Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Through Service for Others

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Classroom Application
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tf-blog-mlk2016Every year, on the third Monday of January, our nation stops to honor and recognize the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr.  His “I Have a Dream” speech urging all people to fight peacefully for democracy and brotherhood is known by all, and is the basis for many classroom lessons on MLK and Civil Rights.

Lesser-known, but equally compelling, is this quote from King’s 1963 collection “Strength to Love” that included a sermon entitled, “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life.”

“Light has come into the world, and every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

In recognition of Dr. King’s efforts to encourage all people to think about others beyond themselves, The King Center is urging Americans to make Martin Luther King Day a day of service, not a day off. The King Center Day of Service site encourages organizations to register on the site to share activities and help spread the word of their service events. Also, this site offers:

  • Resources for finding volunteer opportunities
  • Lesson plans for grades 3-12 created in the spirit of service
  • Several short videos encouraging the MLK Day Legacy of Service

The National Constitution Center offers a K-4 Lesson Plan that teaches civics through children’s literature. Based on the theme of a day of service, lessons accompany the book, Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan and includes activities as well as thought-provoking questions. Use this site as a starting point to:

  • Find a civics-based reading list
  • Begin your list of suggested age-appropriate volunteer activities
  • Identify questions for students to consider such as “Should volunteering be mandatory?”

Extend the day of service beyond MLK Day by encouraging students to find their passion for social change. DoSomething.org encourages young people to team up with peers across the country to make positive changes.

  • Browse through to find your passion – topics include animals, education, environment, and more
  • Choose how much time you have to offer
  • Select how you can help – options include face to face, sharing something, take a stand, and others. Ideas range from the simple such as tweeting from your local school board meeting with up-to-date information to the more complex such as hosting a workshop to teach online safety.

There are many additional resources available to include with lessons about Martin Luther King, Jr. including books for all ages, videos, and comprehensive websites including primary sources. As you teach about civil rights and community activism, consider including these sites as you encourage students to follow their passion while benefiting their community.

What are your favorite sites for teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr? Do you have another favorite quote that inspires your teaching? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.

About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.

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