Martin Luther King Jr. Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Raise the bar in your instruction on Martin Luther King, Jr. with the help of a text lesson. Examine his life's work and some of his famous words, while analyzing civil rights issues.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • explain the life's work of MLK
  • analyze MLK's significance in terms of civil rights issues


30 minutes to 1 hour

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.


Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).


  • Begin by asking students what they know about Martin Luther King, Jr. As the students give you information, write it on the board.
  • Now have students read The Onset of the Civil Rights Movement section of the text lesson Martin Luther King Jr.: Biography, Facts & Quotes.
  • When students have read that section of the text lesson, have them reflect on the MLK quote provided in the lesson (Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase). Ask them to write down what they think MLK meant by this.
  • Now have them share their interpretations with the class and write them on the board.
  • Ask students to read the Young MLK section in the text lesson and again reflect on the MLK quote cited (If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.). Then have them share their thoughts with the class as you write their ideas on the board.
  • Now ask students to read the Early Activism, A Dedication to Nonviolence and The 'I Have a Dream' Speech sections of the text lesson.
  • Once again, ask students to reflect on and share their interpretations of the cited MLK quote as you write them on the board (I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.).
  • Ask students to read the remainder of the text lesson.
  • As a group, have them reflect on and share their thoughts on the final MLK quote cited in the lesson (No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they'd die for.).

Discussion Questions

  • Is MLK's work still visible in modern society? If so, how?
  • What parallels can be drawn between MLK's battles and the events of modern society?
  • Was MLK's dream fulfilled?


  • Show students MLK's I Have a Dream speech and ask them to identify three key points mentioned by MLK. Do these still ring true today?
  • Have students read MLK's letter from a Birmingham jail. What do they think MLK's state of mind was at this time?
  • Ask students to research and report on the events surrounding MLK's assassination.

Related Lessons

The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Origins of Civil Rights: History & Overview

Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

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