Activities for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is on Monday, January 17th.  Every year we celebrate his birthday on the 3rd Monday in January.  It is a federal holiday and the majority of schools will be closed.  However, there are many language arts and historical classroom connections to remember the accomplishments of his life and work through a variety of activities and lessons.  This can transition to various activities that will lead into Black History Month or the Civil Rights Movement discussions.

mlk jr

Middle & High School Activities

Beyond teaching about the historical significance of MLK’s accomplishments, lessons could also include information about the about the history and reluctance to observe the holiday.  MLK Day was signed into law in 1983 by President Reagan.  However, 2000 was the first year that all states celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday.  Some states, especially in the south, combine this day with other celebrations like Robert E Lee’s birthday or a general Human Rights Day. Mr. King is one of the only men whose life is celebrated through a federal holiday that never held a political office.

There are a lot of great resources available on the History Channel website about Mr. King, the Civil Rights Movement, and Black History Month.   There are articles, videos, photos, links and other classroom materials that can be utilized to build lessons and activities for the classroom.

One lesson on the subject could include learning about both Martin Luther King Jr. and President Kennedy, who were both influential leaders of the 60’s.  The lesson could then focus on how their assassinations effected both that era along with our society today.  This could be held as a class discussion or a research assignment where students create a presentation or paper on the topic.

Elementary Activities

There is a wide variety of ways to teach about the history of MLK beyond coloring pages and worksheets.  One engaging activity is to have students create a written and illustrated timeline of the important events in MLKs life.  You can show your students the example online and then they can research and create their own timeline as a class.  A tie in for history and language arts would be to include the “I Have a Dream” speech into a lesson.   The students could listen to the speech then discuss the speech as a class, and then have them write up their own speeches of their dreams to share with their peers.  Students of all ages can watch the “I Have a Dream” speech on many of the video sharing websites like YouTube and TeacherTube.

For younger students there are many excellent picture books on the topic of Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement, Black History Month, and equality.  There is a great lesson plan that ties in the reading of Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King with equality, dreams and hopes, and art.

Other Activities

  1. “I Have a Dream” Cloze activity
  2. Lesson on Equality
  3. Mapping Martin Luther King
  4. Identifying Heroes


Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By mattlemmon

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon by MangoMon

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