A Guide to Teaching About Martin Luther King, Jr.: Activities & Discussion Questions

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The activities and discussion questions below can help your students understand the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and reflect on his legacy. Keep reading to access the materials and engage your students.

Classroom Activities About Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is an important historical figure. As you teach students about him, use these activities and discussion questions to teach about King and engage them further.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Activity for High School

Reflecting on King's Speeches

A great way to connect to the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. is to analyze his words. Many of King's words in his famous I Have a Dream speech have been used again and again to reinforce important points, identify progress and room for growth, and inspire us as individuals. In this activity, students take a deeper look at some of King's other speeches.

Materials

  • Video and/or text versions of a few MLK speeches
  • Reflection questions

Activity Directions

Divide students into teams. Provide each team with a text or video version of one of Martin Luther King's speeches. A text version is ideal for analysis, but you may want to provide the video as well so that students can experience the emotion behind his words. Teams should listen and/or read the speech all the way through at least once. Then, ask students to pull five quotes that they find meaningful, poignant, or applicable to their lives or current society. Each student should select one of the quotes the team found to use for a reflective piece (about two - three paragraphs should suffice).

Access more MLK activities for high school students.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr Activity for Middle School

Take a Stand Activity (Individual)

For this activity, students will pick a modern-day issue and write a speech that talks about the issue, why it needs to be fixed and what the world would be like once it was fixed. Students should use the I Have a Dream speech for inspiration. Begin by reading the speech with students and let them listen to the audio. If it fits with your curriculum, encourage students to use figurative and rhythmic language. Students can pick any issue that they are passionate about; some ideas include environmental issues, equality (racial, gender, religious, etc.) or a local community issue.

Click this link for two more MLK activities you can complete with middle schoolers

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Discussion Questions

Questions about King's Life

  • Think about Dr. King's childhood and pick one event from it that you think was most influential on the work he would go on to do in his adult life. What event did you pick and why?
  • Today, one of the most quoted speeches from King is the I Have a Dream speech, which he gave during the March on Washington in August 1963. Looking over the speech, which lines stand out to you the most? Why?
  • One of the first major events that King was involved with regarding the Civil Rights Movement was the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which happened in 1955. Think about King's role in this. Then, look at his role in things like the March on Washington (1963) and Bloody Sunday (1965). How did he change from the first event to later events? What stayed the same about who he was?

Questions about King's Legacy

  • Sadly, King was assassinated in April 1968, when he was only 39 years old. If this had not happened, what do you think he would have done with the rest of his life? How would he have changed the world?
  • In the short term, what was King's most significant impact? What was his greatest impact in the long-term? Justify your answer.
  • What do you think King would say if he saw America today? Why?

Looking for more discussion questions to use with your students? Access them here.

Additional Martin Luther King, Jr. Teaching Resources

Access more classroom activities here:

You can also view this guide for even more resources:

By Jessica Lyons
January 2021
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