As my class and I prepare to celebrate the 85th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are inspired to become active in our communities and look for ways in which we can help others. In our school, like many others, we have participated in food drives for local food banks and raised money to help those affected by natural disasters in the United States and abroad.
In this age of self-absorption or, as I like to call it, “The Focus On and All About Me,” I think it is important to provide my students with a glimpse of what else is going on in the world. On the surface, they would consider the following to be the essential issues in their lives: what’s for lunch, too much homework, and my best friend is not talking to me. I don’t want it to appear that my students are shallow — they are typical sixth graders. I just think that for right now, their world is home/family, neighborhood, and school. But as I ask them to dig deeper, they begin to reveal what’s really on their minds. Bullying, not being accepted by their peers, fitting in, being hungry, and the changes that their bodies are going through as they enter adolescence.
Currently, my students and I are in the process of starting a new unit of study examining social issues and how these issues apply to students their age.This unit of social issues brings to light that there are other concerns going on in the world and that one person can make a difference regardless of age, gender, or nationality.
Over the past few years, we have been encouraged to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday by volunteering in our communities. With this in mind, the mentor text that I will be using with my students is, Martin’s Big Words: The Life Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier. (The illustrations are breathtaking and reminiscent of the late 1950s.)
I love using picture books with my students as a way of reeling them in and getting their brains on fire with ideas. In one of my past posts about a unit I created using the book A Cool Drink of Water, I demonstrated how I use picture books in my classroom. During the read-aloud of Martin’s Big Words: The Life Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., my emphasis will be to get my students to think about how one person can make a difference and how their actions impact the lives of others.
So this is my challenge to my students and to myself as we explore this unit: What can you do to make a positive difference in the world? When you think about it, what a great way to celebrate and honor Dr. King!
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