Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most influential people of the 20th century. His “I Have a Dream” speech is known for its powerful delivery and message, and his drive to achieve equality among people of all races still has an impact on society today.
With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaching on January 19, consider honoring the late Dr. King with activities in your classroom. These will teach your students about diversity and treating everyone equally despite their differences.
1. Encourage Students to Get to Know One Another
Students tend to make friends with a couple of their peers and no one else. For MLK Day, have students get to know someone new! Pair random students together, and ask them to discuss their lives and interests. Afterwards, ask each student to design a plate or bowl based on what they learned about their new acquaintance and give it to them as a gift. At the end of the activity, each student will hopefully emerge with one more friend and a better understanding of someone different.
2. Enjoy a Cultural Feast
Prepare some food from different countries and cultures for your students to enjoy! Bring in traditional foods or snacks from a variety of countries, and discuss the similarities and differences of the cuisines with your students as they eat. You’ll be engaging their senses and teaching them to appreciate the deliciousness of diversity!
It’s time to get out the construction paper, scissors, and colored pencils! Have your students trace the shape of a small person on construction paper and cut it out. The paper people should be different colors, and you should encourage your students to decorate and outfit their people however they like. Connect the finished paper people into a chain, each holding hands with the next. Your students will get to see diversity represented and celebrated.
4. Make a Pledge Not to Bully
The number one reason that children are bullied is because they are perceived as being different. Stop bullying in its tracks by having your students take a no-bullying pledge. Ask each student to promise never to hurt someone just because they’re different. Your students need to learn to treat people as they want to be treated.
5. Listen to the Famous Speech
One way to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. is to play his “I Have a Dream” speech in its entirety. You can easily pull it up on YouTube or another streaming site. Let your students listen to it, and pause it on occasion to comment. Once it’s over, ask the kids how they felt about it, and discuss how it changed people (and history) for the better!
These are just a few ways that you can introduce the importance of Dr. King and his leadership of the Civil Rights Movement to your students. By teaching them about his life and influence, you can be sure that his dream will live on!
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