Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Teaching Guide
The 17th of January, Monday, marks the remembrance and national celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an activist, and leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The Civil Rights Movement from 1955 to 1968 was a wave of activism to eliminate Jim Crow Laws, systemic racism, racial segregation, discrimination, and injustice. King was the driving force behind numerous historic events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1963 March on Washington which helped lead to legislation including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These were important turning points in United States history.
This day presents an amazing opportunity for parents and teachers to start a discussion about King and learn lessons based on his life’s work. This teaching guide presents ways to teach your kids about Dr. King’s struggles against racial injustice with interactive activities and helpful resources.
More Teaching Guides:
- Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month Teaching Guide
- AAPI Awareness Teaching Guide
- Teaching Black History Month: Resources and Readings
Who Is Martin Luther King Jr. And Why Is It So Important That We Remember & Celebrate Him?
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929, in Atlanta Georgia. Using his voice, powerful words, and communication, King managed to change America forever. He achieved incredible things in his life and was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against racial inequality in 1964.
Besides just learning history, King’s work will inspire kids and help them become true leaders, communicators, and changemakers.
Martin Luther King Jr Day Learning Activities & Resources
On to the fun stuff! Here is a list of 5 activities and resources that can help your kids remember and honor King.
1. Reflect On King’s Iconic, “I Have A Dream” Speech
The “I Have A Dream” quote is probably the most well-known association that people attribute to King. “I Have A Dream” is his most famous and influential speech, which he gave during the March on Washington for jobs and freedom on August 28, 1963. Here are some exercises to help your children reflect on this iconic speech:
- Listen to King’s speech and have a discussion:
- Encourage your children to do what they envision. What would they like to change or achieve?
- Encourage them to think about their own dreams. If possible, help them plan how to achieve them.
- Encourage your kids to think about how they use their voices to make positive changes in their environment.
2. Read A Book!
There are many wonderful picture books about Dr. King and his life. These books are great because they provide an interesting overview of the facts and events associated with King.
- I Have A Dream by Kadir Nelson
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coloring and Activity book by Dr. Sylvia Black
- Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr by Doreen Rappaport
3. Study Vocabulary
King’s message changed the world. And what better way to learn about King and his legacy, than to truly understand his words? Here are two things you can do to have fun with vocabulary with your kids:
- Go through King’s speeches like “I Have A Dream”. Take a look at this line:
“Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.”
Ask your kids if some of the words in King’s speech sounded unfamiliar, then together find the definition and interpret their meaning.
2. Go through a Martin Luther King Jr. Themed Word Search
4. Stir Reflections With Writing Prompts!
A writing project is a great way for students to reinforce what they learned. Here are some of my favorite writing prompts from Journal Buddies and The Holiday Zone:
- How does racism affect people? How does it affect you?
- Why is it that we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.?
- What is his dream?
- What does racial equality mean?
- How did Dr. King influence people?
- Make a list of ten things that you can do to make the world a better place
- Write a paragraph explaining how discrimination and prejudice impact our world today
- Pretend that you had an opportunity to interview Dr. King write out five questions that you would like to ask him
5. Take A Virtual Field Trip To The National Civil Rights Museum
The Lorraine Motel, in Memphis Tennessee, where MLK Jr was assassinated, is now the National Civil Rights Museum. Students who don’t live nearby can explore this interesting museum virtually. The Smithsonian Site also features King, another neat resource your child can check out!
Celebrate & Remember Martin Luther King Jr. All Year Long
It’s important that we continually teach our little ones about King, his characteristics, and his accomplishments all year long so that his legacy can be passed on to future generations. King’s life work teaches that everyone has a voice and they can use it to inspire others, connect with others, and drive others to make a difference. King used his words, his voice, his excellent communication skills to change the world. By learning about him, we can all be inspired to do the same.