“I Have a Dream”: Lesson Plans for MLK Day

MLK Day is almost here and we’ve gathered up some meaningful ways to remember the extraordinary man who inspired this holiday. From the “I Have a Dream” speech to inspired found poetry, here’s how to explore Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy with students of all grade levels.

Elementary school

“I have a dream today.” Introduce younger students to King’s most famous speech with this activity where, after listening to the audio recording, students use a fill-in-the-blank worksheet to write their own speeches that imitate King’s. Students can recite their finished speeches to the class and share their own dreams for the future. You can read about the full lesson plan here. For another active learning opportunity, try out IXL’s skills about King for grade 2 and grade 3, which you can use as a flipped learning lesson or to test students’ knowledge after they’ve learned about King.

Middle school

“We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.” King was a prolific writer and speaker, with many inspiring and thought-provoking quotes. Let your students flex their own literary muscles with this lesson plan where students create found poems based on King’s 1968 obituary published in The New York Times. You could also give students a collection of King’s quotes (examples here or here) and ask them to analyze the quotes for literary and rhetorical devices.

High school

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” High school students can examine the impact of King’s policy of nonviolence with this lesson plan on how rapper Common and writer Walter Dean Myers have reinterpreted the concept of nonviolence in their own works. Students connect King’s ideas for conflict-resolution with Common’s song “A Dream” and Myers’s short story “Monkeyman.” And, resources like this timeline of the Civil Rights Movement can help your students understand the broader historical context.