We are in the middle of finishing a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Activity for the 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 and MLK are connected. 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.
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. The groups discuss any gathered information and identify the ties between the man and the topic. The information is written on cards that are pinned 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 we can see between a wide variety of people and places. It clearly illustrates ways Martin Luther King impacted others.
Steps to Organize the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Activity
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.
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. Below is a list of a few we used.
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
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.
Back in the classrooms, teachers and students worked together 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, so everyone can see all the ways King’s ideas influence others, or in some cases, ways people influenced King.
If you are looking for more ideas to help honor Martin Luther King, visit my TeachersPayTeachers store HERE and download a winter paint chip poetry activity for free.
We recently created conversation starter cards at our house for a teen dinner party we had New Year’s Eve, but it’s also an ice breaker activity teachers could use in the classroom. Over the holidays, we hosted a small dinner for about eight friends. We printed a handful of funny questions and prompts to kick off conversation at the table. The questions were printed on cardstock paper and cut into roughly a business card size (~2″ x 4″). We put the stack of cards on a cupcake stand in the center of the table, and people reached for them during the dinner.
We got the idea after opening Christmas crackers at a family dinner. When we popped the Christmas crackers, they had small papers in them with trivia questions and conversation prompts. The questions worked well for a group of mixed ages and kept everyone at the table engaged. You can create all kinds of prompts depending on the age of your audience. Since our dinner was all teenagers, THIS CONVERSATION STARTER PAGE has questions that are a mix of pop culture and general opinion.
Using Conversation Starters at School
If you want to adapt this conversation starter idea for school, you can create a page LIKE THIS ONE with “Would you rather…” questions. We used this activity for a big/little mentor program we have at our school. Older grades are paired with students in younger grades. Our sixth graders met with their second grade “littles” and asked a series of questions and recorded all responses. Students polled a handful of students until they completed the question chart. After all the responses were tallied, the students incorporated math skills by creating a bar graph to determine the most popular answers.
Depending on the lunch program at your school, adding conversation cards to lunch tables encourages students to interact with peers. We assign lunch seats at our school and often students may not talk to a lunch buddy if it is someone they do not know well. By placing conversation prompts at the table, it encourages students to chat with someone different.
Conversation starters are a great ice breaker for the first week of school to begin building a community in your classroom. Or, use the ice breakers after a long break like the December holidays as a fun way to ease students back into the school routine.
Over the years I have assembled a variety of back to school teacher kits to give to my children’s new teachers on the first day of school. I usually make teacher emergency kits. This year I deviated slightly and filled pencil boxes with items for re-stocking a teacher’s desk rather than a little pouch a teacher might keep in his/her teacher bag.
The kits are always a little different, but the contents are based on items I need at school but don’t always have. For this version, I added items I like to have to keep class running smoothly. It’s things I use to grade papers or hang items on the walls or boards. I still included a few personal items like chapstick and Tylenol, but the focus of the kit is classroom supplies that a school might not supply to its teachers.
Back to School Kit Contents
You can use any kind of bag, pouch, or box for the contents. I have used plastic bead boxes from Michael’s crafts or make-up bags from a store like Bed Bath & Beyond. If I am really in a crafty mood, I sew small pouches. This year, I used a type of student pencil box with a tray insert for two layers that I purchased at Staples.
Below is what I included in the kits this time. I wanted to include packing tape and Astrobright paper too, but they wouldn’t fit in the pencil box! You could also consider adding things like a good Flair pen or Sharpie pen, travel sized lotion, Advil or Tylenol, mini Windex wipes for electronics (I have seen these at Target), a Tide to Go pen… I browse the travel-sized aisle at places like CVS and Target for inspiration.
Expo markers in assorted colors
Pilot G-2 ballpoint pens in assorted colors
Frixion erasable highlighters in assorted colors
Heavy duty clip magnets
Wite-out EZcorrect tape
Command hanging strips
Disinfectant wipes for cleaning surfaces
Assorted Post-it notes
Staples and Starbucks gift cards
To get more inspiration for Back to School Teacher Kits, take a look at some of mine from previous years by clicking the links below. You could also opt for a shared teacher appreciation gift like this SOFT DRINK BAR that I set up in the teacher workroom during teacher appreciation week. To enter this year’s giveaway to win a kit for you and a friend, visit my INSTAGRAM account. Like, follow, and tag a friend on my INSTAGRAM POST to enter! Giveaway ends 7/9/2021.
A great way to encourage good writing is to have students write like a book author. Some of my favorite novel study writing activities require students to analyze sections of the author’s writing and mirror the style from a favorite passage in their own work.
At the end of the year, my students reviewed Lois Lowry’s descriptions of pleasant memories in The Giver. They recalled a favorite memory of their own and brainstormed verbs, adjectives, and other descriptive words that went with the special recollection. Using Lois Lowry’s description of a sled ride as a starting place, they wrote their own version of a personal memory. By following Ms. Lowry’s sample, the students were able to successfully practice descriptive writing at a high level.
How to Write Like a Book Author
Describing a Person: Find an example of an in-depth description of a book character. Pull the descriptive passage(s) out of the book or story and remove key words. Replace the key words with a blank line and label the space with the type of word or part of speech that should go in the blank. Basically, build a literary Mad Lib. To see my Mother’s Day activity inspired by The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and download a free activity page, CLICK HERE.
Describing a Place: I have a descriptive writing activity about the setting in my full novel unit for The Cricket in Times Square available HERE. Students read Chester’s description of Times Square in New York City and list the details about how this famous landmark looks, feels, smells, sounds, and tastes (the 5 senses) based on the author’s words. Then, students recall a place they have visited personally and describe the new place using their own word choices.
Describing a Memory: Find an example of an in-depth description of a scene. In my example from The Giver, it was a vivid description of one of The Giver’s memories. Using a handout like THIS ONE, have students brainstorm a list of adjectives, verbs, and nouns that relate to a chosen personal memory. Once the list is created, students return to the original passage in the story. Using the passage as a frame, students replace verbs, adjectives, and key phrases with their own words to create a unique writing sample that mirrors the professional writer but is their own ideas.
Using published writing as a starting place helps students build confidence in their writing abilities. If you create a Mad Lib style template, you can reinforce grammar skills at the same time since students need specific types of words to re-build the paragraphs. By creating word banks and brainstorming prior to writing, students stretch their vocabulary and practice word choice skills. This activity can also be used to reinforce the concept of “mood” in literature. You can ask students to change the feeling of a passage from happy to scary or sad to exciting. My students always find success when using a published author’s writing style as inspiration for their own writing.
To purchase my complete Giver novel unit with additional reading and writing activities, CLICK HERE!
Over the years, I have used trading cards with students in a variety of ways. It is a project that can be implemented easily with literature and history (or really any academic area). In the past, my students researched a historical figure and designed a trading card about the person; that assignment incorporated research and summarizing skills. Another option is to design a card for a character in literature. My favorite trading card assignment with my students happened this year. My language arts class designed Greek mythology trading cards. We then had a trading card party, and students calculated card values after the trades ended. I made the activity technology based to build in computer formatting skills, but it could be a handwritten project too. Whichever way you choose to incorporate trading cards into your curriculum, it will activate many skills.
Before starting your trading card assignment, look at traditional trading cards. You can look up samples online or have students bring in any collections they have to share with the group. Note basic features of the cards. Sports trading cards are the easiest to use as samples because they have a main picture, team symbols, stats, and some background information about each athlete. That format is easy to replicate with your history or literature information.
Trading Cards for History
Not only can students research people, they can also create cards for famous locations or events in history.
Assign students a topic or let them choose. Provide some type of research handout like THIS ONE for students to take notes.
Students organize their facts into the trading card template and print. You could download, save, and use this semi-editable POWERPOINT TEMPLATE or design your own template. Printing on white cardstock is preferred because it is sturdier and looks more authentic.
Alternately, you can print a template like THIS ONE and students fill in information and illustrations by hand. **Set printer preferences to two-sided and print on short edge**
Trading Cards for Literature
Students consider traits of a main character related to a novel study from class. Using a character chart or a brainstorming page like THIS ONE, students organize notes about the character.
In place of character cards, students can design cards for the setting, theme, or important symbols from the story. Any aspect of the novel you are highlighting with students could have a card designed for it.
Like the history version, students either format their information in a trading card template on the computer or print and handwrite information into the cards.
Trading Card Party
To extend the trading card activity, plan a trading party.
After all cards are complete, print two sets of cards. One set the students keep. The other set is for trading.
Create a point value system for the cards. With my group’s Greek mythology cards, Titan cards were worth the most, and mortals were worth the least. I also had a few cards that were worth extra points because there was only one available in the whole class. Students traded cards with each other for about 20 minutes; I revealed the value of the cards, and then we calculated how much their collection was worth. Students also totaled the value of their original set of cards. It was a great way to integrate a little math into the activity.
After the trading cards are finished, they become great flashcards for students to use to review for assessments. To see more ideas for the novel, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson including the book character trading card, visit my TEACHER STORE.