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Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr and political officials

After a couple weeks, and a much needed Winter Break, we headed back to school last Tuesday.  We only had a 4 day week that first week back and with it being a shorter week, switching things up in my reading block a bit, and wanting time to review procedures, I decided not to do our regular reading routines and curriculum.  Instead, I reintroduced Martin Luther King Jr. to the kids.  As luck would have it, we were in school on MLK Day and so we made sure we spent some time talking about Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy.  While I try to consciously interweave our country’s history throughout the year, I also think it’s important to use these holidays to be intentional about our instruction.

To begin, I did my annual reading of Martin’s Big Words.  I find this is a great book to introduce some of Dr. King’s most pivotal moments.

After we finished reading, we discussed how Dr. King used his words to create positive change in our country, and how he often spread messages of love.  I then challenged my students to think of what they can do to create a positive change in our classroom, and community. I try to intentionally bring the message of people creating positive change into my book picks and lessons because I want to instill that ordinary people can make a difference.  By standing up. By being kind. By looking for ways they can help others.  Malala’s Magic Pencil is another fantastic picture book that’s perfect for this week. I tied everything into bullying because it’s something the kids can relate to and have seen in their daily lives.  We turned it into a Pop Art bulletin board in our room with students declaring how they could make a positive change in our classroom and school community.

We used pictures we already had from a different project, so it was pretty quick and simple to do.  I love how the different colors help this stand out, and the kids love the look of pop art projects.
MLK declaration

To see all of the details on how we set up, the bulletin board display and how you can recreate it in your classroom click here to head over to the Ellison Education blog.


 I found these anti-bullying pledge cards at Dollar Tree over winter break and grabbed a set.  They were the perfect tie in for bullying and helped bring relevance to our studies.  Plus, the kids really benefitted from a reminder about being kind to each other.  They were starting to nag and nit pick each other.  I also love that they were only $1!  Holla!

We then started reading about Dr. King with a much more complex text than Martin’s Big Words.  This three page biography goes through Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood, to his work with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and to his meetings with President Kennedy.  We’ve been practicing close reading with the text as well.

Not only are students interacting with a complex text, but the comprehension questions really require the students to go back to the text to find evidence to support their answers.  The questions are inferential, so it really helps stretch the students’ thinking and work with deep, inferential questions with textual evidence support.  With testing season just a few weeks away, we really need to practice test taking skills in relevant and meaningful ways to help prepare the students, so I love my students are getting that practice without it feeling like we’re doing “test prep”.

You can download this Martin Luther King Jr. freebie from my TpT store by clicking below.

MLK Jr. comprehension product cover

If you like this Martin Luther King biography, it’s part of my larger African-American Heroes set.  It includes 8 other African-Americans who were and are heroes in their own right.  Each biography includes real photographs, and constructed and extended response questions for each text.  It looks at lesser known heroes like Dorie Miller, who stepped up during one of our nation’s largest crises, Pearl Harbor.  It also contains biographies for more well known heroes like Rosa Parks..

You can get this unit by clicking here or the images above or below to head to my TpT store.

African American Heroes comprehension

I’d love to hear other ideas for how you incorporate Dr. King’s memory into your classrooms.  We’re going to continue to talk about him the next couple weeks and then continue going through and studying people like Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, The Little Rock Nine, and Madam C.J. Walker (which is really relevant for my kids since we’re in Indiana).

How do you teach Dr. King in your classroom?



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