Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12


In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 6-12, students explore BrainPOP resources to learn about Harvey Milk, an iconic leader of the gay rights movement in the 1970s. Using what they learn about Milk, students write and deliver a speech about why Harvey Milk Day should be a national holiday.   

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Brainstorm why we honor some people by having a national holiday in their name or the group they belong to.
  2. Use the Make-a-Map tool to identify Milk’s contributions to the LGBTQ+ community.
  3. Write and present a speech about why we should honor Harvey Milk by having a national holiday in his honor.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Whiteboard


iconic, outspoken, defiance, fear-mongering, crusade, prominent, agenda, potent


Preview the movie Harvey Milk to plan for any adaptations.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Ask students to brainstorm national holidays that honor a person or group of people. Jot their responses on the whiteboard. Answers may include Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day/Washington’s Birthday, Columbus Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day. Ask them why we celebrate the person or people? What did they do?
  2. Tell students that today they will learn about Harvey Milk, one of the founders of the gay pride movement in the 1970s--a time when gay people hid their true selves as way to avoid discrimination and harassment. Explain that as a politician, Milk worked hard to combat homophobic laws and encouraged the gay community to take pride and stand up for their rights.
  3. Show the movie Harvey Milk on an interactive whiteboard to the whole class once through without pausing.
  4. Next, students have watch the movie again independently or with a partner within the Make-a-Map feature. As they watch, have them identify Milk’s contributions to the gay rights movement and the LGBTQ+ community. If limited computers, you can show the movie again to the whole class as they take notes offline.
  5. Now have students write a persuasive speech explaining why Harvey Milk Day should be a national holiday. Remind them to use details from their concept map to support their reasons and make convincing arguments. Have partners review and edit each other’s speeches.
  6. Finally, have students present their speeches to the class.

Extension Activities:

Divide the class into small groups. Assign different Related Readings to each member of a group. Have students read their Related Reading and share what they learned with their group.