, people who have lived through the civil rights era, a professional athlete, or a children’s book author to share their expertise with the students.

Visit a civil rights museum or professional athletic facility and team.


Optional: Extensions

  • Divide the class into two groups in order to stage an oral debate, with one group arguing that Jackie Robinson had the greatest impact on breaking the color barrier for professional athletes and the other group arguing for another professional athlete of that era.
  • During Social Studies, conduct an in-depth study (either in expert groups or whole class) of key events during the civil rights era.
  • In mathematics, study baseball statistics and data (from the 1940s to the present) as an engaging way to build students’ mathematical skills and conceptual understanding.

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