There are so many things that students can learn when studying the life of Martin Luther King Jr. We can certainly learn the history of his life’s work and the Civil Rights Movements, but we can also learn about personal beliefs and how to stand up for them. We can apply the lessons learned and the steps that were made to current events and even our own lives. History is not just to be learned about. It is to be learned from.
Quoting Martin Luther King Jr
We see famous quotes from Martin Luther King Junior frequently on Facebook, but how often do we stop to analyze what they mean? Ask your students to think back to what his words meant in that period of history. Then ask them to analyze how they could apply to today’s current events and even to their own lives. For example, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” is a quote that applies to the desire for civil right activists to not resort to violence and can apply now to school shootings.
What is your Dream?
One of the most famous sentences to come from this great leader’s mouth was “I have a dream.” Have students listen to his famous speech and then write or discuss their own dreams. What would make our society more peaceful or fair? What do they believe in so much that they would make it their life’s work to bring light to? Take this activity a step further and have students discuss what steps we could take to achieve these dreams. What can they do as individuals?
American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King Jr. – “I Have a Dream”http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm
Have students study and discuss what a peaceful protest looked like during the time of Martin Luther King Jr and then stage their own. They can each write what they find important enough to stand up for (animal testing, GMO foods, equality etc.,) on a piece pf construction paper and then have a silent parade through the school. Be sure to discuss why violent or non-peaceful reactions would only hurt their cause.
There are many resources to learn about the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. Have your students listen to “Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King” (http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/happy-birthday-martin-luther-king) and then make a timeline from birth to his tragic death. Discuss the things he did, the people who supported him, and how his life’s work helped the Civil Rights Movement. Pictures can be added to the timeline as well as anecdotes or summaries.
From Then to Now