Overview: Free Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights lesson plan. Pupils investigate the life and legacy of Dr. King, creating artwork and writing that shows their perception of his impact.
Subject: US History, Cultural & Social Studies, English Language Arts: Reading Informational Text, Expository Writing
Grades: 3rd, 4th, 5th
Duration: 2 hours
Related Concepts: Civil Rights, The Civil Rights Movement, Non-Violent Protest
Students will be able to:
Identify the accomplishments of Dr. King by writing a short essay about his works.
Place Dr. King's historical impact in context with a reflection on how he affected the future of American civil rights.
Essential Questions: How do Dr. King's actions and the Civil Rights Movement continue to impact our lives today?
Vocabulary: civil rights, protest, peaceful protest, assassination
Common Core Standards Addressed:
- ELA—Reading Informational Text:
- RI.3.1, 2, 7, 10
- RI.4.1, 2, 7, 10
- RI.5.1, 2, 7, 10
- Art supplies
- Projection system
- Internet access
Have learners come in and respond to the following writing prompt: "How would it feel to be required to use separate water fountains, restaurants, and hotels because you were a different race?" After they finish writing, facilitate a discussion about their responses.
- Direct Instruction:
Read Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. Show MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech (available via YouTube), and the mini-biography of MLK.
- Guided Practice:
Ask your students to write down a thought about MLK, his work, and his impact on a sticky note; post the sticky notes on an anchor chart or on the whiteboard as a reflection.
- Independent Practice/Stations:
Students should rotate through several stations to further investigate MLK's work and impact (Read, Write, Draw):
Read - Students read Dr. King's biography, highlighting important events in his life or continuing impacts we see today.
Write - Pupils write 1-2 paragraphs about Dr. King, sharing important events from his life and how his work has impacted the future.
Draw - Groups create an illustration showing Dr. King at work, an impact of his work, or a scene from the Civil Rights Movement.
Students staple their paragraphs to their illustration and turn them in for display in the classroom or hallway.
Assess students on their final writing sample and illustration about Dr. King. They should include 1-2 important events from Dr. King's life plus 1-2 ways that Dr. King's work has impacted the present day, with the biography worksheet as a reference. The illustration should be connected to their writing sample.
- Read assignments aloud to English learners or students with documented reading, language processing or other related disabilities.
- Shorten writing assignments or provide scaffolded writing prompts for students with writing-related disabilities.
- Set up learning stations around the classroom for students to check out as they finish their work:
Videos - Martin Luther King Day, Black History Month
Short Reading - I Have a Dream, Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
Longer Reading - Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr. by Bonnie Bader; Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport; I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; National Geographic Readers: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Kitson Jazynka
Worksheets - MLK: Complete the Speech Activity, Geography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Word Scramble
- Have students investigate another Civil Rights leader or conduct additional research on Dr. King. Create a curated mini library of Civil Rights-related books.
Additional materials to guide your teaching:
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mini Biography
- Civil Rights Biography: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Martin Luther King Day
- Famous Speeches: Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream"
- Martin Luther King Jr.'s Last March: The Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
- MLK: Complete the Speech Activity
- Geography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Civil Rights Word Scramble
- African-American History Resources
- Black History Month Resources
- Civil Rights Movement Resources
- Black History Month Resources, Grades 3-5
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Resources, Grades 3-5