Introduction

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday that falls on the third Monday of January each year. The holiday was created to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was and continues to be an inspiration to millions of people, encouraging them to fight back against racial injustice. Martin Luther King. Jr. was the most famous and important voice of the American Civil Rights Movement, which was a struggle for African Americans to gain equal rights under the law in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. Teaching students about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is very important because this national holiday celebrates a man whose words and teachings continue to be significant and relevant to today’s society. 

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching students about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. For educators who are also interested in incorporating topics under the umbrella of racism, xenophobia, and injustice should check out more of United 4 Social Change’s topic resources.

Lesson Plans

  1. Classroom Resources for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: The National Education Association, nea, has put together classroom resources for teaching MLK day for students in grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. For each of these age groups, there are lesson plans, activities, background resources, MLK websites, printables, and videos provided. Educators who are looking for good resources to help students understand Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy will find this to be helpful! 
  2. Teaching and Learning About Martin Luther King Jr. With The New York Times: The New York Times provides a resource list for educators looking to celebrate and teach the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on the holiday that celebrates his birth and throughout the year. The resource list includes six ideas for teaching about the life and legacy of Dr. King, lesson plans and more from the learning network, selected historical Times resources, selected Times multimedia, selected Times articles, and additional resources. For educators who are looking for Times resources to teach their students about MLK, this resource is all they will need!
  3. 9 Meaningful Martin Luther King Jr. Activities for the Classroom: We Are Teachers offers nine meaningful Martin Luther King Jr. activities for classrooms that encourage students to reflect on MLK’s life and legacy. These recommended activities include reading and sharing books that showcase King’s beliefs, taking a virtual museum visit to Memphis, and learning about pacifism and the philosophy of nonviolent resistance.
  4. Resources for Martin Luther King Jr. Day: edutopia has put together a collection of lesson plans, curricula, and multimedia resources for teaching the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Before providing a detailed resource list, the author explains that the key is to ensure that Dr. King’s ideas aren’t oversimplified and offers educators extra resources to guide them in how to celebrate MLK Day in the classroom.
  5. Martin Luther King Jr. Day: The Center for Civic Education provides educators with teacher-tested lessons from their nationally recognized We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution curriculum to help inform students about the national struggle for civil rights and equal protection under the law.

Articles

  1. Teaching the Life and Legacy of MLK: Learning for Justice, previously Teaching Tolerance, has three articles for teaching the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
  1. Going the Extra Mile for MLK Day: In this article, Leslie Wills-Taylor, a fourth-grade teacher, offers some suggestions to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an opportunity for deep, personal engagement with MLK’s legacy rather than solely a day off for students.
  2. Teaching MLK With the Social Justice Standards: This article provides suggestions to help students acknowledge the depth and complexity of the Civil Rights Movement Dr. Martin Luther King helped to lead.
  3. The Best of Our Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Resources: In this article, Cory Collins has put together a collection of the best Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. resources, which include Learning for Justice lessons, external lessons, podcasts, texts, publications for professional development, and Learning for Justice articles.
  1. How Do You Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day?: Scholastic has put together an article where real teachers share their favorite ways to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Reading through some of these teachers’ stories may inspire educators and give them some ideas of their own!
  2. What to Know About Martin Luther King Day: Time has published a brief article on what people should know about Martin Luther King Day. In addition, there is a six-minute video What King Said that accompanies the article that educators can show to help students further understand the power of Dr. King’s words.
  3. What You Should Know About Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service: DoSomething.org provides a brief overview of what people should know about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. The article discusses who Martin Luther King, Jr. was, how MLK Day became a holiday, why MLK Day matters, and how people can celebrate MLK Day.

Informational Sites

  1. The Fight for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: History.com provides an informational article on the fight for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This article will help students understand how MLK Day became a holiday!
  2. Martin Luther King, Jr.: History.com offers an informational article about Martin Luther King, Jr., which discusses when MLK was born, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” the March on Washington, “I Have a Dream,” the assassination of MLK, MLK Day, and quotes from MLK.
  3. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day: Britannica has put together a bit of information on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The article covers who MLK was, when MLK Day was established, how MLK Day is celebrated, and a few more related topics.
  4. Hero for All – Martin Luther King, Jr.: National Geographic Kids provides young students with information about the life of the courageous hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Videos

The following videos provide students with information about the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. along with MLK Day. For educators who are interested in sharing information about MLK with their students in a different format, one of these videos may prove to be useful!

  1. Life And Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
  2. Martin Luther King Jr. Day:
  3. The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

Conclusion

Teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is so important because students should be given the opportunity to celebrate one of the most significant figures in American history who worked for equal rights for all people. Racial injustice in the United States continues to be a complex issue today, and by teaching students about the importance of this civil rights activist, students will be able to better understand conversations about race and racism. 

Additional Resources

  1. Martin Luther King Day Lesson Plans and Activities: Education World offers a list of Martin Luther King Day lessons plans, articles, books, and other activities to help meet educators’ holiday needs.
  2. Martin Luther King Jr.: Teacher Planet provides lesson plans, activities, coloring pages, worksheets, resources, clipart, and printable worksheets for teaching students about Martin Luther King Jr. 
  3. Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Teacher Resources: TeacherVision offers many Martin Luther King Jr. Day resources, which include educational videos, printables, lesson plans, references, language arts activities, art activities, biographies, civil rights resources, African American resources, and Black History Month resources.