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Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Free Resources and Classroom Activities

Nov 17, 2023
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Each year on the third Monday of January, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most important figures in the American Civil Rights Movement. For elementary students, it’s important to put into perspective the work of Dr. King and how he was able to bring about positive change in America.

“I Have a Dream” Activities

Martin Luther King Jr. called for an end to racism in the United States when he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963. The speech, which was heard by over 200,000 civil rights supporters on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, was a defining moment of the American civil rights movement. In this speech, King shared his dream of a world where all people lived in peace and harmony, regardless of the color of their skin. 

Are we as a nation living up to Dr. King’s vision of a better United States or is there more we could be doing? Here are a few activities to consider adding to your students’ MLK Day.

  • Have your students write about a dream or vision they have for making the world a better place.
  • Encourage each of your students to brainstorm a list of 10-15 things they could do to make their school and community a better place.
  • Assign your students to write a thank you note to Dr. King sharing how his efforts have made an impact of their lives.
  • Tell your students to imagine they have the opportunity to interview Dr. King and have each student craft a series of questions they would want to ask him.

MLK Day Resources

To help your class understand, discuss, and reflect on the many achievements of this American hero, check out this FREE Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Resources Pack from Edmentum. These downloadable resources include critical-thinking questions, lesson plans, fact sheets, activities, and a poster to hang in your classroom, specifically created for both lower and upper elementary students.


Explore the life of Dr. King

On this History.com page, you’ll find a biography highlighting some of the most important events in Dr. King’s life, like the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, and the history behind MLK day. There’s also plenty of pictures, videos, and other resources that can help you paint a full picture of the life of Dr. King for your students. National Geographic Kids is another great resource to find pictures, videos and facts about Dr. King and his life.

Martin Luther King, Jr. in the News

They say that journalism is the first rough draft of history, so what better way to learn about the past than through the news? Check out the New York Times archives on Martin Luther King, Jr., where you’ll find stories spanning decades related to the Civil Rights leader. You can also find other news clippings about Dr. King from different papers across the country on Newspaper.com, and compare and contrast how different media outlets covered the events of the Civil Rights movement, versus how we understand them today.

“I Have a Dream” Interactive Speech

Dr. King knew that using the media would e important to getting his message out to the world. Explore the role that media played in the Civil Rights Movement with this interactive version of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech from Freedom’s Ring. This digital tool compares written and spoken versions of the speech, includes images, animations, and provides historical context to King’s famous words.

This blog post was originally published on January 4, 2019.

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