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MLK: A Guide to Teaching Tolerance

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is around the corner, presenting an opportunity to teach students about character alongside an important time in American history. While teaching King’s lessons of tolerance and respect are lifelong ones, beginning or continuing these conversations in the classroom can be a challenging yet important opportunity.

Start here, with the Teaching Tolerance Project’s list of the do’s and don’ts of teaching about the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Here, you’ll find considerations for teaching students about King’s work through many lenses, including classroom displays, curriculum and discussion.

After planning your approach to teaching tolerance in your classroom, consider one (or all) of the three activities below:

Create a timeline of Dr. King’s life and work.

After listening to a story about his work, students can practice the important skill of sequencing in this activity. Students can work together using visual cues from the story to create an interactive timeline, such as in this lesson from Scholastic. Extend this lesson by mapping the important places from Dr. King’s life, such as in this activity from Education World.

Dig into primary sources.

The National Archives hosts thousands of primary sources electronically, but did you know that they also have a special page dedicated to teachers? If you want to take your students on a tour of the March on Washington or access letters written by King to his family and friends during this tumultuous time, visit the Special Topics and Tools page. Help students make connections to King’s I Have a Dream speech by encouraging them to write about their own dreams, such as in this activity.

Use literature to guide your conversations.

Whether in classroom-wide read alouds or in small group guided reading, literature can prompt meaningful conversation and provide common language for students to discuss challenging topics. Take advantage of these lesson plans from the King Institute, which teach about nonviolent direct action through literature. After learning about nonviolent direct action, encourage students to discuss ways they can model peace at school, home and in the community. Use this flipbook to get them started!

Share your favorite MLK activities → @RocketshipEd

Logan came to Rocketship in 2013 after spending three years in a neighboring district in east San Jose. She learned about Rocketship’s inspired full inclusion model and knew within her first days as a Rocketeer that she was in the right place to influence change for all students. Logan is most inspired by her students who seem to inherently understand that learning can be messy and difficult, but who are willing to jump in headfirst anyway. Logan lives with her husband and her dog in sunny Santa Cruz and spends her extra time playing on the beaches or hiking underneath the redwood trees in her backyard.

Follow Logan on Twitter: @loganjuve

Published on January 11, 2016

Read more stories about: Teacher Experience.