Celebrating Differences

Talking to first graders about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds me of what is really important about teaching. Our days are filled with learning how to make ten, how to decode words with three syllables, how to punctuate sentences, how to describe changes in matter, how to identify a main idea and so many other "important" skills. These things are all important, but they aren't as important as the lessons we are teaching when we talk about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Teaching children to understand our history and look beyond our differences is more important than any academic objective.  I teach about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. using a variety of children's literature that is informative and age appropriate. My favorite is My Brother Martin, because it teaches little ones what Martin was like as a child. It really helps them understand how his family and experiences shaped him. 

At the beginning of each lesson, we sing this song to the tune of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." I did not create the words to this song, but I wanted to post them in my classroom for students to read them and remember them. (If you know who wrote it, please mention it in the comments- thank you!!) 

We read and talk about Dr. Martin Luther King throughout the week. We do some shared writing and some indpendent writing too!

I also like talking about why people really do have different skin colors. These pages are from National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why, and they describe how melanin levels determine the color of our skin. It teaches children that people with ancestors from very sunny places had more melanin so their skin did not burn as easily in the hot sun. People with ancestors from less sunny places needed less melanin to protect their skin. It also teaches children that skin colors change when you are exposed to the sun and gives them a little experiment to try. 

I created two response sheets for my students to use at our Read and Write center. One asks students to draw MLK Jr. and write his words. The other asks students to draw themselves and write their own dream. I read most of the books the previous week so they can better understand the texts. You can grab both response sheets for free.  

What are your favorite books and activities for teaching about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?


  1. What a great post! I love how you explained to them why we have different colored skin! I was looking for a grade level appropriate lesson for MLK and I've found it. Thank you so much for the freebie!

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words! I think it's important for them to understand what makes skin different shades. I am so glad you found a resource to use in your classroom.

    :) Emily


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