Martin Luther King Jr. — Taking Steps to Change the World

  • Grades: 1–2

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams and accomplishments can be taught to students of all ages. Our community holds a contest for students grades K–12 every year starting in November. The contest includes three areas: art, essay, and poetry. Awards for contest winners are given at a ceremony held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We use this contest as a platform for introducing and integrating many different grade level standards.

To start the unit, we read stories about Martin Luther King. We take those stories and create graphic organizers to show everything we have learned.  Students then use the graphic organizers to create stories, poetry, and inspirational art projects. Let’s get started!



Here are some great book titles for kicking off a Martin Luther King Jr. unit in your classroom:

If You Grew Up at the Time of Martin Luther King by Ellen Beier






My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr.,  by Marion Dane Bauer







Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport






March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World by Christine King Farris






You can get these books from Scholastic if your school or classroom library does not have them.


Graphic Organizers

Use organizers that focus on Martin Luther King Jr.'s dreams, goals, and accomplishments. Make sure you discuss who he is, what he did, and how he changed the world. Use plenty of adjectives that describe his personality and actions. The students will use these organizers as a resource to complete the following tasks.





Acrostic Poems

A simple poetic form for our students to use and understand is an acrostic poem.  Have students write all or part of Martin Luther King Jr.’s name down the side of their paper.  For each letter they simply write a word starting with that letter that describes him or his actions. Students will use the graphic organizers you created in class as a resource.

Variations: Put students in groups of three and have one student work on "Martin," another work on "Luther," and another work on "King." More advanced students can write a sentence starting with that letter.



Our 1st and 2nd graders write mini-essays consisting of about three to five sentences focusing on who he was, what he had, and what he did. Once they have completed their mini-essay, they are given the opportunity to illustrate their writing.


Other Activities

We create a graphic organizer that focuses on realistic dreams we can have for our community, country, and world. Students also enjoy writing down their own dreams for this fun “I Have a Dream” mobile provided by Scholastic Printables. We print them on card stock and hang the finished products from the ceiling throughout the month of January. Check it out!


Taking Steps to Change the World

We close up the unit with one of our favorite activities. For this activity, students trace their shoe on a piece of construction paper and write and complete the following sentence:

I will take steps to change the world by ____________________________.

Students enjoy sharing the steps they will take to make the world a better place.  After discussing their steps, we display them around the room. 


What activities do you have planned for Martin Luther King Jr. Day?



hello ppl im a girl

im doing an acrostis poem for homework ppl

We will discuss MLK, read many books about him and then make a class book called 'I Have A Dream' where each child writes and illustrates their dream for our community, the country or the world. Each child will have the opportunity to bring this book home to share with their family.

BTW, love the step activity! I'm on it!

hi whats ur NAME

Injustice is definitely a concept that children understand. If we had a nickel for every time we heard "not fair!" Martin's Big Words is always a favorite. I also show them the "I have a dream" speech on YouTube (just the last 6 minutes or so where he talks about his dream.) I then have them connect his dream to changes they would like to see in their own community.

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