In many classrooms, Black History month begins with an insightful look into the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. This influential American had a major impact on the country and civil rights. There are several ways you can incorporate Martin Luther King Jr. themes into your classroom.
1. The life of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Have students learn the history of Martin Luther King, Jr. Depending on the age of your students, you can focus on what he might have done as a young child or some of the important things that he did as an adult.
2. I have a dream: Take a look at the famous speech. You can have students listen to a recording of the words, read along with the script, or have a discussion about how the speech changed the lives of African Americans. Have students write their own "I have a dream" speeches detailing things they would like to see changed in their neighborhood or the country.
3. The Assassination: Older students can discuss the details surrounding the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and how that changed the civil rights movement. You can also take a look at other assassinations throughout history, and how they changed or affected the course of events.
4. Home sweet home: Introduce Martin Luther King, Jr.'s home in Georgia. If your class is not in Georgia, you can discuss differences in climate, vegetation, and political history. Or contrast King's real home with what his home might have looked like if he was born today.
5. What it would have been like: Have students write a paper from the point of view of one of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s supporters. Have them imagine that they were part of the freedom march, listening to the "I Have a Dream" speech, or nearby during the assassination attempt. Encourage them to use descriptive adjectives and imagery.
6. In the news: Many cities will have Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials and other celebrations for Black History Month. Have students bring in newspaper and magazine articles detailing current events. Then you can go to the library or online and look for newspaper articles from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s time.
7. Create a timeline: A timeline can be a great visual aid for students to picture what was occurred during the different years that Dr. King was alive. Divide students into groups and have them look up meaningful events to contribute their piece of the timeline.
8. The Nobel Peace Prize: Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Have students research the reasons why he was awarded this honor, other famous persons who have won the Nobel Peace Prize in the past, or discuss who they think should receive the next Nobel Peace Prize.
9. A look at equality: While racism is not as glaringly obvious today as it was in Dr. King's time, students may still feel prejudice against them for color, race, sex, physical attributes, and more. Have students take discuss the things that make them different from their classmates, as well as things that are the same, and discuss how they can treat each other more fairly in the future.
10. Throw a party: What better way to celebrate a holiday honoring Dr. King's birthday than a birthday party? Encourage students to bring in ethnically different foods to celebrate their differences, and discuss how Dr. King helped to make it possible for them all to attend class together.
With a little planning and research, you can introduce the inspiration of Dr. King to your students.