Sunday, January 13, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since Martin Luther King Jr. Day is coming up next week, I wanted to share some of the activities I did last year.  I plan to do generally the same activities this year with my kindergarten students, but I wanted to share sooner than later in case you wanted to use any of these ideas in your room.

My very favorite activity I do each year is make this wreath:
We spend a few days talking about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement.  We talk about how people were treated differently depending on their skin color.  Then, we talk about how no one's skin is really white or black.  I have white students come up and hold their arm next to a piece of white paper.   We all agree it's not the same.  Black students compare their skin to a black piece of paper, and again we all agree it's different.  Then, we think of other ways to describe our skin - peach, tan, brown, caramel, etc.  

Then, we all find our unique skin color by mixing paint.  We use peach, black, white, and brown acrylic paint, plus some different acrylic skin tones I pick up at Michaels.  The students have to mix until they find a color that matches their skin color and then paint it on an outline of their hand.  When everyone's hands dries, we glue them together into a wreath, to show that we're all united even though no one's exactly the same.  Then, we talk about judging people based on how they act rather than how they look, what language they speak, or where they come from.  The wreath is a good reminder that hangs in the room for the rest of the year.

Some of my favorite books to read for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day are Martin's Big Words and Freedom Summer.

Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport

Martin's Big Words has beautiful illustrations and tells about Dr. King's message in a simple way, using some of his famous words.

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

 Freedom Summer is a book I stumbled across last year and it made a big impact on my class.  In this book, a black boy and a white boy are friends, but are sad because they can never swim together in the Whites Only pool.  A new law is made and the town is forced to open the pool to everyone.  But on the day it's supposed to open, when the boys go to swim, the pool is being filled in with asphalt.  My students were so sad with this ending and really felt the injustice of what had happened.  It seemed to make that time really come alive for them.  Look it up - it is so much better than I can explain it.

We talked about how to be leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr, and how we could fight for what we believed in.  For a writing activity, we wrote what Dr. King's dream was and then wrote our own dreams for the world.    I loved reading my first graders' sweet dreams.

MLK dreamed about white and black kids and grown ups
can get along.  No fighting. Peace and love. My dream for the
world is no littering.
MLK dreamed about people working together.
He dreamed of black and white people getting along.
People going to the store together.  My dream for the world is
people believe in other people. People being friends.
Martin Luther King believed in people but they don't.
MLK dreamed about everyone sharing.  He wanted peace.
He believed in love.  He believed in God and he loves everyone.
My dream for the world is to stop the wars. 
MLK dreamed about: Don't let white people take your seat.
My dream for the world is: No littering.
 We also learn a song and sign language which we share on our school news show.  It's "Martin Luther King" by Brian Kinder.  You can find it on iTunes.  I really wish I could show my students' performing the song, because they're much cuter than I am :)  But...if you want to teach your kids the sign language for the song, you can learn it in this video. (Can you tell how uncomfortable I am on camera, ha!)

I hope this helps some of you plan for Martin Luther King, Jr. day!  What special things do you do to teach about this day?


  1. Thanks for sharing such great ideas for MLK. I love the hand wreath! I'm so glad you stopped by my blog and visited. I'm a new follower of yours!



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