Box 1

Box 1

Box 2

Box 2
Character Education

Box 3

Box 3
Digital Learning

A Lesson for MLK Day

An oldie but a goodie, in my opinion. Back in case you missed it! It's January, and our annual celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is just around the corner. Martin Luther King Day has not always been a national holiday, and during all the years when school districts were sorting through whether they would observe by having school or by not having school, Dr. King's family has always reminded us to "Make it a day ON, not a day OFF."

So what are you doing in your classroom to commemorate the life of this American legend? In case you are still looking around for a few ideas to add to your lesson plan, here are some you might like. The Martin Luther King unit has always been my favorite one to teach because it reaches my students at their core. I love watching them search deep inside of themselves for who they are and what they stand for, and then find a way to share that with all of us. Isn't that just what Dr. King did: reach deep inside himself to find what really mattered and then try to share it with the world?

Of course, my fourth graders know about the "I Have a Dream" speech long before they reach their year with me, but not many are aware that Dr. King carefully chose the Lincoln Memorial as the place to deliver that speech and why. The second line of this speech begins, "Five score years ago...", referring to the Gettysburg address, which of course begins, "Four score and seven years ago...", referring to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Wait.... What's going on here...could there be some connection across time and history between people who tried to make things better for all of us? Of course there was. Here's the sequence I present to my students:

1. Read the Declaration of Independence together. (You can even do a CLOSE READ of it if you must!)
2. Discuss how the Declaration was kind of like a letter from the Founding Fathers to England that "This is how it's going to be around here from now on."
3. Read the Gettysburg Address together. I use a beautifully illustrated picture book for that reading by Abraham Lincoln, of course, but with illustrations by Michael McCurdy.
4. Discuss how the Gettysburg Address was really a letter from Lincoln to the Founding Fathers on how it was going 87 years after the signing of the Declaration.
5. Next we get to the famous Dream speech. There are so many illustrated versions of this speech. Wasn't this speech meant to be a letter informing President Lincoln that we as a people had not really come as far along as his vision  for us?  That's precisely why it was delivered right in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.

For children (and many of their teachers!) who were not here when the Civil Rights Movement was happening, when Dr. King made his speeches, or when he was assassinated, I have found this sequence to be a pretty effective way of placing King Day in its proper historical perspective.

To add personal meaning to each child, I challenge my students to write a letter to Dr. King, telling him how we're doing today as the beneficiaries of his dream. How is that vision working for each of us?

My complete lesson plan, which adds a craftivity, poetry, literature and video resources, along with student samples and a rubric which makes grading a snap, is available by clicking here:

You might also like this free download to keep the love flowing through Acts of Kindness the rest of the year:

Who will make the difference to finally bring peace to all of us? Those sweet children sitting in all of our classrooms right now! The dream lives as long as people believe in it and believe that their actions will make a difference!

Artwork at the top of this page by Maya, one of my sweet students, keeping the dream alive!

For more teaching ideas for this month, be sure  to check out the other blogs of Teacher Talk!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

One Heart

Sitting here at the doorstep of a brand new decade, I can feel the faint stirrings of love in the air. I'd like to suggest that we fan those tiny flames within our classrooms in this new year. Bringing love back into our hearts, or nurturing it if it is already there, is also a sure way to the classroom management system of your dreams. No need for a fancy-dancy management plan if love for all members of the community is shared. Kids who care about each other share respect and act with kindness. It all goes hand in hand. "Come on people now, smile on your brother. Everybody get together. Try to love one another right now." (Youngbloods 1967) Still true. Still needed.

My podcast group is talking about kids' books with a theme of love this week. Soooo many books for kids have an underlying theme of love, from Granny Torelli's love for Rosie that helps to mend her friendship with Bailey (Granny Torelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech) to the love shown by all her classmates when Marilyn falls ill with cancer in The Lemonade Club by Patricia Polacco. Endless books in between. I began my search with picture books, looking for one that might be new on the scene since I left the classroom, and discovered a gem! Scribble Stones by Diane Alber is a great way to share some some love. In this book, a little river rock type of stone (named Stone, appropriately! Hahaha!) is looking forward to his life, hoping to make a difference in the world. Not only is he the very last one left on the rock pile, but his fate seems to be that of a paperweight. Stone's course changes when some scribbles and splatters happen by and use up all the paper that Stone is holding down. Stone invites them to decorate him as well! Other stones somehow become aware of this art happening, and show up on the desk. The newly artful stones become gifts and are shared around the world to inspire creativity and to share love and kindness. Love love love! IMO, there is absolutely nothing on the earth that can't be improved by adding in the arts.

Just as when I was lesson planning for my Rainbow City students, looking for connections to this read-aloud text sent me down another long rabbit hole. Bob Marley's "One Love" was playing on a loop in my brain. I started to search on YouTube for a classroom worthy clip to share, and stumbled upon picture books written by Marley's daughter, Cedella. She has changed the words to be meaningful to young children, but retained the theme: As humans we share one love and one heart. The colorful illustrations jump off the page and into your heart. I bought the book on Kindle, and love it! You can also use this Youtube link to see the book. One Love by Cedella Marley .  A beautiful rendition of this song performed by artists all over the world can be found here: One Love Song Around the World .

All these thoughts of love, art, and music makes me think about the Art Abandonment Project. It's a great way to integrate the arts and share the love in your classroom, school, and community. I've created a resource that you can use in your classroom to start with rocks. Expand from there with all sorts of art. The sky's the limit!

Some questions that you can use to focus a discussion about sharing love in the classroom are:
How can making art, sharing art, and acts of kindness spread love?
How are art and love related?

Come on people now! Hope you'll try some of these ideas in your classroom! Listen to our podcast We Teach So Hard for more ideas on sharing books about love, and check out the blog posts of my podcasting friends below!
Wishing you all the best that life and teaching have to offer as we step together into the next decade!

For more lit suggestions and teaching ideas from my podcasting buddies, be sure to check out the posts below:
(Clockwise, from top left:)
One Heart  // Rainbow City Learning
Showing Our Love // Tried & True Teaching Tools

Love is in the Air/ Wild Child’s Mossy Oak Musings