We are in the middle of finishing a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Activity that involved our whole school. My elementary school is creating a collaborative display in honor of MLK Jr. that involves kindergarten through eighth grade. At the beginning of the week, my sixth grade class made a presentation about Martin Luther King Day during our school assembly. We included some general information about Mr. King. Then we asked the students if they knew the way Ronald Reagan connected to MLK. We shared the fact that Ronald Reagan was the president who signed the bill creating the federal holiday we have today. That connection between the 40th president and Martin Luther King Jr. kicked off our schoolwide activity.
Inspire your students to form a connection to Martin Luther King Jr.
If you need a MLK Jr activity that works for elementary and middle grade students, give each class a topic that relates in some way to King. The goal is to have each class create a path from their topic back to MLK. Students need to read various articles or books to find the connection. Additionally, the groups discuss gathered information and identify the ties between the man and the topic. Write the information on cards and pin on a display board. Position the display in a common area at the school. Our display board is almost finished, and my school is so excited about all the connections because we can see between a wide variety of people and places. It clearly illustrates ways Martin Luther King impacted others.
Organize the MLK materials
- To begin, create a list of topics. The list should include very basic topics like Atlanta, Georgia (MLK’s birthplace) to more difficult topic like Elvis Presley (he recorded a song in memory of MLK). For a sample list, CLICK HERE.
- Then, gather articles and books that will help with information for each topic. I wrote THIS GENERAL BIOGRAPHY that provides ideas for several of the simpler topics. For the more advanced topics, complete Google searches with the keywords, “MLK” and the topic name. When you find an article, print a copy. My school library also had a good section of picture books and biographies for younger readers (see below).
- At the same time, assemble materials in a manila envelope. In each envelope, place 5-6 notecards, a long piece of yarn, a small handful of thumbtacks, the topic list, and a printed article and/or picture book. Each classroom teacher received an envelope with an article/book that fit the topic they were assigned.
- Kick off the activity at an assembly if you can. Give general information about MLK Day and share some sample topic connections. We shared the path between Ronald Reagan and King first. Then we showed a second connection between Michael King Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr.
Create a MLK-inspired Display for the school hallway
- During the last step, teachers and students worked together in the classrooms to learn about their assigned topic. Once they recognized the connection, the class created one set of notecards that showed the tie between the topic and Mr. King. The notecards are pinned to the group bulletin board. As a result, everyone can see all the ways King’s ideas influence others, or in some cases, ways people influenced King.
Alternately, you could divide your class into small groups and assign each group a topic. This activity can be completed as a class rather than as a school. Either way, you will want to display the different links to MLK!
MLK Jr. Picture Book Ideas
- Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
- A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstein
- A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David A. Adler
- National Geographic Readers Martin Luther King, Jr. by Kitson Jazynka
- I Have a Dream paintings by Kadir Nelson
Finally, if you are looking for more ideas to help honor Martin Luther King Jr., visit my TeachersPayTeachers store HERE and download a winter paint chip poetry activity for free. Or, if you are thinking about Valentine’s Day already, you might like some poetry projects like this TUNNEL POEM or SHAPE POEM activity.