3rd Monday in January: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

11 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


TSWBAT use the quotes of Martin Luther King, Jr. to develop an informative text about the importance of Civil Rights.

Big Idea

The relevance of a person's quotes shouldn't be overlooked, and in the case of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. must be celebrated.

Warm Up

20 minutes

This warm up will focus on understanding what a quote is, and what makes it quotable.

I ask my kids to write down the first sentence that comes to their mind on 3x5 cards. A couple of kids wrote things as mundane as, "I'm sitting at a desk." or "I don't follow you."  This is actually what you're looking for.  Next, they write a meaningful sentence that has a relatable focus.  The example I give is, "Do your homework because that's your job as a student."  They may groan over this teacher cliche, but it illustrates the simplicity of what they need to write.  This is important so no one spends a huge amount of time trying to craft that perfect idea...just what occurs to them at the moment. Smart Board example of What to write on each card.

After the statements, which will soon be identified as quotes, are in the form the student likes, the child transfers them each to a 3x5 card- it's best to use the same colored cards, but put a mark on the second sentence type to distinguish the two types of statements. They put their name on the other side of the cards.  I collect them and mix together.

Next, pass the Quotable or Not? worksheet to the class.  They will put checks and comments in the columns.  Quotable or Not? Writing.  There are numbers, not topics, down the left side because the 3x5 cards were just written, but there is space for jotting down highlights of each card.  It may be easiest just to number the cards as you read them in order to reference during the review.

What does it mean for something to be "Quotable?" The dictionary defines quotable as Something said, that's fit to be said again.  They aren't to confuse this with, let's say, the importance of giving directions, because repeating directions is certainly something we do.  Instead,  I give them the example of, "I'm putting on a hat," as opposed to the example from earlier, "Do your homework because that's your job as a student."  Which of the two of them is something that's fit to be said again?  There may be a class clown in the classroom giving you the answers you don't want, but the majority of the kids will understand the objective without issue, and enjoy sharing. "What's Quotable?" The criteria for determining what's been said as, Quotable, is what is memorable.  When the kids identified their idea of what was quotable, they wrote examples such as, "Good grades are important," or "A bulley will have trouble getting through life if he doesn't change."  They wrote things that were important in "their world," which made sense.

At first I was going to distribute the quotes randomly to the class, but decided against it in case some of their thoughts (focus ones especially) were personal.  Instead, I pull a 3x5 card without a mark, the first type they wrote, and quickly scan for appropriateness.  Once I read a card, it's time to gauge the kids' reactions.  They immediately determine whether or not this is something they think is quotable. Determining Quotable or Not, you continue the exercise as you move through a few cards.  There isn't time to read each child's set of cards during the warm up, but I assure the kids we can continue later, or just use the cards for the next Minute Speaking session. (See the Warm Up section in Let's Just Talk About It.)  Once enough examples have been cited, we have a quick discussion about the differences between the two types of sentences.  This then leads into our main objective, reading the quotable words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and developing an informative text with them.  Student Example of Quotable or Not answers.


30 minutes

Now that the class has established what is worthy of repeating (quotable) we will read actual quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I created a full page of quotes that can be applied to Civil Rights, though it's only a minute collection.  When googling Quotes of Martin Luther King, an overwhelming amount of material fills the page.  We use our criteria from the last activity to determine just what makes Martin Luther King, Jr. so quotable.

I pass out this page, A Collection of Quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. and ask the kids to read silently and respectfully.  After they finish, I encourage them to go back and mark the examples that speak to them, Circling most important MLK quotes the most then give them time to discuss these choices within their groups.  We look at the worksheet on the Smart Board and come up with class favorites.

Our objective is to use some of these quotes to form an informative text about the importance of Civil Rights.  I show a video, History of the Civil Rights Movement  (length 5:50), which focuses the students on the topic, and allows for rich discussion before we begin writing.  When watching a video, I often give them focus worksheets, or they must take notes, but with this one, I want their full attention on the screen the entire time.

I ask the kids some excellent questions taken from a Civil Rights Unit by the Chicago Review Press:

What is a boycott?

How has life changed for African Americans since the 1950s?

Do you think non-violent resistance and civil disobedience are good ways to change things or achieve a goal?

What did Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. hope to accomplish with the March on Washington, D.C. in 1963?

Reading the quotes of Dr. King ahead of time has centered their thinking in this direction before they even realized why.  After viewing the video, History of Civil Rights Movement, the quotes have a new relevence and writing will flow.   


20 minutes

The students now write an informative text on the Importance of Civil Rights.  They include some of the Quotes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and incorporate ideas and feelings that were conjured as they viewed the video on the History of the Civil Rights Movement. 

It was actually quite empowering for the kids to include a quote or two from Dr. King.  They loved working them into their writing and helping their writing to sound more authentic.  I was thrilled with how earnestly they worked as if they couldn't spare a second, in order to get all of their thoughts down. The words just flow! I reminded them that there are many opportunities to add quotes to research papers or essays.  It's not something they think of at this age, yet after this activity, I think they will. 

Citing textual evidence when sharing personal thoughts or opinions is a meaningful way to improve and enrich writing - and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the perfect model from whom to pull those inspirational quotes.


20 minutes

Students are given the choice of whether or not they'd like to Share their writing with the class. I expected more kids to volunteer than did, but it was great to hear the ones who did.  I was thrilled as I walked around to see how involved they were in their essay and enjoyed reading them at the end of the day.  I look forward to sharing them with their parents.

Student Writing #1

Student Writing #2

Student Writing #3