1. Create a Timeline for Key Events
As a class, identify several key moments from either King’s life or the Civil Rights Movement. Order these historic moments on a timeline. Break out into small groups and have each group research an event to share what happened and what they learned with the class.
2. Get to Know African American Heroes
You will need a stack of old magazines, catalogs, newspapers, old postcards, calendars, ads, etc.
In advance, assign each student to read about a specific famous African American hero for homework. Make sure students get an understanding of the person’s struggles, personality, likes/dislikes, strengths, instincts, circumstances, accomplishments, etc... anything that will make your students feel like they know this person.
Then direct each child to cut out pictures and words that describe this person. Let them paste the cut-outs onto large, brightly–colored paper. Tell the students that they may also bring in other materials to describe their heroes, such as dried flowers, bark, tiny stuffed animals, ribbons, seeds, or a book cover. Inspire creativity and imagination!
3. Analyze the "I Have a Dream" Speech
Pass out copies of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech written and delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Play a video of the real speech and have students read along. Ask students how the speech makes them feel. Ask about sentence structure, repetition, grammar, new vocabulary, or whatever else they find interesting in the text. Openly discuss the themes and general ideas of the speech. Encourage students to express their thoughts, insights, and ideas without being afraid of what others might think. Ask students to write a paragraph that describes their take on the message communicated by the speech. Encourage them to write in their voices.
4. Classroom Service Project
King once said, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” And the King holiday is a popular time for people to serve others in their community. Identify a simple but effective way your class can serve your school or local community, such as cleaning up a local park, helping the custodian tidy up the school, or visiting a local senior citizen's home. If you can, make it an event that happens more than once a school year.