Martin Luther King Jnr.

Every year, the third Monday in January marks Martin Luther King Jnr. Day, which has become a day of national celebration in the United States of America.

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In class the past week, I have been focusing on Martin Luther King Jnr. to highlight his great legacy and why he is so important. I really enjoy teaching students about Martin Luther King Jnr. and the Civil Rights Movement in History at Senior Level and in Religious Education as a hero of faith. He is a fantastic example of a moral, visionary leader who was deeply committed to achieving social justice through nonviolent means.

For anyone who may not be familiar with the life or works of Martin Luther King Jnr. ; he was a Baptist minister and social activist, who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968.

His iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is perhaps the most famous and well known speech of all time.  It was delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. You can view a copy of the speech here.

If you were teaching students about this speech they might have heard it already in the song by Bakermat – One Day (Vandaag) which was a huge summer anthem in 2014. It has clips from his speech and images throughout the song which could be a good introduction to the topic of Civil Rights/ Martin Luther King. You could also ask the students to comment on how times have changed from the time Martin Luther King was alive until the present day.

You could ask students to complete a personal narratives for their own ‘I Have A Dream’. There are a range of templates and ideas available for FREE at K12 Reader. Additionally, there is a host of activities and assessments including Cloze tests available at Activity Village.

What I found most interesting and what the majority of students could relate to was the portrayal of Martin Luther King’s speech on Monday on popular social media application, Snapchat. Snapchat is a video messaging application where users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. The ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was depicted on Snapchat’s Discover feature and highlighted the powerful words of Martin Luther King on the day of his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

It also featured citizens and celebrities saying ‘I Have a Dream’ followed by what they hoped for in the world. The Snapchat Discover feature is one of the quickest ways to share stories around the world for 24 hours to a global audience.  You can watch the full 3 minute ‘I Have a Dream’ Snapchat story here in case you missed it. Students loved this in class and wanted to write about what they took from the ‘story’ on Snapchat. Some questions to ask a class about this could be;

  • What did you like about this speech?
  • What did you find different/similar to the speech and the present day?
  • Are there any issues we are still fighting for today?
  • Why did Snapchat promote this day?
  • What way would you celebrate the life of Martin Luther King?

There are also excellent teaching resources on Martin Luther King available on the Dublin Diocese website here. The resources include PowerPoint and Prezi presentations, Scavenger hunts, educational clips and activities.

If you are teaching about Martin Luther King, the app store for both iPhone and Android is a fountain of FREE resources. The apps include a daily quotes app, his speeches, a Go Explore app where you can virtually visit the places Martin Luther King Jnr visited, an app for flashcards for assessing the topic, and an app on civil rights. There are so many too choose from and you won’t be stuck!

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Another idea is to have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device class) where students bring in their own devices for the lesson. This could be the case right across the curriculum for activities ranging from basic research to peer assessment. This approach is definitely up to the school, the class teacher and their Internet policy.

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You can also visit the Twitter handle @MartinLutherKingQuotes for any quotes from Martin Luther King or perhaps using these quotes for a class project.

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I love this topic and I am always looking for more ideas for teaching about this great man! I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. As always, let me know what you think 🙂

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