Teaching about Martin Luther King Jr. to kinder, first, and second graders

Free videos and downloads found in this post will be perfect for your MLK lessons!

I have blogged about MLK several time for many reasons. 
I teach at a very diverse school. 
My husband compliments my class every year when he says “Your class is like those gorgeous United Colors of Benetton ads” Make no mistake this is a compliment. My students are so pretty. Their parents hail from across the globe and they are stunning to look at and it a joy to listen to Nigerian, Indian, and every other accent too. 
Another thing that is stunning is the fact that without the sacrifice of Dr. King and other in the civil rights movement, my diverse students would not be allowed to be together.  I would not be allowed to be their teacher. My family on my Dad's side belongs yp the Cherokee Nation. Had Martin Luther King Jr not done his good work, I may not be a public school teacher.  My school of 33 languages, native homelands, and faces of every color that shine like the sun,  would not be possible without Dr. King.

 Gosh I love him and this is how I teach my students about this great man.
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Getting Started:

I love starting any unit with a book, and in this case I let LaVar Burton kick off our MLK study with his reading of A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr.
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Inside and Outside:

I feel like my kids I teach are tender-hearted and have not become jaded by bad experiences yet. They have been sheltered and are part of a happily, diverse population. They are a bit shocked to learn that long ago the color of your skin decided your value and who you could become. In some cases, no matter how hard you worked or how good you were, you could not do certain things because of your skin color. We show how silly that is with an egg object lesson.
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We get cracking with some eggs all smiling and colorful. We crack one of each color and we talk about what we see.
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I will tell you that I allowed every child to crack open a REAL egg. It was a wonderful experience. The families were asked to send in an egg for their child. As a result the parents very already invested and curious as to what we were doing in class. It was an exciting week!!!! PS. eggs were sent in Ziploc bags and I sat in the office collecting them so they did not break.

It is very important that as you teach about the "white" and "brown" eggs that you are careful with your wording.  Do not in anyway indicate that one is better than the other or say "see the brown egg is just as good." In saying that you might be accidentally indicating that they were unequal before. Just a word of caution. 

I put many white and brown eggs together and I address the eggs as a group. I say things like the following:

  • They look mostly the same.
  • They feel mostly the same.
  • I notice that some differ in size.
  • I cracked them all open (at least 5) and I "notice" that inside they were more similar than even the outside.   

My character is what matters most:

It really does matter what’s inside, and we are not all the same. We are uniquely gifted, have different degrees of good and “not so good” character inside us.  So, how do we know if someone is filled with good or bad character? Can we look at their outside? Can we decide by their skin color, their clothes, their smile? No you have to get to know the person.
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I have them sort out all the possible character traits.
I put 3-5 slips of paper in each egg and the table group will judge the egg. I usually put at least 1 negative trait in each egg.
It’s important for kids to know that all of us are a mix of good and bad. We have to work hard to show our good character traits and control our negative ones.
Kids are so tender, so you really have to drive this point home! Everyone has a bit of bad inside wanting to take over. Self control and good choices are ways we can show and grow our good character!
This is such an important lesson that I end it with a very concrete way to be a friend and show good character.
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Favorite MLK Book:

I love to read several books to the kids including my favorite Martin’s Big Words.

I adore this book! Martin's most important words are in a huge font, hence the name of the book.

So powerful!!!!

Easy Reading:

Then, I like them to do some reading on their own.

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Daily Buddy Reading / Fluency

We also read about Martin in our fluency passage for the week followed by a quiz. I need those informational reading grades in my grade book. How about you?
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Videos I love:

OK,  now do you know Kid President? Of course you do because you are amazing. If you are just meeting him today from this post, then I have done my good deed for the day!!!! I love him. He does such a good job making MLK so accessible!
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Speaking of love, how about a little MLK Rap and putting on your dancing shoes!
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MLK Craft:

But here is the best part!!! The craft. Oh how I love this easy & sweet craft!
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During the Week:

We head back to You Tube to wrap up our week of MLK and watch the very beginning and very end of his speech. I think it’s important for kids to see the march. The peaceful singing, walking, and talking.  I think this helps them understand that MLK really meant “peace”. There was no yelling, throwing of bottles, or hitting. They walked and sang and changed history.
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On Friday:

On Friday, after we have learned everything we can learn, and our brains are tired and we so proud to be together as friends at the table of brotherhood, we sit down and watch this nice long movie. If you want to watch the movie I strongly encourage you to preview it. There are video clips of real events and it is hard to see some of the clips.
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I  hope that this post has brought some new material to your classroom. It’s always nice to teach with something new. It’s like a new shirt or dress… it’s just fun, fresh, and exciting! All my best to you!

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