April 4th, 2018

Ten classroom resources for teaching students about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Social StudiesU.S.U.S. history

April 4, 2018, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The anniversary presents an important opportunity to teach about the history of the civil rights movement and the ongoing effects of racial discrimination in America.

Another key anniversary took place on August 28, 2013, which marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s famed “I Have a Dream” speech.

NewsHour Extra has compiled a list of engaging lesson plans to help teachers take on the many topics surrounding the civil rights movement. Try them out, and let us know how you tackle this important subject in the classroom. You may want to start with this article,  ‘My Dad heard the call to action.’ Gwen Ifill on her father and Martin Luther King.

PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill, who died November 14, 2016, wrote this column on August 28, 2011, on the anniversary of the March on Washington. NewsHour resurfaced it again for the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.

Martin Luther King Jr., gives his “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd before the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March in Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963. The widely quoted speech became one of his most famous.

  1. 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington Basic Resources | Resources – Note: This post is from April 28, 2013, the 50th anniversary of the march.

This resource page includes a quick guide to the March on Washington, an interactive timeline of the civil rights movement and a glossary of terms. Use these to get started on your classroom curriculum.

2. A History of Discrimination and Its Consequences | Lesson Plan

GRADES: Middle and High School

In this lesson, students analyze what “The American Dream” means, and what role racial discrimination may play in failing to attain that dream.

4. 3. A Time for Change | Lesson Plan


GRADES: Middle and High School

Use this lesson plan and interactive timeline to see the sequence of events leading up to the iconic March on Washington, who was involved in the march and what the march hoped to achieve.

5. “I Have a Dream” Speech as a Visual Text | Lesson Plan


GRADES: Middle school

Help your students connect to the rich imagery of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by learning the history of the speech and then illustrating some of its most famous lines in this creative lesson plan.

6. “I Have a Dream” as a Work of Literature | Lesson Plan


GRADES: 9 – 12

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most memorable speech from his life as an activist, “I Have a Dream,” was delivered August 28, 1963 before more than 200,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

7. Racial Equality – How far have we come and how far do we still need to go? | Lesson Plan

GRADES: Middle and High School

Martin Luther King dreamed of an America where people could “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Use this lesson plan to start a discussion in your classroom about where we are on the path to realizing this dream.

8. A Mathematical Representation of the March | Lesson PlanMarch on Washington

GRADES: All grades, and including students with intellectual disabilities

You don’t have to be a civics or English teacher to talk about the March on Washington in your classroom. Use this engaging lesson plan to bring math into the equation, so to speak, with a classroom activity that helps students create a representative population of the march’s attendees.

9. Discrimination – Fair or Unfair | Lesson Plan

GRADES: All grades, and including students with intellectual disabilities. It is designed specifically for students who have difficulty with verbal and written expression.

Make issues of fairness, justice and discrimination personal to your students with this lesson plan, which includes an activity with Dr. Seuss!

10. Leadership at the March through Music and Speeches | Lesson Plan

GRADES: Middle and High School

While Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech became the most famous to come out of the March on Washington, he was by no means to only person to address the massive crowd assembled on the National Mall. Use this lesson plan to look at the other civil rights leaders and orators who spoke that day, and how effectively they conveyed their messages.

11. The March on Washington and Its Impact Lesson Plan

GRADES: Middle and High School

In this lesson plan, students compare King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to other famous texts in American history, including the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. This is a great addition to any speech, English or history class.

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