Register Now

Civil Rights Movement & MLK

Compiled By: Editor

Ideas for teaching about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement

civil rights books
Posted by: Audrey

I also use "The Story of Ruby Bridges" when teaching civil rights. There is a video of the same story, but I am not sure the name is the same. We read the book, then watched the movie. Last year I read the book and compared Ruby to Rosa Parks using a Venn Diagram for my evaluation. I cried at the end and had to have a student finish the story.... my prinicpal said she loved the way I was so into my reading!!!
The movie was really good at showing the people and the time period. The only fault was that they used the N word. We had a talk about that afterward. It really went into detail about the family and the psycologist that saw her during the time period.
Oprah had a show many moons ago that talked about this book. The book was used in Ireland to help students there understand that other children had suffered and had made it through. Some towns in Ireland had students going to school (either Catholic or Protestent) and the opposite group attacked them everyday going to school. I try to add that information to the lesson so that my students know that there are still places where people are treated horribly because of a difference they have.
Hope this helped.

Black History Month
Posted by: Michael

There is a lot of good information out there on black history month. If you look up on kidhooligans you can find good information. It is important for the students to first learn why we have black history month and why it falls in the month of February. It is important to know the background and that this month is more of a month for people to start a journey in understanding other cultures than it is just a month to celebrate. It is also important for them to understand how the civil rights movements actually played a key role into the rights of the disabled also. We all can benefit from the civil right movement and we do. More emphasis is placed on everyone's civil rights. This is much more than a movement of African Americans but this is a movement of the human race. These role models such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks and Ghandi are all examples of people who stood up for something or some cause and would not back down because they felt they they were right and had a right. If you tie the lessons into our everyday life and psyche I believe the lessons could be very eye opening. You could even open the lesson up to international heros. These kind of lessons have infinate values and really open the children's minds. As for the parents well they won't hear how wonderful the lessons are so they will not benefit like their children will.............(the children are still somewhat moldable)

Hope this helps


Michael A. Nanni

more on Dr. King
Posted by: meg

Here is another idea I found and am going to use with my first graders:
Use blue consruction paper for base - Print "I have a Dream" at the top. Have children cut out the clouds and glue on to blue paper. Talk with children about Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream. Ask what dreams they might have for our country and write them on the clouds.

Martin Luther King
Posted by: Patti

I use the Dr. Seuss story Sneetches. It shows how the star-bellied Sneetches thought they were better than the Sneetches with no stars. My kindergarteners understood how silly outside differences were! I also use another book (I'll have to check the exact title again) called
The Land Of Many Colors (I think that's it!)
which really puts differences and getting along on a kindergarten level.

Martin Luther King Activity
Posted by: Pam

We are going to make banners hand print banners with a dark colored hand print and a light colored hand print representing diversity then we will write the words I have a dream on them. There is also an activity where you paint 2 puzzle pieces dark and light and paste them together with a pin and call them friendship pins.

Martins Big Words
Posted by: Chicago Teacher

The last year I taught 1st/2nd grade in Chicago, I was responsible for coming up with something for my class to do for a Black History program. We had the book "Martin's Big Words" in our classroom library and our kids really enjoyed it. It's basically a very short version of the key events in the life of Martin Luther King Jr., but also includes some historical info like segregation of public facilities and the bus boycotts.

This will be hard to describe without having the book, but basically I was the narrator and each student had a cue and would come out to say one line that was attributed to MLK Jr. They also "acted out" the events that were being narrated. The book also includes a part of the "I have a dream" speech.

We added some meaning/symbolism in to the skit too. At the beginning of the book, MLK (as a child) is asking his mom about "White Only" signs. We made signs and had them all over the stage (1 per child), so after each child said their part, they took down a sign and held it at the back of the stage. As each child went, they took a sign and lined up along the back. Then at the end of the story it has a quote from MLK that has to do with dignity for all people, etc. And at that point, all the kids tore their signs in half and threw them, then held hands above their heads to show their unity.

It was not a "light" presentation, but was meaningful for the kids and families. Quite a few of the parents cried.

The only real cost would be for the book, but it is definitely a great addition to your classroom library too.

View Thread
Don't judge a book...
Posted by: deb

I start the day with 2 wrapped packages laid out at morning meeting. The first package is beautifully wrapped, but has garbage inside. The other has ripped, dirty paper, but contains a special treat (lollipops, stickers or pencils) for each child. I tell the children that they may keep what is inside the package they choose. Of course, most pick the beautiful package. We discuss reasons for their choices. It is really interesting to hear their responses and reactions to what is inside the packages. This leads to a discussion of appearances and how deceiving they can be. (Don't judge a book...) We talk about pre-judging people based on looks and that in order to get to know the person, you need to "open them up" by talking and spending time with them. (Oh, everyone gets a "good" treat at the end of the lesson!) We also do scratchboard art, based on the pictures of Jean Marzolla's book Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King! The class colors a patchwork of bright crayon colors, pressing hard and covering the entire paper. We cover over the colors with black acrylic paint. When the paint dries, the kids can scratch out a picture, uncovering the beautiful colors underneath, using a paper clip or toothpick. Finally, I put sticker dots on half the class's forehead when they arrive. I let the stickered children sit in the front at morning meeting, get drinks and snacks first, and line up first. The children without stickers understandably become very indignant and there are many cries of "that's not fair!" After lunch, I tell the class that I made a mistake and that the wrong children received the stickers. I repeat the favoritism with the other half of the class. At the end of the day, we discuss feelings that the children had during the morning and afternoon, and how/why these feelings changed. The Sneetches is a great book/video to read/watch after the discussion.

Black History
Posted by: Tonya Wash

If you haven't done any activities for Martin Luther King's birthday, you could teach a lesson about prejudice by passing out a snack to half of class (boys or girls. Next explain only that group gets treat because that's just the way it is. Call class to meeting area and read A Picture Book of Martin Luther King's Life. Ask children who did not get snack how they feel (they'll probably still be upset). Ask those who did get snack how they feel? Explain that this is an example of prejudice and unequal treatment that Dr. King and other Black Americans experienced during their life. You might want to send a worksheet home explaining lesson and a follow up activity.

What about this...
Posted by: Carrie

How about doing a simulation on Dr. King's life. Have students participate in a march and have students act out specific parts of his life. Depending on how many students you have in your class can determine how you seperate the life stages. I think that the students will greatly enjoy the activities. You could even have the students participate in a march. It doesn't have to even be on civil rights, it could be on something that represents something. Have some students oppose and some support the idea. They could have a debate. As long as they are engaged in the life and importance of Martin Luther King Jr. You could even pose the question how would you feel if....? There is also a lot of children's literature on him. I hope that this helps. It might be a little easier for older studnets but I think that 1st graders could gain alot as well.