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Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Are you ready for Martin Luther King Jr. Day? If not that's okay! I have some great ideas and resources! You'll be able to make celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. important and memorable for your second grade students.

Build on Students' Schema about Dr. King

Whether you plan to learn about him for a day or a week, a simple way to start is by asking students what they already know. Build on their schema and laying some foundational understanding of who this amazing man was is by using videos and picture books. This video, by FreeSchool, is one of my favorites. The video explains Martin Luther King Jr.'s life simply for the students and uses real images of him. Using real images of MLK Jr. is important because it helps students see that he was a real person in history and more easily visualize who he was.

Here are some questions you can use with the video:

  • What does segregation mean?
  • What are some examples of who white people and black people were kept apart?
  • Why did people refuse to ride the buses?
  • What is Martin Luther King Jr. best known for?

This video does talk about how Martin Luther King Jr. died. While I don't think we should sugar coat that for our students, you may want to preface this with your students before starting the video. Or stopping the video right after it's explained and having a discussion just around that.

Martin Luther King Jr. Read Alouds

There are many great books that can be used about Martin Luther King Jr. These are three of my favorite books to read about Dr. King. By using read alouds, you are able to tell his story through different viewpoints and zoom in on specific events of his life.

I am Martin Luther King Jr. is written in the first person and styled like a comic book! Students will love the funny illustrations. It tells about Dr. King from his point of view and explains what he learned from the teachings of Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi. It was a lesson of nonviolent resistance, a lesson of love and peace. The book can be difficult to read at times because it does not shy away from the truth about racism and injustice. It's a great way to learn about Dr. King! Click here to shop for the book on Amazon.

Let the Children March tells the story of how thousands of African American children in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963ย  volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. Beautifully illustrated, the book encourages children to be the change they want to see in the world. Very appropriate for the world we are currently living in. Click here to shop for the book on Amazon.

My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is written by his son Martin Luther King III! It shares some special insights into being his son and the special bond they had. It has many historical facts given in a way that is interesting to young readers! Click here to shop for the book on Amazon.

Dialogue and Discussions

Watching a video or reading books is a good start but the real power will come when you make time to engage in dialogue, discussions, and a willingness to answer the tough questions. Don't shy away from talking to your class about equality, segregation, and even the more recent events in our history. When introducing them to a new concept or idea try to use visuals and examples. Good questions can also be helpful. For example:

  • How does the image help me understand the words?
  • What other image comes to mind?
  • Can I connect this to a book, movie, or other images I've seen?
  • How can I sympathize? empathize?

Martin Luther King Jr. Activities

After building some foundational knowledge around Dr. King, I bring in a mini-book written with many of the details we've been discussing.

Also, I want to give the students time to reflect and think about what this means for them, and what they hope for in their future. “I Can Dream Like Dr. King,” asks students to imagine their future and dream. Second grade students are not too young to start making plans and thinking big for the future. I talk about this often with growth mindset. Our students can have a vision for their life and hope – something worth striving for!

If you are distance learning or prefer to work digitally, you can use the Martin Luther King Jr. mini-book and comprehension pages using GoogleSlidesโ„ข. In this way, students may work on it during asynchronous learning.

Students Can Make a Martin Luther King Jr. Video

I am a big fan of Kid President! Here's one more video to use with your students! Plus, this video can be used as inspiration. Your students can create their own videos about Dr. King using FlipGrid! Each of your students can record a short video on what they are learning about Dr. King – then the whole class can watch each other's videos.

I hope that you and your students have a wonderful week studying about Martin Luther King Jr!

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