Taking Steps to Make Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream a Reality - Part 1

Monday was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  In honor of Dr. King's legacy, I participated in my district's day of service. Hundreds of volunteers, including school counselors from my district, gathered to work on service projects to support individuals in our community. Together we made MLK day a day ON, not a day off.

In honor of Dr. King's legacy, I wanted to find a lesson that would bring the spirit of acceptance and social justice into the classroom.  I facilitate weekly classroom lessons for students in sixth grade, so I am always looking for engaging lessons. I found some great lesson ideas on the Teaching Tolerance website. I combined aspects of two extension lessons, "Take a Stand" and "Keep Moving Display," from the lesson Dr. King and the Movement. This week, I am facilitating the lesson in the three sixth grade classes.

When students enter my room, I explain that I will be reading three quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and asking them to decide if the quote rang true today.  To prepare for the lesson, I taped an "agree" sign on one side of the room and a "disagree" sign on the other side of the room.  I also printed out quotes to display on the board as I read them.  Below are the quotes I use in the order I read them to students:

“We may all have come on different ships, but we’re on the same boat now.”
–    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
–    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
–    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

After reading each quote, I have students stand up and move to the "agree" side or the "disagree" side.  Once students picked a side, we discussed the quote. I ask students to share with the group why they picked the side they chose.

To make the quotes relevant to school and bullying, I ask students if each quote is true in their school.  Students have very insightful ideas about how students often bully each other because of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, or how they fix their hair and not "by the content of their character."

After our discussion, I ask students to return to their seats so I can give instructions for the second part of the activity.  I read students another quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from a Teaching Tolerance poster I have hanging in my office. The quote is featured below.

“Now I realize that there are those all over who are telling us that we must slow up. … But we cannot afford to slow up. We have a moral obligation to press on. We have our self-respect to maintain. But even more we can’t afford to slow up because of our love for America and our love for the democratic way of life. … We must keep moving. We must keep going.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
From “The Montgomery Story,” an address to the 47th annual NAACP Convention, San Francisco, June 27, 1956.

After reading the quote, I give all of the students a piece of construction paper and ask them to trace their feet.  I explained to students that we were going to "keep moving" by taking steps to make Dr. King's Dream a reality.  After students traced their feet, I instructed them to write "A benefit I receive as a result of Dr. King's legacy is..." on the left foot and "One way I will ensure Dr. King's work keeps moving forward is..."on the right foot. 

I plan to use student's feet to create a display titled "Taking Steps to Make Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream a Reality."

Are you planning any lessons/activities connected to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy this week? Comment below, email me, tweet, or share on the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page!

Danielle is a K-12 Certified School Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and blogger at School Counselor Blog, a place where school counselors share innovative ideas, creative lesson plans, and quality resources.  Contact Danielle via email, follow her on twitter, and become a fan of the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page.

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