Friday, January 10, 2014

The Montgomery Bus Boycott & A Letter to Dr. King

At my school, classes are in session on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The reason for this is because we take the kids to the MLK Day parade downtown and our school is a part of it! Everyone walks in the parade, sings freedom songs, and carries props that the students made during art class. Since this is my first year here, this will be my first experience with it. I am so excited!

We are holding a presentation at a church down the street. (We are a very small school and do not have an auditorium for things such as presentations) Each class was asked to prepare something to share that is a sort of tribute to Dr. King. 

Quick Background: Right now, I am teaching Unit 3 which is entitled American History and the Struggle for Freedom. I focus on 3 groups that have struggled for freedom throughout our history and even through to today. I start with Segregation (so I can coordinate with the MLK Day parade in January), then we learn about Japanese-Americans from 1941-45, and we end with people with learning disabilities during the 1970's to today.

To get the students to feel connected to Dr. King, and to introduce them to his contribution to The Civil Rights Movement, I started with teaching about the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I have some really amazing books that tell the story in a way that is perfect for 5th graders! One of the books has MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech written with pictures from that time period in the South, and notes on the side that describe what he was speaking about for each section of the speech. (pictured below)

Throughout the reading of the speech I had volunteers read for the class and we watched the last part of his speech on YouTube. The students couldn't believe how many people were there, and they seemed to get a lot out of reading and discussing the speech before watching a part of it. 

Afterwards, we discussed what it might have felt like to be there, and what kind of hope Dr. King instilled in people from his powerful words. Students were then asked to write a letter to Dr. King as if he were still alive. They could thank him for something he did, or tell him something they think he would like to know. 

I took one line from each of their letters to create one big, classroom letter. We will present this at the MLK Day presentation before the school heads downtown to the parade.

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