Celebrating MLK, Jr. Day

My third graders were anticipating a lesson on Martin Luther King, Jr. with the day right around the corner and I was too. I wanted to do something different than the typical “he was a civil rights leader and lets listen to his speech”. The lesson didn’t come to me until early in the morning right before it was time for me to run out of the house.

I would teach them about Freedom Songs and the place music had during this time.

We began by reading I Have a Dream: Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. with paintings by Kadir Nelson.

We pulled out important vocabulary words and spoke about their meanings.

Then we watched parts of the speech on youtube.

Oh my gosh, look how many people there are, Ms. Hurley

Yeah…wow. And notice class, no one has a phone in their hands…why is that?

Next, we spoke about how the speech was planned and how Dr. King and his friends wanted to entertain the people so music was necessary. We spoke about how much money they had to use to set up a system just for it to be destroyed by someone who didn’t agree with Dr. King.

We call those people haters, Ms. Hurley

Thank you, haters then.

Finally, we watched  a video of Mahalia Jackson.

You notice how everyone is singing and swaying? You think she’s making the people happy?

We watched Peter Paul and Mary.

Ms. Hurley, which one is Peter?

I am not sure. But at least we know Mary.

Finally, we watched Odetta and lastly, the Freedom Singers.

After that, they were given the following writing prompt: Imagine you are a musician and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked you to sing a song for the March on Washington. What would you sing? Write your own song.

They came up with amazing lyrics and the lesson took more time then I planned because all of them wanted to sing their freedom songs.





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