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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


Student Objectives

Instruction and Activities


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • participate in read aloud and in inquiry-based research activities.

  • compare and contrast their lives to the early life of Martin Luther King, Jr., through their journals (using pictures and words as developmentally appropriate).

  • share their journals with an authentic audience.

  • explore various sources of information about Dr. King and share the discoveries of their research, recording them on a class KWL chart.

  • create art and plan a party to celebrate Dr. King's birthday.

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Instruction and Activities

  1. Use the January classroom calendar to introduce the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Begin a countdown of days till the holiday.

  2. Encourage the students to share what they know about Dr. King, recording this information on the KWL chart.

  3. Introduce the book My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers by telling the children that the author is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s older sister.

  4. Take a picture walk through the book. The illustrations in the book are special because friends and members of the King family were used as models for the various characters in the book. (See the illustrator’s notes in the back of the book.) Encourage the students to predict what they think is happening in the story and what the text will say as you explore the illustrations.

  5. Read the book together as a read aloud.

  6. Reread the book and stop frequently to discuss the events depicted in the book. Encourage students to share the connections they are forming between King’s life as a child and their own lives. You may choose to revisit the book several times over the course of the week.

  7. Add information to the KWL chart based on your exploration of the book.

  8. Using an LCD projector or working in small groups around a computer, use the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birth Home Virtual Tour to walk students through King's first home virtually. Invite students to compare what they see in King's home to their own house (as well as the homes of family members they have visited).

  9. Add information to the KWL chart based on your interactive exploration of King's birth home.

  10. Distribute the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Me journal template, and help students begin their journals. Encourage them to use detailed pictures and words to communicate their thoughts and ideas, helping or acting as scribe when necessary. Students will work on their journals each day and complete the journal during the week.

  11. Share other sources of information about Dr. King, including information from the Websites listed in the Resources section.

  12. Continue to update the KWL chart as students pose questions about Dr. King and as they research and find answers to their questions.

  13. Have class meetings at the end of each day for Reflection Time. Have the students reflect on what they are learning and the connections they are making between their own lives and the life of Dr. King.

  14. Have the students help you plan a birthday party for Dr. King on either January 15 (his actual birthday) or on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

    • Decide who will be your invited guests: another class, family members, business and education partners, etc.

    • Students will share their journals with their guests at the party. They should complete the journals and practice sharing them in preparation for the party.

    • They may also make decorations such as a banner made with hand prints to spell out “peace”, “love”, “freedom”, “equality”, or other appropriate words. You can choose to make the hand prints with paint mixed to match different skin tones.

    • Make invitations and holiday cards for their guests.
  15. Enjoy your party as you celebrate all that you've learned with your guests. Happy Birthday, Dr. King!

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  • Assemble a class book on Dr. King. The last two pages of the journal are perfect for this community publishing activity: one to share ways that individuals can participate in making Dr. King’s dream come true, and one to share the students’ own dreams for making our world a better place.

  • Students might like to to send e-mail cards to special family members or friends in honor of Dr. King’s birthday, using 123Greetings Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Cards.

  • Find links to lesson plans and classroom activities that can be used to supplement or extend this lesson from the January 15 entry from the ReadWriteThink calendar celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

  • Encourage students to explore Dr. King's dream further with the K-2 lesson plan Living the Dream: 100 Acts of Kindness.

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Much of the success of this lesson is based on the students' ability to reflect on what they are learning and assess their own level of participation and achievement.

Meet individually or in small groups with students to help them self-assess their work during this theme using the following scale:

Score Description Visual Symbol
4 I did my best and am very proud of my work! star
3 I did a good job most of the time. happy face
2 I did OK, but could do better. neutral face drawn in the O of OK
1 I could do lots better. check mark

As you pose the following questions, children can hold up the appropriate number of fingers to show how they would rate themselves. Encourage students to be honest in their assessments and require that they support their ratings with evidence from their work when appropriate.

  • In your journal, did you draw detailed pictures and do your best to write your ideas?

  • Did you share your ideas with the class during discussions and Reflection Time?

  • Did you listen attentively to other students when they shared their ideas?

  • Did you listen attentively when we read books and stories about Dr. King?

  • Did you share your ideas when we discussed the books we read?

  • Did you help with our birthday party for Dr. King?

An additional assessment piece comes as you kidwatch during the party and observe the students sharing their journals, the KWL chart, and their art with the guests. This is when students have an opportunity to really share what they learned with an authentic audience.

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