Martin Luther King Jr. Easy Classroom Activities January 11 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr's Day is on Monday, 1/16/12, which is coming up fast. Here are fun and educational last-minute ideas and activities to use with the kids in your classroom to celebrate this great man in history.

What Do Your Kids Know About Martin Luther King, Jr?

This is a valuable question, and one worth exploring before launching into a lesson and activity to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Start exploring what your students know using a KWL chart. Incorporate vocabulary using this Predict, Define, and Sketch chart before and after reading and discussing important information with your kids. A preliminary list of relevant vocabulary words could include:

  • character
  • marches
  • slaves
  • prejudice
  • protest
  • freedom
  • fair

Martin Luther King, Jr Read Aloud Ideas

Combining read alouds with independent reading time and material help your children review and practice important skills while studying Martin Luther King, Jr. These opportunities for exploration through reading also lead into valuable discussion concerning Martin Luther King, Jr. and his impact on history and society, including why we observe a day in his honor.

There are many reading resources from which to choose regarding Martin Luther King, Jr. - these are some of my favorites:

Biography of Martin Luther King, Rookie Biographies (a great resource for first and second graders on up!)
My Dream of Martin Luther King by Faith Ringgold
Martin Luther King by Rosemary L. Bray
A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr by David A. Adler

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King by Ellen Levine

As you read, it might be a good idea to incorporate this Fact-Question-Response Chart to help your students process important information.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Quote Activities

We would be remiss in studying Martin Luther King, Jr. with our kids and not mentioning the "I Have a Dream" speech, along with the great amount of inspirational quotes during this and additional speeches he gave. The following activities can help you explore King's words in-depth together.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Activities

Writing poetry with your students provides a powerful way for kids to process information and meaning. One poem form includes incorporating Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Create a template of a cloud on a sheet of white paper and make copies, one per student in your class. Include the words, “I have a dream…” along the top if needed.

Discuss Dr. King's speech with your students, including what Dr. King might say about our current society – what do your kids think needs to be changed? Have students complete their clouds with their ideas. If you want, you can have students decorate their clouds along the outside with cotton balls (this would be fun for younger kids). Display these inspirational ideas in a simple but timely bulletin board.

Another option for a fun poetry activity is the Cootie Catcher format incorporating students' original poetry about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - this writing lesson plan can be found here!