8 Awesome Martin Luther King Jr Activities and Videos for your Classroom

It is so important that we teach our students about the brave men and women who helped shape the history of our nation.  Men and women who overcame incredible obstacles to accomplish things that made our country a better place!  One such man is Martin Luther King Jr.  His huge leading role in fighting for equality for all is not only inspiring but he quite literally changed people’s lives.  Read on to see how I use 8 awesome activities and videos to teach my students about Martin Luther King Jr. in ways they will never forget!

Use these 8 awesome Martin Luther King Jr. activities in your classroom to help students understand the importance of love and peace.
Teaching our young students about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can be tricky.  The themes associated with his life can be hard to put into words and activities that our kids can not only understand, but grasp the seriousness of. Whether you are teaching this for the first time or looking for some new MLK Day activities, you’ve come to the right place.
If you find yourself asking questions like “How do I celebrate MLK Day at school?” or “What are some kid appropriate activities for MLK Day?” then you keep reading.  These 8 activities are just what you need for teaching your students about Dr. King and all he stood for.

MLK Day Activities for Kids

These 8 activities have been used again and again in my classroom with great success.  They take some deep concepts and teach them in a way that kids can understand.  
If you are looking for a great way to introduce Martin Luther King Jr. to your kids – why not let another kid do it.  Kid President has this great video about Dr. King and his life.  It’s a great way to set the stage for the learning to come.

Once you introduce Dr. King you are ready to dive into these fun and engaging MLK Day activities for kids.

1. Read Inspirational Books

I love a great picture book to introduce my kids to any topic I’m teaching.  Books are a great way to build interest and share background knowledge for students to connect to as I teach.  So of course, I have my three favorite picture books on Martin Luther King Jr. to help you get started.

National Geographic Readers: Martin Luther King Jr.

Use books like this National Geographic Readers Martin Luther King, Jr. book to introduce your students to the messages of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

National Geographic Readers: Martin Luther King Jr. by Kitson Jazynka is an in-depth, but not intimidating, biography of Dr. King.  

It shares difficult-to-understand historical information in such a way that kids can easily comprehend.  Brightly colored photographs and illustrations will draw in your students and bring to life the interesting facts on each page.  
I also love the book’s use of Text Features such as timetables, captions, sidebars, and fact boxes. They organize information and serve as an excellent real-world example to show your students why text features are important in non-fiction texts. 

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Use books like this Martin's Big Words Book to introduce your students to the messages of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport takes a different approach as it tells the story of things that happened in Dr. King Jr.’s life as a story rather than a grouping of facts.  Throughout the story, students get to hear firsthand the actual words of Martin Luther King Jr. as he spoke them!  Combine that with gorgeous illustrations, and your students will be spellbound by the emotional depth of this story!

The Story of Martin Luther King Jr.: A Biography Book for New Readers

Use books like this The Story of Martin Luther King Jr.Book to introduce your students to the messages of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Story of Martin Luther King Jr.: A Biography Book for New Readers by Christine Platt is another excellent biographical offering that includes a wealth of information in short, easy-to-read chapters. 
Black text on a white background with simple (yet effective) illustrations, makes the pages just right for readers who don’t like busy backgrounds. 
The use of bold text on vocabulary words helps students to zero in on important facts.  This book also does an excellent job of showing the effects of certain events in Dr. King’s life, while a visual timeline helps students to understand the sequence of events and cause-and-effect relationships.  
If building interest in Martin Luther King Jr.’s life is your goal, you truly can’t go wrong with any of these 3 books! 

2. Listen to Martin Luther King Jr. Speak

After reading a book or two to your class, let your students witness Martin Luther King Jr.’s life for themselves!  In this video Meet the Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., students get to see a collection of pictures that show Dr. King’s early life, historic moments in his later years, and what life in America was like for African Americans before and during the Civil Rights Movement.
Students even get to experience Martin Luther King Jr. with their very own ears as they hear snippets of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech spoken straight from his lips.  This audio combined with beautiful photography makes everything you have already discussed come to life for your students!
When the video is over, ask your students to share what stood out to them as they watched.  
  • Did they learn anything new from what they saw?
  • Did the pictures give them any new ideas or help them better understand Dr. King’s life?
  • Did they connect any information from the video to the books you read?  
As students become more excited about what they are learning about the life of Martin Luther King Jr., now is the time to let them continue their research on their own!

3. Martin Luther King Jr. Biography Research Project

Now armed with so much prior knowledge about Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, students will excitedly start coming up with their own questions about him!  Let your students create a project based on information they have learned from class and researched through books or the internet!
Using biography reports like this one help students learn about the life and messages of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in fun and engaging ways your students will love.
Students can create posters about Dr. King by writing interesting facts about his life, making a timeline of important events, and even drawing a picture of Martin Luther King Jr.! 
If the idea of a Research Project appeals to you but want a little more guidance on how to make one work for your students, check out my Biography Report Templates and Research Activities!
This resource gives you 3 different leveled templates for students of all abilities to complete, 3 different print-and-go timelines, an adorable craftivity, writing pages, and more!  Research reports have never been easier (or more fun!) than with this pack!  Your students will love writing about and illustrating the information they have learned about Dr. King and you will love that all the resources you needed to complete the activities were right at your fingertips!
And the best part is, that when you are finished creating biographies for Martin Luther King Jr., you can use these same resources again and again to research and create biographies for other important people!
Using biography reports like this one help students learn about the life and messages of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in fun and engaging ways your students will love.

4. Fair or Unfair Discussion

Kids can often learn new facts, but it may take a while before they start to “see” what they’ve learned.  Help your students connect what they learned about Martin Luther King Jr. to their daily lives by playing Fair or Unfair.
Give your students a series of real-life scenarios.  Students are to give a thumbs up if they think the situation is “Fair” and a thumbs down if they think it’s “Unfair”. 
Discuss the concepts of "fair" and "unfair" with your students as a whole class.
Some scenarios could include:
  • A student gets in trouble because they couldn’t afford school supplies.
  • The principal gives prizes to students for getting all A’s on their Report Card.
  • The basketball coach only plays the kids on the team if he’s friends with their parents.
  • A student yells at the teacher and has to go to the Principal’s Office.
  • The teacher gives snacks to students who don’t bring one to school but doesn’t give one to the students who bring one from home.
  • A student wins an Art contest and gets their picture in the newspaper.
  • Two students get caught cheating on a test.  One gets a zero because it’s her third time being caught cheating, while the other gets to retake the test because it’s her first offense.
Some of these situations might seem pretty straightforward, but some may require thinking from a different perspective!  It’s definitely important for students to be able to explain why things are fair or not, but also to see that some situations may seem fair until they look at it from the other person’s point of view!

5. On the Inside, We’re All the Same

Dr. King always shared the message that no matter what your skin color is, we are all the same!  
One way for students to realize this for themselves is to show students a physical example of this.  All you need for this simple yet effective visual aid is to grab two eggs- one brown and one white!
First, ask students to describe the two eggs. Students will probably notice they are the same shape. When they touch the eggs, both the brown and white eggs even feel the same.  But very obviously, their colors are different.  

Use this simple egg activity to help students visually understand how we as humans may be different on the outside, but the same on the inside.
Now crack the brown egg into a bowl, then crack the white egg into the same bowl right next to the brown egg.  
Ask your students what they see, and they will tell you that once the shell was cracked and thrown away, they can’t tell the difference between the two.
Ask students if it matters that they had different colored shells and see what they say.  Then ask them several questions:
  • What will happen if you drop a brown egg?  What will happen if you drop a white egg?  
  • How would cookies taste if I use brown eggs in the recipe?  Would the cookies taste the same if I use white eggs?  Why?
  • If I leave a brown egg out of the refrigerator for several days, what will happen?  If I do the same thing to a white egg, what will happen?
Once students have discussed these questions and answers, explain to your class that people are just like these eggs!  Their outside “shell” (skin color) has nothing to do with who they are as a person on the inside. 
People of different skin colors have the same fears and the same dreams, and we shouldn’t treat people differently because they don’t look like us.  Then allow time for students to add their thoughts and feelings about how this activity connects to what they have learned about Martin Luther King Jr.

6. Peace Circle Whole Group Activity

Once students realize that all skin colors are amazing and should be celebrated, use this idea to bring your students together to create a display for your classroom or hallway!  Give students construction paper (or some other type of craft paper) in colors that replicate various skin tones. If you do not have colored paper, students can use white paper. 
Help your students visualize how everyone can work together to make a better world for everyone with a fun handprint craft.

Ask students to trace their handprints several times on the paper and cut out each handprint.  If using white paper, ask students to color their handprints to replicate various skin tones or let them make handprints using paint.  Once you have a fairly large quantity of different colored handprints, give students a large piece of butcher paper or an area on the wall in which must work together as a team to create a peace sign out of their handprints. 
If using butcher paper or a paper-covered bulletin board, you may want to draw an outline of a peace sign so that students can tape or glue their hands inside the outline.
Add a quote from Dr. King to go along with your peace sign and have students write about what that quote means to them or what it means to “live in peace”.

7. Peace and Love Craft

Art is the perfect way for students to get creative after such an emotionally powerful activity!  This simple Peace and Love Craft only takes black, white, and red construction paper to make a visual to help students remember the lessons they are learning.

Use this peace and love craft to help students visually demonstrate how they share peace and kindness with everyone.
Have each student trace their handprint on a piece of black paper using a white crayon and again on a white paper using a black crayon. Place each paper touching end to end and glue a red paper heart directly in the middle of the two papers.  Write the phrase “peace and love” on the red heart.

8. Share Kindness to Everyone Around You

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an inspiration to others!  He used peaceful ways to get his message across and helped as many people as he could to have a better life.  What better way for students to show what they have learned than to put it into practice in their daily lives?
Tell your students a few days ahead of time that you will hold a Day of Service in order to do kind things for people!  Brainstorm a list of “act of kindness” ideas as a class and type up that list to send home with your students or message to their parents.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in peace and love between all people. Take time to talk to your students about ways they can spread kindness around the world.
Acts of Kindness do not need to be big or cost money, they just simply need to be ways to help those around you!  Ideas could include, but are not limited to:
  • smile and say “Hi!” to everyone you see today
  • holding doors for other people
  • writing a note of thanks to your bus driver or the cafeteria staff
  • picking up trash off the playground or in a park
  • baking cookies for your principal and school secretary
  • sweeping the classroom floor so the janitor doesn’t have to
  • telling 5 other students a kind compliment 
On your Day of Service, have precut construction paper hearts set out where students can access them.  Ask students to write each kind deed on a heart throughout the day and tape it to a specific area on the wall where everyone can see all the kindness being spread around the school!

Pin These MLK Day Activities for Kids!

I hope this post has inspired you to teach about Martin Luther King Jr. to your students!  If you found some awesome ideas that you would like to use, then Pin this post to your favorite classroom Pinterest Board so you will always have them when you need them!
Use these 8 awesome Martin Luther King, Jr. activities in your classroom this year to help your students understand the importance of spreading peace and kindness. Your students will love learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life as well as discovering ways they can spread kindness. #drmartinlutherkingjr #martinlutherking # martinlutherkingactivities


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