Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, January 21, 2013 -- Kristin Flynn

Today we honor and remember an American civil rights hero who led millions of people in the fight for racial equality, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Here are some great activities to help remember this inspirational leader and celebrate Martin Luther King Day in the classroom.

“I Have a Dream” Activities

Martin Luther King Jr. called for an end to racism in the United States when he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963.  The speech, which was heard by over 200,000 civil rights supporters on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, was a defining moment of the American civil rights movement.  In this speech, King shared his dream of a world where all people lived in peace and harmony, regardless of the color of their skin.  Yesterday marked the second inauguration of our first African American President, Barack Obama, indicating King’s dream continues to come to fruition.  Are we as a nation living up to Dr. King’s vision of a better United States or is there more we could be doing? Whether you have a classroom of elementary school students or teenagers, here are a few activities to consider adding to your students’ MLK Day.

  • Have your students write about a dream or vision they have for making the world a better place.
  • Encourage each of your students to brainstorm a list of 10-15 things they could do to make their school and community a better place.
  • Assign your students to write a thank you note to Dr. King sharing how his efforts have made an impact of their lives.
  • Tell your students to imagine they have the opportunity to interview Dr. King and have each student craft a series of questions they would want to ask him.

More Than a Celebration

Coretta Scott King wrote in The Washington Post in 1983, a vision of how the holiday honoring her husband should be observed.  “The holiday must be substantive as well as symbolic.  It must be more than a celebration.  Let this day be a day of reflection, a day of teaching non-violent philosophy and strategy, a day of getting involved in non-violent action for social and economic progress.”

  • As bullying continues to be a huge problem in schools across the country, use today to reinforce Dr. King’s vision of a more unified America.  The Mix it UP program provides anti-bullying lessons and activities  supporting the tolerance message of Dr. King.  Consider using one of these activities into your lessons plans today and how you can implement them into other lessons throughout the school year.
  • In the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre, President Barack Obama has signed over 20 executive orders to clamp down on gun violence in the United States. Reflect on the progress our country has made over the last few decades since Dr. King’s death. Have your students work together to create a timeline highlighting significant events that have brought our nation closer to Dr. King’s vision.

Regardless of how you celebrate MLK Day, take today to teach your students about Dr. King’s significant contributions to American history.  May we never forget the sacrifices he made to make our world a better place today.