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!
Sweet teacher, I hope you find encouragement, strength, ideas and resources on this website that bring about growth in your kids!

If you are here for the first time, please allow me to welcome you.  If you are a long-time friend, welcome back.      

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Our kids are so worth it:

Thank you for taking the time to teach about MLK. So many teachers have to "sneak" social studies into their day, and if that is you, well done for spending instructional time on this mighty man. 

Just a quick personal note
I have many reasons I spend a week on MLK and then follow it with more time spent on Rosa Park and Jackie Robinson. I'd like to start with a very personal reason that exemplifies how MLK changed the course of my family's history. My great-grandfather was born a member of the Cherokee Nation. He was what some in the South might called "passe blanc", meaning he had light enough skin that he was NOT instantly recognizable for what he was. My great-grandfather hid his true-self because it was 1920.  The people of the Cherokee Nation were considered sub-human. They were caged on reservations and their children were not allowed to attend white schools. The Civil Right Movement changed all of this for all people, and I am so thankful. It is NEVER lost on me that my own life was and is directly changed by Martin Luther King Jr's work and sacrifice. I wish my great- father lived long enough to see the kids in my classroom. He would be so proud

Monday-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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Tuesday Inside and Outside:

I feel like my kids I teach are tender-hearted and have not become jaded by bad experiences yet. Cultural diversity, cultural acceptance, and shared cultural experiences are part of their daily lives. My students seem to have been sheltered, and they are part of a happily, diverse population. My students are shocked to learn that long ago the color of your skin decided so much.  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. 

The object of the following lesson is that we are created equal. 

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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 plan to re-photograph the image above.  Once I can, I will write...

An egg has many parts. Inside the shell they are the same.  The shell can be many shades- each one is beautiful and equal. 


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 during morning arrival.

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 notice some differ in shade and color. 
  • I cracked them all open (at least 5) and I "notice" that inside they are all very similar. 

It is very important that as you teach using "white" and "brown" eggs that you are careful with your wording.  

  1. Do not in anyway indicate that one is better than the other.
  2.  Avoid saying "see the brown egg is just as good as the white egg." In saying that, you might be accidentally indicating that they were unequal before. 
  3. "My skin color does not determine my future. We were created equal. We are equal."  This is a powerful statement.
  4. Another good thing to write might be, "An egg has many parts. Inside the shell they are the same.  The shell can be many shades. Each one is beautiful and equal." 


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!!!!

Wednesday-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 for Thursday-Friday

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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Friday- 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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Friday Afternoon:

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.  That's fun, fresh, and exciting! 

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