Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is more than a lesson; it’s a hands-on experience in history and hope. I’m thrilled to share 5 Creative MLK Day activities that capture the essence of Dr. King’s vision. These are perfect for sparking meaningful conversations and insights. And keep an eye out—there are some Martin Luther King, Jr. Day freebies waiting for you at the end of this post. Let’s transform learning beautifully and make this MLK Day memorable!
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“Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15th, 1929-April 4, 1968)
Help! I Need Some Creative MLK Day Activities This Year!
It’s hard to believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was just established as a federal holiday in 1986.
Even though that wasn’t too long ago, many teachers and parents scratch their heads thinking of creative MLK Day activities each year.
This begs the question: Has teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. become redundant and out-dated for schools?
Does his mission for equality and unity seem out-of-touch now?
His message of acceptance is needed just as much today as when he spoke it decades ago.
My heart breaks over the hate and division that still exists in our world today. Our kids definitely experience it as well.
Now more than ever, schools and teachers need to resist watering down Dr. King’s message and commit to teaching Black History accurately.
With all of that in mind, here are some creative ways that you can celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. in your classroom this year.
1- Celebrate MLK Day with Meaningful Books
One creative, yet meaningful, way to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in your classroom is with read-
Incorporating creative MLK activities in your classroom SHOULD not equal teaching history inaccurately.
It is important that all students know the truth about the systemic racism that Dr. King courageously stood up against.
There are some amazing picture books and chapter books detailing Martin’s life and purpose.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Read-Alouds to Try:
- Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport This book not only reviews Dr. King’s fight against racism, but it also focuses on the importance of words we use to talk about racism.
- I Am #4: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Grace Norwich I love how this entire book is written in present tense, first-person as if Martin is telling his own story!
- If You Lived at the Time of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. by Ellen Levine This book turns into a great MLK Day Interview activity because of its question-and-answer format.
- My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III Students will really enjoy hearing about Dr. King from his son’s perspective. This is another meaningful MLK Day read-aloud for any classroom
2-Complete the “Our Words Matter” Social Media Writing Activity for MLK Day
Since I teach upper elementary kids, I especially want to them see how Dr. King’s words apply to how they treat each other online.
Online hate, text-messaging attacks, and cyber-bullying are huge distractions to learning AND they are causing more and more division.
So I include a lesson plan for MLK Day that encourages students to think of ways to show kindness. Especially through online communication and social media.
Not only does it celebrate Martin’s life and legacy, but it also shows students how to apply his teachings to their lives right now.
Plus, it gets them writing, which is something I am always weaving into our activities.
3- Read Martin’s Big Words–A Creative MLK Day Writing Activity
Another one of the creative MLK Day activities I use in the classroom is a word collage writing craftivity.
I usually kick off this reading and writing activity with the children’s book Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport.
The book also has beautiful collages on every page that focus on why Martin’s words were “big.”
After reading it together, students create their own word collage on colorful card stock.
Then they will use cut-outs of words typed in different fonts or words from magazines depicting their chosen word.
This MLK Day resource is also helpful for younger students who may not be able to write full paragraphs.
Teachers can even incorporate this creative MLK Day activity without much prep time and it can be used for distance learning as well.
4-Use Plickers to Review and Learn More About Martin’s Life
In addition to the ideas above, teachers can also use Plickers to creatively teach students about the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you’ve visited this blog before, you probably know about my deep love for Plickers. I have an entire post dedicated to ideas for how to use them in your classroom HERE.
I definitely use Plickers for my K-W-L (Know-What to Know-Learned Today) as one of my creative MLK Day activities.
Not only are Plickers really easy to use, but they also give students a chance to review and learn new facts using technology in the classroom.
Plus, it allows teachers to quickly assess what students know about Dr. King.
Ways to Review Dr. King’s Life Without Technology
Reviewing Dr. King’s life with technology enhances your lesson. However, it’s not the only way you can creatively see what kids already know.
Bust out your trusty anchor chart to create a word map with students.
Divide them into small groups and glue or draw a picture of Dr. King in the center. Then have students write facts about him around the picture.
Not only does it make a great lesson warm-up, but you also help stimulate classroom discussion about other aspects of the civil rights movement.
In fact, creative MLK Day activities like this seamlessly transition into other Black History Month lessons as well.
5- Excite Students with a Martin Luther King Jr. Mystery Pictures Biography Activity
Finally, another one of my favorite creative MLK Day activities is to have students complete a Mystery Pictures reading activity on Dr. King’s life.
Mystery Pictures is a Google Slides activity that shows real-life images from Dr. King’s life that have been taken apart and scrambled up.
Here’s How Digital Mystery Pictures Work:
- Read informational text about Dr. King, which is included on the Google Slides.
- Then they will answer questions related to the reading.
- As students correctly answer each question, they will also solve the “mystery picture,” which is an image from Dr. King’s life.
These mystery pictures keep students motivated to read about Dr. King’s life because they need the information in order to answer the questions that solve the “mystery.”
This creative MLK Day activity is especially helpful for schools that are using distance learning.
What Are Other Ways to Celebrate MLK Day in the Classroom?
Dr. King’s dream reshapes our world every day, and in the classroom, we get to keep that dream alive! Here’s how you can celebrate MLK Day with your students:
- Kick off with storytelling: Share stories of Dr. King’s life using a free slideshow or video from online.
- Create a mural: Encourage students to draw scenes depicting their dreams for a better world, inspired by Dr. King’s famous speech.
- Pen letters to living heroes: Have students write to people who embody the spirit of Dr. King’s teachings doing advocacy work today.
- Host a classroom poetry slam: Students can express their hopes and dreams through spoken word. This works really well for older kids!
- March on history: Conduct a mini-march around the school to honor Dr. King’s marches for justice.
Each activity isn’t just a task; it’s a step towards building a community that cherishes equality and bravery, just as Dr. King did.
FREE MLK Activities
Here are two FREE classroom resources you can use to have a meaningful, but also fun Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration in your classroom this year.
Each of these freebies can also be used in lots of ways. Just click each image to download.
There’s no need to enter your email address to access these freebies, but I would love to have you join our VIP Teacher community through email.
I hope these ideas and resources help you celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in meaningful way.