Martin Luther King Day

One of our great American heros who has his own national holiday on Monday  is Martin Luther King, Jr. Every year I read the kids in my classroom a non-fiction big book . It  has pictures depicting the civil rights movement in black and white photos, taken during the time of  King’s peaceful protest era.

It is always amazing to me that the kids are shocked by the unfairness they see in actual primary source photos of the time. When I show them the pictures of “colored bathroom only” signs in the book, or the “blacks sit to the back of the bus” signs, and I ask them, “Do you guys think this is fair?” they always will unitedly chorus in the negative.

Rosa Parks being arrested and fingerprinted for
not giving up her seat on the bus to a white man

The book has pictures of the police using firehoses or dogs on people they think are “out of order” and women shouting at black kids entering the first southern desegregated schools. Nobody in my first grade class thinks these things are right. It still amazes me that adults of that time thought they were.

So I think this little bit of history is important to share. To get kids as young as six thinking about ways to protest things they don’t like, in a peaceful, yet effective way is a good thing. Especially in this era of lawsuits and bullying, and crazy violence.  For kids to see that there are lots of things in this world, run by adults, that still are not fair is important, in my opinion. And to show them that one calm, but focused voice, can help create change. And even kids as young as six can see the differences between things right and things wrong.

So we do a portrait of Dr. King and put it on the bulletin board along with writing projects by the students about  what their “dreams” for the world would be.  It’s always funny to see things like: “I dream that there will be no more bad guys”….and stuff like that.  But it’s good to get kids to synthesize what they learn in a new way. So I do it for that reason.  Hey, world peace isn’t just for the Miss America Pageant you know!

These portraits always turn out really resembling Dr. King.  The key is to model each and every step and explain as you go. Some of them turn out a little comical, like a Mr. Potato Head, but others are really artistic and well done. I can always spot my budding artists by January of each new year.

We memorize this poem and recite it in pairs at week’s end

Here are some of our “Dreams for the World”

Cute pictures too….

They all did a really great job, don’t you think?

When we are about done, I ask the kids to print at the top in Blue or Black crayon or marker: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (I have to teach them what Jr. means, they always want to know). Then we draw a little American flag on a pole on one side of him, and a few little fireworks on the other side. I teach them to do the fireworks just starting with an X and then adding a few, longer criss crosses to the x.  I do them in red and blue. Sometimes we will do the fireworks with red and blue glitter glue.

 It ends up looking like this!  Super cute kid’s art. Some years we do speech bubbles on white paper and I post the best 5 or 6 of them around the portraits. Then underneath we add our “Dream for the World”.  It always turns out to be a nice, patriotic bulletin board for late January going into President’s Day in early February.

Happy Birthday Dr. King! And thanks for making our world a better place, and for teaching us how one voice can change the world.

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