Honoring Dr. King’s Legacy Year-Round: Bringing His Message of Peace and Justice Into the Classroom

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day was January 15th, but Dr King’s message and example have so much wisdom to offer students year-round! MLK Jr. was multifaceted. He was a family man, an organizer, an orator, and a hero to many. He won a Nobel Peace Prize and sparked a nonviolence movement that continues today. His life continues to inspire people all over the world. Bring that energy into your classroom throughout the year!

Many resources are available to teach about MLK Jr.’s life and legacy. There are so many facets to his life that the topics for study are almost endless. Of course, his life, in general, is a topic that has many available lesson plans and activities for students from elementary through high school. Even studying interesting facts about his life can spark class discussion. 

Lessons on the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s integral role provide impactful learning opportunities. The wealth of primary sources, including his iconic speeches, letters, interviews with key activists, historic news reports, and photos, offer first-hand perspectives. These resources allow students to hear directly from those involved in the justice struggle and witness pivotal events. Well-designed lesson plans help structure the analysis of these rich materials, allowing students to gain insights into Dr. King’s values and connect them to modern issues.

Specific aspects of Dr. King’s life also make for engaging independent units. His legendary speeches and writings stand alone as profound works worth studying. Their eloquent calls for justice and nonviolence reveal his philosophical depth. Exploring the various monuments honoring his legacy, like those maintained by the National Park Service, provides cross-curricular opportunities. His principles of peaceful resistance that undergirded the civil rights movement and earned him the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize also constitute their own impactful unit. Resources abound for helping students appreciate these facets that made Martin Luther King Jr. an exemplary leader.

Ideas for Infusing MLK Jr.’s Values All Year

  • Digital timeline: Have students create an interactive timeline highlighting key events from MLK’s life and the civil rights movement using tools like TimelineJS (reviewed here).
  • Social media campaign: Provide excerpts of MLK quotes and writings for students to draft mock Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook-style posts he might create to share his vision if he had access to social media.
  • MLK tribute video: Students produce a video honoring MLK’s legacy using a video creation tool like Adobe Express Video Maker (reviewed here) or Canva for Education (reviewed here). It could include interviews, speeches, and music.
  • Podcast: Students produce a podcast episode analyzing one of MLK’s speeches, connecting his powerful ideas and vision to current events. 
  • Augmented reality experience or Interactive map: Students develop an augmented reality experience or interactive map, such as Google My Maps (reviewed here), featuring images, audio clips, and location info connected to MLK civil rights events and memorial sites around the country.

I challenge you to keep Dr. King’s memory alive by integrating his works and values at multiple points throughout the academic year. As always, check out TeachersFirst resources and blog posts for more ideas. 

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