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Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday in the Library

Another lesson from the library!

For those of you not staying home with Snow Days (two in a row!  Very strange for MS!) it’s time to think about Martin Luther King Jr. Day (henceforth MLK Jr.)!  Since we have just started back to school, it was easy to link the new year– what you want to do new, different, or better in 2011– with the qualities that MLK Jr. strove to exemplify during the Civil Rights Movement.  I read A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr., by David A. Adler (he writes the Cam Jansen series as well as a bunch of wonderfully straightforward biographies about many famous Americans) aloud.

Then we talked about what sort of characteristics MLK Jr. wanted us to have– courage, honesty, a sense of fairness and justice, nonviolent solutions.  I told them that MLK Jr. stood up for what was right even though he was in great danger.  And even though you and I are not in danger, we still have to show courage to stand up for what is right in our everyday lives.

Then I did two short exercises that I got from a copy of the “Do Something: Kindness and Justice Challenge 2004” that we have in the library.  First I explained that I was going to read four short little scenarios that happened to a boy named Christopher.  (If there was a Chris in the class, it was so funny to see the whole class point and say, “You?!”  So then I started prefacing the exercise by saying, “Christopher doesn’t go to this school, but he’s a real boy.”  If they think it’s real, they seem to be more impressed.)  If they thought that Christopher showed courage during the story, then they would do an action that I would tell them at the end.

Here’s what I read:  Christopher’s Courage

Story #1: One day at school Christopher saw some big kids on the playground picking on a new student.  Christopher was scared of the big kids but he didn’t think it was right for them to pick on the new student.  Christopher went up to the big kids and told them to stop picking on the new boy.
If you think Christopher was courageous, clap your hands three times!  (Question: How was Christopher brave?  He stood up to the big kids.)

Story #2: Christopher rode the bus to school every day.  One day he made a mistake and got on the wrong bus.  He looked around and saw that he was in a neighborhood he had never seen before.  He got a little scared.  He asked the bus driver to help him find his school.  The bus driver helped him by driving him to his school.  Christopher got to school on time.
If you think Christopher was courageous, wave your arms in the air! (Question: How was Christopher brave?  He asked for help when he was scared.)

Story #3: One day Christopher was walking home with his friends.  His friends wanted to stop by the candy store.  When Christopher told his friends that he didn’t have any money, one of his friends said that it was easy to just steal some candy and no one would notice. (This sentence elicits a lot of “Ooooohhh”s)  Christopher told his friend that he thought stealing was wrong and he wouldn’t go to the store with him.
If you think Christopher was courageous, stand up and sit down two times! (Question: How was Christopher brave?  He stood up to his friends… usually I say a little something here about how sticking up to your friends can be the hardest thing to do because you still want them to like you but you have to do what’s right.)

Story #4: Christopher didn’t like to sit alone at lunchtime.  But when he got to the school cafeteria, all the seats near his friends were taken.  He saw an empty seat next to a boy and girl he didn’t even know.  Christopher went up to them and asked if he could sit there.  They said yes.  Christopher sat down and ate his lunch.
If you think Christopher was courageous, snap your fingers three times! (Question: How was Christopher brave?  He made new friends.)

The kids liked moving around a bit and talking about being brave.  Plus, I got to throw in a quick synonym lesson with courage and  bravery.

Next, I read a little story called “On the Kindness and Justice Trail.”  I won’t put the whole thing here, but it’s a short story about a girl named Trina who walks around her neighborhood trying to catch people doing good things.  I have the students close their eyes while I read to imagine each thing that Trina witnesses.  After reading, I ask different students to describe what Trina saw in three different situations– the candy store owner giving a nickel to the boy who didn’t have enough money to buy the candy he wanted, a group of girls who tease a girl in a wheelchair until one girl stands up to her friends and includes the girl, and a group of boys who accidentally break a window with their basketball and have to decide what to do next.  Whether or not kids in real life would choose to do the easy thing or the right thing, kids love black-and-white situations with easy right-or-wrong answers.  Although the story was a bit didactic, it was actually a big hit.

All of that talking took about 30-35 minutes, and then there was about 10 minutes left over for doing a craft.  I had a few different crafts on hand… some I chose for certain grades or classes, and then I offered all of them during Club day.

Here are three great crafts for MLK Jr. Day:

(1) Arms of Peace

Arms of Peace... hard to see in this pic, sorry

This is really cute!  All you need is a strip of construction paper, a piece of computer paper, glue, and crayons.  Fold the computer paper in half, trace your hand, and cut out two hands (students can color the hands to match their skin color if they wish).  Glue one hand at either end of the strip of construction paper.  Fold the strip so the hands overlap in the middle.

See, it's like a hug!

On the inside, write “Peace begins with me.”

Then decorate the arms to look like the arms of a shirt.

(2) Chain of Friendship

This is really simple.  Sometimes when our discussion left little time for crafts, I would do this whole-class.  All you need a strips of different colored paper and glue or staples.  Write an act of friendship on each strip and add it to the chain.  Student suggestions were “Be fair,” “Don’t argue,” “Share,” “Pick up litter,” etc.

(3) Dream Mobile

Supplies: Construction paper, white paper, hole puncher, yarn.  On a square of construction paper, write “I Have a Dream.”  Punch three holes at the bottom.  Cut out three clouds from the white paper.  On each cloud, write a dream “For my School,” “For my Community,” and “For my World.”

Punch holes in the top and tie the yarn from the cloud to the top of the mobile.  Voila!

(4) Peace Quilt

Last year, we gave each student a small white square of paper and they drew a situation with a peaceful solution, like “Wait in line for the water fountain.”  Then at the end of the day, with about 200 squares from four classes, we glued them on a huge sheet of butcher paper and hung it out in the hallway.  I don’t have a picture, but the students loved looking at the “quilt” in the hallway and picking out their square.

These craft ideas have the approval of about 800 students, give or take a few 😉


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