Back to school in January means Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is coming! This is such a hard topic to talk about with Kinders because they are so literal, so here is how we do Martin Luther King Day in our classroom!
Since our students are so young they tend to take everything so literally. And so how do we as teachers get the message across without scaring them?
The only true answer to that is the plan out your activities very carefully and to hand select your materials knowing your students. You want to keep everything focused on the good Dr. King did to change the world and speak generally about bad that was going on in the world. For example, we talk a lot about how Martin knew people were being treated unfair and not given the same chances to do things as others. We can give examples of the injustices but we have to chose our words wisely. Our kids are very literal and they have a talent for relating any lesson to a trip to Chuck E. Cheese or sharing personal things about their family members.
We start by talking about the vocabulary surrounding the lesson. The vocabulary is the basis for all of our discussions so it is very important. (Free if you download the preview here.)
So here is an emergent reader that we do that talks about everything in simple and easy too understand ways. This book is easy enough for the kids to read (or figure out after reading it together a couple times.)
We also do this Nonfiction Reader on Martin Luther King which is loaded with facts and developmentally appropriate.
I also load up on books from the library. They are worth checking to see if you can find! This topic is hard in kindergarten because you don’t want to say too much or too little… but where is that balance. So I often find myself using the books for the pictures and using my own words to soften things or to put in language they will understand.
Excellent easy about the life of MLK that is meant for little readers!
A short story about the life of MLK, 200 words says it all!
This is another great book! It’s about the boy Alex and how he befriends a mule in the neighborhood. He is told how the mule played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s. It give lots of historical perspective and is very age appropriate! It’s a little wordy so it would be better to be broken up into 2 days and after they already have some knowledge of MLK and civil rights! But a great book!
A story about a class who is getting a teacher who is black. The little girl overhears her parents talking that she is ‘colored’ and the little girl wonders… what color is she – green, yellow? It’s a great story of how this teacher touches these kids lives no matter what the color of her skin!
This book has AMAZING pictures. It’s worth finding just to find and see. I would show selected pages to my kinders, but his would surely not be left in my classroom library I don’t think!
Another story about the desegregation process. Favorite part as an adult… the mom sent her kids off to school and called in that day to pray her kids stay safe! I never thought of it like that… could you imagine having to send your children to school knowing what they were going to face! Ugh! This is a great book for kinder but again I may skip certain pages and use my own words while reading to the little ones.
Once have learned a lot through discussions and books, we synthesis it and put it in writing. We use graphic organizers to collect our thoughts and then put it on paper. I love using the Martin Luther King Writing Craft because it gives you the resources to do the above and then gives you a fun craft to glue on for the picture!
And then we have lots of academic activities using the theme of the week. Close reads, letter sorts, and reading CVC words are all a part of the plan for this time of kindergarten!
One last thing… this is a great video about MLK and his life. Very appropriate if you are talking about the events of the Civil Rights Movement.
What do you do to teacher Martin Luther King in your classrooms?
Please comment below.
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Jennifer is the author and founder of Simply Kinder. She has over 15 years teaching experience with most of those being in kindergarten. She believes Kindergarten can be academic and fun!