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Lesson Plan

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Me: Identifying with a Hero

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Martin Luther King, Jr. and Me: Identifying with a Hero

Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Devon Hamner

Devon Hamner

Grand Island, Nebraska


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Martin Luther King, Jr. Day provides a great opportunity to teach about heroes. This lesson explores ways to help students identify with Dr. King—an American hero who lived and died long before they were even born—through reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities that provide a glimpse into Dr. King's life. Students record what they know about Dr. King on a KWL chart. They then read aloud the picture book My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers and add information to the KWL. They take a virtual tour of King's birth home and compare it to their own homes. Throughout the week, they explore Websites and other sources of information about Dr. King, record new information on the KWL chart, and keep a journal of their own thoughts and ideas.  As a culminating activity, they plan a birthday party for Dr. King to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. and Me: This journal template encourages students to make connections between themselves and Martin Luther King, Jr. by providing space for students to write and draw information about themselves after corresponding information about Dr. King provided on the printout.

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In their book Mosaic of Thought, Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann discuss the importance of "connecting the known to the new," in other words, the importance of helping students increase their understanding and involvement in what they are learning by making connections. Keene and Zimmermann encourage teachers to help students "relate unfamiliar text to their prior world knowledge and/or personal experience" (55). They stress creating strong mental images as we read and listen to a text, using all five senses as well as our emotions, to make the story come alive (141) .

As we introduce young students to history, our goal is to engage them fully and deeply in the story of real people like themselves, helping them build connections between their own lives and the lives of the people they are studying. By encouraging students to form these connections, teachers can help students understand an American hero like Dr. King, even though their world is quite different from the time, place, and life of Dr. King.

Further Reading

Keene, E.L., & Zimmermann, S. (1997). Mosaic of Thought: Teaching Comprehension in a Reader's Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Moss, Joy. 2002. Literary Discussion in the Elementary School. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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