"We must constantly build dykes of courage to hold back the flood of fear."
- The Strength to Love, 1963
Inspiration for the Classroom
All Grade Levels
Community service - King strongly believed in volunteering and serving in the community as a way of improving society and giving people a chance to improve themselves. Brainstorm with your students a community service project that they could complete.
Guest Speakers - Invite someone with expertise in another culture to come to class and speak about that culture. The Great Lakes Center for Youth Development has a Diversity Speakers Bureau web page to help you connect with speakers in the region.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for himself, his family and his society. Ask students to express what their dreams are for themselves, their family or school and their town. Students can draw pictures depicting their dream.
Ask students to discuss "fairness." How can we make things more fair?
Reading - Have students read a book or article about Dr. King that is written at an appropriate grade level for them. Discuss words from the vocabulary list. Students could read other books about the period and prepare book reports.
Social Studies - one factor that complicates our understanding of Dr. King's life and the Civil Rights Movement is that in many events are interpreted based on people's opinions. After reading about the Civil Rights Movement ask students to state some ideas about this historical period. Then discuss whether those ideas are "fact" or "opinion." You may also discuss whether some of the ideas include both fact and opinion, and whether or not current political events are influencing people by confusing "fact" and "opinion."
English - Ask students to analyze King's "I Have a Dream" speech. King uses figures of speech, metaphors and allusions to other books and stories. Have students identify the references. (Example: "Five score years ago" is an allusion to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address)
Essay assignment - Give the students choices of Dr. King's quotes to chose from and ask them to write an essay defending their position on agreement or disagreement with the message of the quote. Some examples:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction."
"Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true."
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."