Classroom Resources

Monthly Themes

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Writing Prompt


Dr. King was one of the world's great activists for social change. Ask students: If you could change one thing about the world today, what would it be? Then have them write a paragraph explaining the change they would make.


Grades K–5: Language Arts
I Have a Dream

Have students listen to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic address to civil rights marchers that took place on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Then talk with students about Dr. King's dream for the future. Ask them to think about their own dreams for the future. Then have each student draw an outline of a cloud and, inside the cloud, write a sentence or two that tells about one of the student's hopes and dreams.

Grades K–6: Language Arts
Word Finds

Have students find words related to the life and times of Martin Luther King Jr.

Grades K–8: Language Arts
Is It Fair?

When Martin Luther King Jr. was a boy, African American children and white children were not allowed to go to the same schools, eat in the same restaurants, or drink from the same water fountains in some places in the United States. Have students imagine that their school makes a new rule that separates all children into two groups. How would they feel if the two groups were not allowed to play together at recess, sit together in the lunchroom, or sit together on the bus? Lead a discussion about why or why not this kind of rule would be fair.

Grades K–3: Social Studies
Dr. King Poster

Have students make a poster of photographs to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s life.

Grades K–3: Social Studies
Picture Timeline

A great way for young students to understand the concept of a timeline is to have them create a picture timeline. In this activity they can create one that shows the important dates in the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Grades 1–3: Reading
Read a Biography

Read to students, or have students read, the biography Martin Luther King Jr. by David Adler. Then have groups of students act out scenes from the book that show important events in Dr. King's life.

Grades 1–8: Social Studies

Test students' knowledge about Martin Luther King Jr.

Grades 3–5: Social Studies
Famous Americans

Students can learn about other African American leaders, such as Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, and Frederick Douglass, and then make a gallery of these leaders, including Dr. King. Have each student draw or find a picture of a person and then write the person's name under the picture, as well as a few sentences about the person's accomplishments.

Grades 4–5: Social Studies
Important Times for Civil Rights

Students will research nine civil rights events, and each of them will complete a table with dates and details. Then each student will cut and paste the table into chronological order.

Grades 4–8: Social Studies
Interactive Tour

Have students explore the years of Dr. King's life through audio, video, historical documents, and photos.

Grades 5–8: Social Studies
Scavenger Hunt

Have students go on a scavenger hunt to learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Grades 6–8: Social Studies/Language Arts
Civil Rights Leaders

Students can create a biographical dictionary, with each entry containing a picture and one or two paragraphs, about other African American leaders who participated in the civil rights movement with Dr. King.

Grades 6–8: Language Arts

Discuss with students key events leading up to the establishment of Dr. King's holiday. Then have students participate in a debate, such as one that would have occurred in Congress, to discuss whether or not there should be a national holiday in honor of Dr. King.

Grades 6–8: Social Studies, Language Arts
I Had a Dream

What has become of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream? Have students read the “I Have a Dream” speech, analyze King's goals, and then write speeches of their own, discussing what became of the dream he articulated.

Grades 6–8: Social Studies, Language Arts
In the News

Bring students back in time to create a classroom newspaper with stories about the key events in the American civil rights movement.

Grades 7–8: Language Arts
Powerful Words Collage

Have students create a collage of powerful words that could be associated with the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Grades 7–8: Language Arts
From the Birmingham Jail

Read to students Dr. King's famous letter that he wrote from a jail cell in Birmingham. Then have students outline the main points of the letter and explain why they think it is, or is not, effective. Suggest that they use quotations from the letter to support their ideas. Have students write a one-page report answering the following questions:

  • What were some of the strategies that Martin Luther King Jr. used to gain support and recognition for the civil rights movement?
  • How successful were these strategies?
  • How did the philosophies of Mohandas Gandhi influence Dr. King?

Houghton Mifflin