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This lesson deals exclusively with Martin Luther King


Social Studies  




Tiffany Williams


Martin Luther King Jr.

Grade level: 5 th

Length of Activity: 1½ hours

Performance Expectations:

The students will recognize the chronology of Martin Luther King’s life.

The students will have an understanding of the Jim Crow laws.

The students will become familiar with the speech “I Have a Dream.”

Materials Needed: books discussing Martin Luther King Jr.

Life and Death of Martin Luther King Jr. by James Haskin

Martin Luther King Jr. by Diane Patrick

Martin Luther King Jr.: a Picture story by Margaret Boone-Jones

Martin Luther King Jr.: Free at Last by David A. Adler

Copies made of the speech “I Have a Dream”


Introduction: I would begin my activity by asking the children if they knew who the first black American to be honored by a National Holiday was. Next I would read them a brief introduction about Martin Luther King’s life (attached).


Provide a variety of books discussing Martin Luther King, Jr. These will be used to refresh the students on information they have already learned from previous research.

Ask the children to prepare a timeline marking significant dates in his life. Give the students a list of important events you want included in the timeline. Discuss with the students Martin Luther King’s contributions to the civil rights movement.

Discuss the Jim Crow laws (segregation laws). Show the students photos depicting segregation laws. Ask students questions such as:

What do you think of the Jim Crow laws?

How do you think these laws made the Whites feel?

How do you think these laws made the Blacks feel?

After viewing a video of Martin Luther King’s speech “I Have a Dream” give each student a copy of the speech. Read the speech and focus on the following topics:

What was King’s dream?

Do you feel his dream has come true? Why? Why not?

Closure: Have the children think about king’s dream. Then have them consider their own dreams. Have them write a story filling in one of the following.

I have a dream for myself….

for my family….

for my community….

For the world….

Assessment: Look at each child’s timeline to make sure they have the correct order.

Assign each child a part of “I Have a Dream” to memorize for a classroom choral reading.

Record their answers when discussing segregation policies of South Africa to see if they have the correct understanding.

As a class, chart their responses of how the Jim Crow laws made whites and blacks feel.

Adaptations/Considerations: Perform the choral reading for the entire school.

Have the students do a play acting out Martin Luther King’s life as they view it.


Graves, Curtis M. & Hodges, Jane A. (1986). Famous black Americans: Folder games for the classroom . Silver Springs, MD: Bartleby Press.

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