Grade: Elementary
Subject: 4 Blocks

#1519. Martin Luther King

4 Blocks, level: Elementary
Posted Mon Jan 17 15:08:33 PST 2000 by Lisa/2/CT (

Martin Luther King

Books: (* used as reading material in unit)
*A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr,
(Adler, David A. Picture Book Biography.)
*Happy Birthday Martin Luther King,
Jean Marzollo, J. Brian Pinkney (Illustrator)
*Celebrating MLK Day
(from Creative Teaching Press)
Young Martin Luther King, Jr. : 'I Have a Dream' (First-Start Biographies)
Joanne Mattern, Allan Eitzen (Illustrator)
*My Dream of MLK,
Faith Ringgold(Illustrator)
*Who Was MLK?
(Nat'l Geographic Kit, People Behind the Holidays)
If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King,
Ellen Levine, Anna Rich (Illustrator)

Day 1
v Focus: basic information about MLK
v Reading Material: Who Was MLK? (Nat'l Geographic kit/CD-ROM) (This day's activity is written using the CD-ROM in our computer lab. You can substitute reading the books in the kit, if needed.)
v Format: independent
v Introduction: Start by asking students what they already know about MLK. (Can do a Type 1 writing and list facts/questions for 3 minutes, then share.) Share the song, "Who Is MLK?" Discuss parts of the poem that reinforce what we know, or that give us new questions.
v Purpose for reading: learn general information about MLK
v Activity: students read the book themselves on the computer, or have the book read to them
v Discussion: Tell me about MLK. What do you know? Did any of your ideas change from before? What new questions do you have?
Closure: We will spend time over the next few days getting to know more about MLK and why we celebrate his birthday as a holiday.

Day 2
v Focus: learning more about MLK's life
v Reading Material: A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr; Happy Birthday Martin Luther King; Celebrating MLK Day
v Format: three ring circus
v Introduction: Briefly review yesterday's activity and the questions we still have about MLK. Today we'll learn more specific facts about MLK's life and what sparked his interest in changing the laws.
v Purpose for reading: to find information about MLK
v Activity: Students work in 3-ring circus format, with the book appropriate for them. First read the book and do a "Say Something" after each double page spread. (I have student who did the reading say something this time. It helps them to monitor their comprehension as they read. Students reading independently enjoy doing the "say something" to themselves.) You can model this first, using the poem, or another MLK book or article. After reading, each student writes down 3 facts that interested them - one about MLK's early years (childhood), one about his later years (as an adult involved in marches and speeches) and one from his middle years. Put the facts under the appropriate heading on the board. (I divide a small bulletin board into three columns. You can also use sticky notes.)
v Discussion: What interested you the most about MLK? What surprised you? What did you learn?
v Closure: Explain to students that these facts will be used to create a MLK timeline for themselves.

Day 3
v Focus: creating a timeline
v Reading Material: My Dream of MLK (read-aloud)
v Format: independent
v Introduction: Review the facts we've learned so far. What questions do we still have? Read aloud My Dream of MLK. Briefly discuss how the story was written, with the young girl traveling through time with MLK.
v Purpose for reading/writing: to create a mini timeline of four events in MLK's life
v Activity: (this activity comes from Mailbox magazine, Dec/Jan 99-00. I also add MLK to our big timeline we have in class that we use all year.) First, each student chooses 4 events from MLK's life. One from each of the three columns, plus another one. Students can take down the strips with the info, or remember it. They do not have to use their own facts from yesterday. To make the timeline, fold a 6"x12" strip of paper in half twice, so there are 4 equal sections. Open the strip and have students write each of their facts (in order) on the boxes of the timeline. Leave room for a picture. Illustrate. Fold the book back up, and on the front write, "Happy Birthday MLK". To make the booklet look like a birthday cake, students can use scrap paper to make 4 candles and glue them to the top of the timeline boxes (sticking up, so when the book is folded, the candles show.)
v Closure: Students read their book to a partner.
(There is a wonderful site in which students created their own illustrated timeline of King's life from the events listed in the back of the book, My Dream of MLK. I use it as a center, and during SSR time.

Day 4 (done in two segments: 60 mt. video and a different writing period)
v Focus: What was life like for MLK?
v Viewing Material: video, "My Friend Martin"
v Format: whole class viewing, independent writing
v Introduction: Review events in MLK's life that we know so far. Talk with students about how we can "feel" what is going on in books by creating images as we read. This video will help us "experience" even more clearly what it was like to live as MLK. (This is a fantastic video, one I highly recommend. It is rather long - 60 minutes - so I stop halfway and debrief, then finish.)
v Purpose for viewing: to learn more about MLK's life and to think about which period in his life you would most like to have visited
v Activity: Watch the movie, stopping halfway to talk about what's happened so far. After the video is done, ask students which time period in the video would they have liked to have visited? Why? What would they have done at that time? How would they have reacted? Use these questions as the focus for a written response.
v Discussion: Share opinions in small group and discuss.
v Closure: Did the video help you get a better feeling for what MLK went through? How?

Day 5
v Focus: MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech
v Reading Material: poem for choral reading, "Let Freedom Ring", by Joan Nichols (available at or in Creative Classroom, Jan/Feb 95)
v Format: whole group
v Introduction: Talk with students about MLK's famous speech. Why did he write it? What was going on at the time? Listen to an audio clip of MLK's speech.
v Purpose for reading: to see what MLK's speech was like and how it related to the times
v Activity: each student receives a copy of the poem and is given a part. (I was able to make 15 separate speaking parts, plus various group parts from the poem on the website.) Encourage students to pretend they are in the late 60's, as black and white children and adults, experiencing segregation and listening to MLK's speech. Read through the poem once, then discuss. Read it through again, with great expression and feeling.
v Discussion: Notice how in the poem descriptions of events are interspersed with parts of MLK's speech. It helps make it more powerful.
v Closure: This is why we celebrate MLK's birthday as a holiday - for all he did to help change segregation in a peaceful way.

Day 6
v Focus: character traits
v Reading Material: everything used so far
v Format: partners
v Introduction: Review with students what we have learned so far. What questions have been answered. What ideas have changed for you? What kind of a person was MLK? Brainstorm a list of character traits.
v Purpose for reading: locate support for character traits
v Activity: Partners choose 4 traits to research. Their job is to find support for these traits in past readings and viewings. Students can complete a recording sheet that includes the traits they selected and their supporting facts.
v Discussion: Come back together as a whole group and share support for the different facts. Create a big chart.
v Closure: This chart helps us see what a great man MLK was. We will use these ideas to write a poem tomorrow.

Day 7
v Focus: character traits
v Reading Material: chart of traits and supporting facts
v Format: partner or independent
v Introduction: explain to students what a "bio poem" is. Go through each line and discuss what it tells. Model constructing a poem using a student in class.
v Purpose for reading: create a bio poem about MLK
v Activity: students work together or by themselves to create their own original bio poem of MLK
v Discussion: What traits did you use? (Can graph the ones used the most, least.) Invite several students to read their poems to the class.
v Closure: Create a display of the poems.

I used the books, The Story of Ruby Bridges (R.Coles) and a readers' theater on Rosa Parks as two of my guided reading books. We did both of them as literature circles. Students read the book/story and did a response, which we then shared together in a small group and discussed. Doing these both in small groups really added to the depth of the conversations. Here are Ruby Bridges ideas we discussed (we didn't do all of them, just as they came up in our conversations about the book.):
- Do you think Ruby was brave? (What words would you use to describe Ruby?) Use events from the book to support your opinion. What about her teacher, her parents and the crowd - were they brave?
- Why do you think there was a law that separated blacks and whites?
- Do you think it was fair of the judge to ask Ruby to be the first person to integrate a white elementary school?
- Why do you think the city and state politicians did not help Ruby?
- Ruby never gave up. Do you think you would have wanted to continue? Do you think it was fair of her parents to ask her to continue?
- Do you think Miss Henry was a good teacher?
- Was Ruby right to forgive those people?

Who was Martin Luther King?
(tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb")

Who was Martin Luther King,
Luther King, Luther King?
He was man who had a dream
That we would all be free.

Martin Luther gave a speech,
Gave a speech, gave a speech.
He wanted all of us to live
In peace and harmony.

He won the Nobel Prize for Peace,
Prize for Peace, Prize for Peace.
For his love for all the world
And for you and me.

Biography Poem
(can also be done in present tense)

first name Martin Luther
4 traits Brave, intelligent, hard working, kind
brother/sister/son/daughter of Husband of Coretta Scott
lover of Lover of sports and peace
who felt Who felt discouraged and unfair treatment
who needed Who needed honesty and cooperation
who gave Who gave a chance to people
who feared Who feared some white people
who saw Who saw violence
resident of resident of Atlanta, Georgia
last name King, Jr.

(I did this poem as well)
"I AM" - an echo poem

I am . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I am
Somebody! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Somebody!
I may be black . . . . . . . . . . . . . I may be black
I may be white . . . . . . . . . . . . . I may be white
But I am . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I am
Somebody! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Somebody!

I am . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I am
Somebody! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Somebody!
I may be poor . . . . . . . . . . . . . I may be poor
I may be rich . . . . . . . . . . . . . I may be rich
But I am . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I am
Somebody! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Somebody!

I am . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I am
Somebody! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Somebody!
I may have curly hair . . . . . . . I may have curly hair
I may have straight hair . . . . I may have straight hair
But I am . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I am
Somebody! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Somebody!

I am . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I am
Somebody! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Somebody!
I may live in the city . . . . . . . . I may live in the city
I may live in the country . . . . .I may live in the country
But I am . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I am
Somebody! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Somebody!

After reading it together several times, small groups made up their own verses and we created our own version of the poem.