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African American History, Civil Rights Movement, African American, Social Studies through Literature, Leadership and Responsibility, Prejudice and Tolerance Experiences, Politics



Autobiography and Biography, General Nonfiction, Multicultural

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Weston Woods
For 50 years Weston Woods Studios has been the principal innovator in the translation of picture books into the audiovisual media. Our adaptations are faithful reflections of classic children's picture books designed to motivate beginning, struggling, reluctant and limited English language proficient readers to WANT to read.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Discussion Guide

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tell the life story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in simple words and luminous pictures. It also introduces children to Dr. King's teachings about nonviolence. Throughout the book, key words from Dr. King's teachings appear as part of the art. At the beginning of the story, young Martin is reading a "White Only" sign in his hometown. Martin grows up, becomes a preacher and studies the writing of Mahatma Gandhi. He puts his ideas into practice at the Montgomery bus boycott and other civil rights demonstrations. He speaks to the nation, and more and more people listen to him. The book ends with some of the "big words" for which Dr. King is remembered: peace, love, freedom, together and dream.


  • Children will read the biography of a great American.
  • Children will learn why we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Children will identify key words in Dr. King's teachings on nonviolence.

Before Reading Activities

Ask children to identify Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to share what they know about him. Make a list of their responses. You might add local reference points, such as streets, schools or buildings named for him. Introduce the title of the book and explain that the big words they will read are the big ideas Dr. King wanted people to follow.

After Reading Activities

Children may feel saddened or upset after reading because of how Dr. King died. An effective way to handle this is to have a moment of silence in memory of Dr. King, and then talk about the ending statement, "His big words are alive for us today." Encourage students to share what they think Dr. King's words mean in our everyday lives.

Connect the reading to writing by asking children to read again and copy all the big words they read. Have them use these words in sentences, paragraphs and essays. If you have students who speak languages other than English, encourage them to translate the words into their own languages and share them with the others.

Connect the story to art by making a bulletin board or mural illustrating Dr. King's "big words." Encourage students to draw or photograph scenes from their everyday lives that illustrate these ideas. One effective idea is to arrange photos and small drawings so that they form huge letters.

Connect the reading to history by having children make a timeline of the important events in Dr. King's life. Timelines are especially effective with teams. Have one team construct the timeline, another team add the events of Dr. King's life and a third team add the major events that happened in American history during his life.

Related video programs available from Weston Woods include:

Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, ill. by Brianm Collier

Amazing Grace, by Mary Hoffman, ill. by Caroline Binch

Duke Ellington, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, ill. by Brian Pinkney

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of A Vocal Virtuosa, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, ill .by Brian Pinkney

Ellington Was Not A Street, by Ntozake Shange, ill. by Kadir Nelson

Whitewash, by Ntozake Shange, ill. by Michael Sporn

Yo! Yes?, by Chris Raschka

For Public Library sales call 800-243-5020 / For School Library sales call 800-621-1115

This guide may be photocopied for free distribution without restriction.

Copyright 2008 Weston Woods.

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