Who Was Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.?
Objectives: The students will be able to:
1. Recognize Martin Luther King Jr. as a great leader who worked to get equal rights for all people.
2. Understand Martin Luther King Jr.'s hope that all people could live together without prejudice.
Description of lesson/activity:
1. Introduce the activity on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by showing a picture of him on a poster or in a book. Ask the children if they recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Ask the children what they already know about Martin Luther King Jr. List their responses on a chart. Ask them if they know why we celebrate King's birthday.
2. Read the book Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King , by Jean Marzollo. Follow the story with a discussion about the new information learned. Add all the new ideas from the children to the chart. Be sure to include all the major events that occurred from childhood until his death.
3. Explain that Martin Luther King Jr. was famous because he helped our country change some very unfair laws. Discuss the meaning of a law and that a law is like a rule. Discuss fair rules and unfair rules. Use examples of rules in the classroom. Ask the children if the rules are the same for everyone in the class. Are they fair to everyone? Then give some examples of rules that would be unfair to some people in class. (All children wearing red can play anywhere they want, but children wearing blue would only be allowed to play with the certain toys, and other examples.)
Refer back to the story and ask the children about some of the unfair rules/laws that existed for African-American people. Go back to the book and reread the sections about unfair laws:
• Only white people could sit at the front of the bus.
• African American's could use only certain restaurants and drinking fountains.
• African-American children and white children could not go to the same school.
Discuss the fact that white children and African-American children could not even play together.
How do you think African-American people felt about these unfair rules? How would you have felt if you were not allowed to play with a friend because of the way he/she looks (color of their skin, how thin or fat, country they came from, etc.)?
4. Relate the situation in the South for African Americans to slavery and the times of Abraham Lincoln.
1. Discuss with the children the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. believed that people should not fight with each other and that there were peaceful ways of solving problems. He believed that the unfair laws needed to be changed but not by fighting. He tried to help others change these laws in peaceful ways. Ask the children what is meant by solving problems peacefully. Try to lead children to examples of appropriate problem solving in the classroom. For example, using words when you are upset and angry rather than hitting someone.
2. Introduce the idea that Martin Luther King Jr. liked to help people and was a good leader. He taught people how to change laws peacefully. Discuss how the bus boycott helped to change the unfair bus law. Explain that if no one rode the bus then, the bus company could not make money. Ask the children what they would do if they were the owners of a bus company.
3. Make a large outline drawing of a bus on a large sheet of sturdy paper. Draw big windows on the bus. Have the children look through magazines and cut out pictures of people of all kinds sitting together. Put the title "We All Sit Together" on the poster.
4. To help develop the understanding of prejudice for the children and relate it to a current setting, read the book Arnie and the New Kid , by Nancy Carlson. In this story the main character, Arnie, begins to understand how unfair he and his friends have been to a new classmate, who has a wheelchair. Arnie is hurt in an accident and needs to use crutches. This fosters a better understanding of his new classmate's difficulties and limitations. Follow the story with a discussion of the story and experiences children have had when they have met someone who was different (handicapped, speaking a different language, different physical features, etc.).
1. Discuss with the children that Martin Luther King Jr. was a fine speaker. If possible, play a part of his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. If a recording of the speech is unavailable, read the following part of the speech: "I have a dream today," he said, "I have a dream that one day . . . little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers."
2. Discuss with the children what Martin Luther King Jr. meant by his "dream." Help children understand the difference between a dream while sleeping and King's dream which was more of a wish or a hope. Explain that Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream or wish was to have people live together. Ask the children to draw pictures of some wish or dream for making our world a better place. Have each child verbally finish the sentence "I have a dream that . . ." Write each child's finished sentence on the picture. Compile the pictures into a class book entitled "I Have A Dream . . ." Share this book during a story time.
3. Read I Am Freedom's Child , by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault. The poetic text and illustrations in this book talk about the need for accepting ourselves and all others in order to have freedom. Discuss the meaning of this book, stressing the need for everyone to accept all different kinds of people. What do you think the author's mean by "freedom's child"? Have the children read the repetitive, rhyming text along with you during shared reading times.
Enrichment and Extensions:
1. Read a wide variety of multicultural children's literature throughout the year.
2. Sing the famous spiritual, "We Shall Overcome," which was sung a great deal during the Civil Rights movement. Discuss the hopeful message of the song.
3. Read the book We Are All Alike . . . We Are All Different , by the Cheltenham Elementary School Kindergartners. Discuss ways in which the children are alike and different. Make a chart called "We Are All Alike and We Are All Different" to record the children's responses. Have the children draw pictures to illustrate ways in which they are alike and different.
Carlson, Nancy. Arnie and the New Kid . (New York: Scholastic Inc., 1990) (ISBN 0670824992).
Cheltenham Elementary School Kindergartners. We Are All Alike . . . We Are All Different . Photographs by Laura Dwight. (New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1991) (ISBN 0590491733).
Lowery, Linda. Martin Luther King Day . (New York: Scholastic Inc., 1987) (ISBN 0590423797) p. 42.
Martin Jr., Bill and John Archambault. I Am Freedom's Child . (New York: The Trumpet Club, 1970) (ISBN 0440849608).
Marzollo, Jean. Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King . (New York: Scholastic Inc, 1993) (ISBN 0590440667).
Mattern, Joanne. Young Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have A Dream" . (Mahwah, NJ: Troll Associates, 1992) (ISBN 0816725446).
Walmsley, Bonnie Brown, Anne Marie Camp, and Sean A. Walmsley. Teaching Kindergarten: A Theme-Centered Curriculum . (New Hampshire: Heinemann Educational Books, Inc., 1992) (ISBN 0435087193).