Classroom Activities to Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Looking for some activities to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this month? You’ll find everything you need here. This post includes materials on the ReadWriteThink site that fit three categories:
- Resources specifically focused on Dr. King and texts he wrote.
- Biographical activities you can use to explore Dr. King’s life and writing.
- Family activities that relate to Dr. King.
The materials range from mini-lessons to complete units and cross the grade levels. So read on, and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work.
Focused on Martin Luther King, Jr.
- In 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on this day. (Grades K–12)
Students study Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and work in groups to create a mural that depicts Dr. King’s vision of peace.
- Exploring the Power of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Words through Diamante Poetry (Grades 9–12)
Students explore the ways that powerful and passionate words communicate the concepts of freedom, justice, discrimination, and the American Dream in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
- Entering History: Nikki Giovanni and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Grades 6–8)
Nikki Giovanni’s poem “The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr.” is paired with Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, taking students on a quest through time to the Civil Rights movement.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. (Grades K–12)
Students explore the “I Have a Dream” Foundation’s website and brainstorm ways they can help themselves or others at their school achieve their educational dreams.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. and Me: Identifying with a Hero (Grades K–2)
This lesson provides ideas for celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by encouraging students to explore the connections between Dr. King and themselves through journaling and inquiry-based research.
- Living the Dream: 100 Acts of Kindness (Grades K–2)
This lesson provides the “action piece” for any study of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In this project, students participate in Dr. King’s dream by doing 100 acts of kindness.
- How Big Are Martin’s Big Words? Thinking Big about the Future (Grades 3–5)
Inspired by the book Martin’s Big Words, students explore information on Dr. King to think about his “big” words, then they write about their own “big” words and dreams.
- Analyzing Famous Speeches as Arguments (Grades 9–12)
Students identify the rhetorical strategies in a famous speech and the specific purpose for each chosen device.
- Every Punctuation Mark Matters: A Minilesson on Semicolons (Grades 6–8)
Students analyze stylistic choices and grammar use in authentic writing, focusing on the use of the semicolon in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail."
- I Have a Dream: Exploring Nonviolence in Young Adult Texts (Grades 9–12)
Students will identify how Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of nonviolent conflict-resolution is reinterpreted in modern texts. Homework is differentiated to prompt discussion on how nonviolence is portrayed through characterization and conflict. Students will be formally assessed on a thesis essay that addresses the Six Kingian Principles of Nonviolence.
Biographical Lesson Plans
- Guided Comprehension in Action: Teaching Summarizing With the Bio-Cube (Grades 6–8)
Middle-level students learn the ins and outs of writing biographies by researching a contemporary or historical figure and writing a summary.
- A Biography Study: Using Role-Play to Explore Authors’ Lives (Grades 9–12)
Secondary students read biographies and explore websites of selected American authors and then role-play as the authors. Adapt this lesson to ask students to consider Dr. King, as the author of the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” “I Have a Dream” speech, and other texts.
- Biographies: Creating Timelines of a Life (Grades 3–5)
Elementary students explore a number of sources to create a biographical timeline about a selected person. Students collaboratively research and resolve conflicting information they find during their investigation.
- Acrostic Poems (Grades K–12)
Have students write acrostic poems about Dr. King or events from his life with the Acrostic Poem tool.
- Writers’ Workshop: The Biographical Sketch (Grades 3–5)
Students use the faces and places they learn about in their research to write a biography about a contemporary or historical figure.
- Amazing Biographies: Writing About People Who Change the World (Grades 3–8)
After reading about historical figures and other important people that have changed the world, children choose someone that they consider to be “amazing”—either someone they’ve heard about or someone they know—and create a book page that highlights this person.
- Think Peace (Grades K–5)
Podcaster Emily Manning shares books that serve as a springboard to discuss how children and adults alike can use peaceful, nonviolent methods to affect change in society. This is episode 21 of Chatting About Books: Recommendations for Young Readers, a Podcast for Grades K–5.
- Celebrate Heroes (Grades 6–8)
Encourage children to spend a little time thinking and writing about just what makes a hero and who their personal heroes might be.
- Dr. King Bio Cubes (Grades 3–12)
Families and children can gather or summarize information about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Bio Cube interactive.
- Create Poetry with the Word Mover App (Grades 3–12)
Use the word bank from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and create found poetry.
If you want even more resources, check out the Martin Luther King, Jr. collection from Thinkfinity.
[Photo: Martin Luther King Memorial by alvesfamily, on Flickr]