I can’t believe we are already in the third full week of January! An essential teaching point for this month is Martin Luther King Day, and I believe this is true no matter what grade you teach.  I typically did activities on my own and with our cross-age peers. If you have followed me for awhile, you know that one of the things I am most passionate about is cross-age peers.  It is one of the very few things that has stayed constant throughout my 25-year career in multiple grades. I can go more in depth into the benefits in another blog post, but today I want to share some of the projects we did with our partners to celebrate Martin Luther King as well as activities we completed independently throughout the years.

Activities for Older Grades

When I taught older grades, we read books about him and watched the full version of the March on Washington and his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech.  Every time I hear that speech, it still moves me to tears.  We also did a simulation of a march for civil rights. My students looked up examples of posters, and created their own to resemble them.  We pushed the seats to the edge of the room, held our posters high, and with “We Shall Overcome” playing in the background, simulated a protest march in our classroom. I projected images of the actual marches to help us feel more “in the moment.” This activity was based on a lesson in our Social Studies book, Social Studies Alive.  After we finished we debriefed the activity with the following questions:

  • What did you learn from this activity?
  • How did you feel?
  • What was hard for you in this activity? What was easy?
  • What would you do if you lived during that time?
  • How do you think this applies to our lives today?

Fourth Grade – with First Grade Partners

When I taught fourth grade, we had first grade partners.  We would read a picture book about Dr. King (either whole group or the older kids would read a book to their partner if we had enough copies) and then work together to make mobiles.  Across the hanger, we had an oval cutout that read “My Dream Is..” and then we cut cloud shapes with our die cut machine and pairs worked together to write what their dream was.  We had a discussion beforehand of what type of dream we meant in this case and gave some examples (i.e. not what happens when you go to sleep and dream about a trip to Disney World!)  The first graders hung these up in their classroom.  Unfortunately, this was several years ago, and long before we could just whip out our phone and take a picture, so I don’t have photos of this to share with you.

Kindergarten – with Fifth Grade Partners

Once I moved down to kindergarten, we had fifth grade partners that came to us.  Again, I did activities on my own, but also enjoyed new projects with these partners. On our own, we watched the shorter version of the “I Have A Dream” speech, because, honestly, I don’t think there is anything wrong with watching it every single year—it is such a powerful message! I also had other books that I read aloud to my students and had some students that could read a basic leveled text independently as well (there are loads of freebies on TpT to choose from).  We also made MLK day crowns that I found on Teachers Pay Teachers here and the students got to wear them home the Friday before the holiday.

However, by far my favorite things we did were the activities with our partners. Unless someone was absent, our students were paired with the same fifth grade buddy for each of our weekly sessions. On this day, I worked with most of the partners while my colleague (Jennifer) took several students at a time out in the hall to do the second project.  I stayed in the classroom and did an activity from Teacher to the Core (it is a freebie in her Teachers Pay teachers store). You can find the link to her blog post and the activity here.  I gathered the group together to talk about the “I Have a Dream” speech we both had viewed independently and focused on the quote about being judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. In her post, she had each student crack an egg, but I decided to just do it myself.  I cracked one brown and one white egg into a bowl and we realized that although they looked different on the outside, the inside looked identical.  Then I put them in small groups and gave each group a basket of plastic eggs with the character traits inside and had them complete the paper. I was surprised that it was more of a challenge than I expected.

Out in the hall, Jennifer (the fifth grade teacher) created this display (see image below) with the students. This idea was adapted from a blog post from A Full Classroom here. Prior to class, I put up the black and white butcher paper and had my much more artistically inclined daughter draw the picture of Martin Luther King based on a photo in the blog post. Jennifer took small groups out to the hallway to paint their hands to make the handprints going around the picture.  The students were allowed to mix shades of paint until they achieved the color they felt best matched their skin. They loved doing this project and it was a great display in the hallway to help us remember Dr. King.  There are so many great ways to share his life and work. What are your favorite ways to celebrate his legacy?


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