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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Classroom Activities

Janelle Cox

Each year, on the third Monday of January, classrooms across the country pause to remember the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This great leader of the civil rights movement made many contributions toward achieving peace and racial harmony in America.

Help students celebrate and honor the achievements of this amazing American by partaking in a few of the following classroom activities.

Classroom Activities: Daily Journal

Dr. King had many beliefs, and a great way to commemorate these beliefs is to have students share their own beliefs in a daily writing journal. Each morning for seat work, write a journal topic on the front board and then discuss it with your students. Do this for the whole month of January. Here is a few ideas to get you started.

  • How can you settle your differences with a friend without getting physical?
  • What is one thing that you could do that would make Dr. King happy?
  • Make a list of ten things that you can do to make the world a better place.
  • Pretend that you had an opportunity to interview Dr. King. Write three questions that you would like to ask him.
  • Imagine that you have no civil rights. What would your life be like?

Classroom Activities: Contributing Peace

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. always encouraged peace, and for that was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1964. To help incorporate the spirit of Dr. King, have students think of how they can contribute peace to the world. Give each student a large blank, white piece of paper, and have them cut out a big circle in the middle, at least 12 inches wide. Next, have students draw a peace sign on the circle. Once they have that, they must write their name in the bottom right-hand section, and draw a picture of themselves on the bottom left-hand section. The top two sections will be where they will write how they can contribute peace to the world. Some students may write things like, “I will help others” or “I will be kind to everyone I meet.” They can write anything that they want in the top two sections of the peace sign. Display these peaceful projects in the hallway for a reminder to all of Dr. King’s dream.

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Do a Good Deed

It was important to Dr. King that everyone was treated equally. He was especially hurt when he wasn’t allowed to play with his two friends who were white all because of his skin color. Discuss with students how back in the day people of different color were treated unfairly and experienced discrimination. Ask students how they think they would feel if they weren’t allowed to play with their friends because they had a different eye color than them. Then discuss with students the importance of being kind to all people regardless of their differences. Challenge them to be aware of the way they treat others and tell them that for every time you catch them doing a good deed they will receive a bead. For each good deed, award the student a white bead, and alternate that bead with a black one. The student would then thread the beads alternating in color until they have received enough to make a bracelet. Encourage students to wear their finished bracelets as a reminder of Dr. King’s vision of peace and equality.

Dr. King Literature

Dr. King is a true American hero because he forever changed how we think. Teach your students more about his life and legacy through a few of these wonderful books.

  • “Martin Luther King Day” by Linda Lowery.
  • “Happy Birthday Martin Luther King” by Jean Marzollo.
  • “Young Martin’s Promise” by Walter Dean Myers.
  • “A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr.” by David A. Adler.
  • “Martin Luther King Jr.: A Biography for Young Children” by Carol Hilgartner Schlank and Barbara Metzger.

How do you celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in your classroom? Do you have any fun activities that you like to do? Please share your ideas with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear them.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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