Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Tulsa Burning: Flash Points of Change

Tulsa Race Massacre

Nicole Watkins, Shayna Pond | Published: June 2nd, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 4th, 5th, 6th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts, Science, Social Studies
  • Course Course Oklahoma History


Beginning just before students read "Tulsa Burning" by Anna Myers, this companion lesson provides a contextual understanding of people, places, and power in the Tulsa Race Massacre. In the first of the series of lessons, students will be introduced to the concept of a flash point in science and compare it to social contexts as an anticipatory set for the book. Using this lens, students will make predictions based on the book's cover, then use those predictions to understand the circumstances surrounding sudden eruptions of violence.

Essential Question(s)

What roles do people, places, and power play in historical events? How do we keep history from repeating itself?



Students examine the cover of the book Tulsa Burning by Anna Myers. Using the I Notice, I Wonder strategy, students draw on their prior knowledge to provide context as well as spark interest in the material.


Students explore the concept of a “flash point” in a fire and how that relates to igniting change. Students explore the two definitions of a flash point and the role of people, places, and power in creating them.


Students explain the role of people, places, and power in historical events (or current events). Then, they explore why it is important to study flash points in historical events and how history can repeat itself if people don’t make changes.


Students identify flash points in historical events.


Students reflect on their “I Notice, I Wonder” exercise from the Engage and the roles of people, places, and power in creating historical flash points. Students use their reflections to make a prediction about why the publisher chose the cover image they did for “Tulsa Burning.”



Use the attached Lesson Slides to follow along with the lesson. Begin with slide 3. Pass out a copy of the attached I Notice, I Wonder chart to each student, and have students pull out their individual copies of Tulsa Burning by Anna Myers. While looking at the cover of the book (either the physical book or the picture on the slide), use the I Notice, I Wonder strategy and ask students to individually fill out the I Notice, I Wonder chart. They should record in the “I Notice” column any observations they have about the cover, and in the “I Wonder” column, they should record any questions they have about the cover. The point of this activity is to activate students’ prior knowledge and to engage their curiosity about the book.

Give students time to record their observations and questions. Then, have students discuss in pairs what they noticed and any questions that arose. Have pairs share out with the whole group what they discussed.


Move to slide 4. Introduce the essential question on the slide: What roles do people, places, and power play in historical events? Tell students that they will participate in several activities as they read this book and with this question in mind.

Move to slide 5. Play the short video clip on the slide of a flash point in a campfire (“Campfire, Stoking the Flames“) from 7:18-7:40. Ask students, “What do you think caused this sudden flash where the flame grew larger?” Then, ask, “What other things might you do to cause a fire to increase in intensity?”

In a group discussion, have students identify what might make a fire change in intensity.

Move to slide 6. Introduce the concept of a “flash point”: a rapid rise in the intensity of a fire. The graphic on the slide also shows the elements needed to sustain a fire.

Transition the discussion into more metaphorical thinking with a few rhetorical questions, such as:

  • “The fire flared up when poked with a stick. Has it ever happened to you that you had an outburst after someone picked on you or tested your patience?”

  • “What other kinds of conditions have caused an outburst?”

After a brief discussion, move to slide 7. Pass out a copy of the attached 3-2-1 People, Places, Power handout to each student (or have students use a piece of blank paper), and introduce students to the 3-2-1 strategy. Invite students to use this strategy to explore how the three Ps—people, places, and power—can cause rapid change. To do so, have students record the following:

  • 3 emotions that might cause people to make a rapid change.

  • 2 events that might cause places to change rapidly.

  • 1 way/reason power may make a rapid change.

After giving ample time for students to complete the activity, have them share out some of their examples. As a group, reflect on the different perspectives students offer.


Move to slide 8. Transition the discussion as you guide students towards thinking on a broader scale, asking, “What are some historical events that you have learned about where these conditions of people, places, and power built up to a sudden outburst like the flash point of a fire?”

After a short discussion, move to slide 9, and introduce the second definition of “flash point”: a serious situation or area that has the potential of erupting into sudden violence.

Pulling from some of the historical events students recalled, choose an event to walk through as an example. View the attached 3P Event Table as a guide for a whole-group discussion.

Ask students to identify how each of the Ps played a role in the event. Record their ideas onto an Anchor Chart or in a whiteboard space as you discuss. Be sure to follow the format of the 3P Event Table.

Move to slide 10, and read aloud the second essential question: How do we keep history from repeating itself?

Have students answer this question in a discussion. You may follow this prompt with a further discussion prompt (slide 11): “Why is it important to identify flash points? What contributes to flash points in historical events?”


Sort students into small groups or pairs. Ask students to choose a historic event and identify the elements that led to the flash point of change. Pass out a copy of the attached 3P Event Table to each student. Students should think of any event in history (including recent history) that involved all three Ps followed by a sudden eruption of violence. Ask them to record on their handouts how each P contributed to the flash point.

After giving ample time to complete the activity, have groups share out some of their examples. Reflect on the different perspectives offered by students.


For a simple evaluation, ask students to get out a piece of notebook paper. Ask students to refer back to the I Notice, I Wonder activity and what the class has discussed about the three Ps. Then, have students write down their own answer to the question, “Why do you think the publisher chose this cover?”

After students have written down their answers, introduce the Commit and Toss strategy. Using this strategy, have students crumple the paper containing their prediction into a ball, and then gently toss it somewhere in the room. Have each student pick up a new paper ball, uncrumple it, and read it to themselves.

Ask for a few students to volunteer to share their paper aloud.