Martin Luther King, Jr.


Our Martin Luther King, Jr. lesson plan, students learn about the Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., including his early life, his accomplishments, and his lasting legacy.

This lesson includes an “Options for Lesson” section that lists suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. Students can complete an extra research assignment on a specific event from MLK’s life or create a poster to advertise one or more of the events that MLK helped organize, such as sit-ins, boycotts, or marches. There are numerous ways to add to this lesson!

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What our Martin Luther King, Jr. lesson plan includes

Our Martin Luther King, Jr. lesson plan introduces students to a great Civil Rights leader in the United States. Students are taken on a journey of King’s life and learn about the significance, influence, and impact he had on America during his time as a leader for the Civil Rights movement in America during the 1950s and 1960s. Most students are aware that we celebrate MLK Day in February of each year, but may not know the story behind this incredible role model and leader, and how his words and actions have changed many lives. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to identify Martin Luther King, explain how his fight for Civil Rights changed America, list facts about his life, and discuss his significance in history. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, the only supplies you need are the handouts. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can group students for the activity and copy the handouts.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. For this lesson, there are many options. You can have students do an extra research assignment on a specific event from MLK’s life. Students can create a poster to advertise one or more of the events that MLK helped organize, such as sit-ins, boycotts, or marches. You can also have students create a timeline of King’s life. You can find additional suggestions and options on the Classroom Procedure page of the lesson.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


MLK & The Early Years

This lesson includes five content pages. The first section provides some general information about Martin Luther King, Jr., also known as MLK. Students will almost certainly be familiar with MLK, but will learn some new details about his life, like that he was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929 and that his birth name was Michael King, Jr., which was also his father’s name. He had two siblings and his parents did their best to protect them all from racism.

The next section of this lesson discusses MLK’s childhood and early years. Students will learn that his father fought against racism when MLK was a child, because he believed all people were equal. MLK went to college at Morehouse College—at the age of only 15—and eventually decided to become a minister like his father and grandfather. He did not originally want to be a minister, which made his family upset. A Bible class during his junior year of college changed his mind!

He next attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he got good grades but rebelled against his upbringing. The President of that school encouraged King to use Christianity as a force for good and as a tool for racial equality. He met his wife, Coretta, while studying for his doctorate degree at Boston University. King got married, had children, and became the pastor at a church in Montgomery, Alabama. He also earned his Ph.D.!

A Leader for Civil Rights & Assassination

This section of the lesson details how Martin Luther King, Jr., became a civil rights leader. Students will learn that MLK originally joined the civil rights movement because of Rosa Parks. She was an activist who boarded a bus and refused to give up her seat for a white person. The police arrested and fined her, and that night a group of civil rights leaders, which included MLK, met and planned the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The group chose MLK to lead this protest, because he was young, well connected, and respected by the community.

Students will learn that King became a target because of his involvement with the protest but that the boycott was successful. The Montgomery Bus Boycott resulted in a victory for the Civil Rights Movement. Following the success of the boycott, King and a group of other activists formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was a nonviolent civil rights organization. Over time, Martin Luther King Jr. became a national figure and leader of the civil rights movement. The police arrested him several times for his work. His most notable moment was his I Have a Dream speech, which he gave at the end of the March on Washington, in front of a crowd of 200,000 people! King also received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, though the fight for civil rights continued.

Students will learn, if they do not already know, that a man named James Earl Ray assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968. MLK was 39 years old. We remember him today for his work as a civil rights leader who believed in nonviolent protests and demonstrations to further his cause.

Key Terms

Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:

  • Boycott: a type of protest that involves not using/purchasing a product or service, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • March on Washington: the event that MLK presented his I Have a Dream speech at
  • Racism: discrimination against people based on skin color
  • Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC): an organization of black churches promoting civil rights
  • Sit-in: a type of protest that involves remaining in place at a location
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964: this act authorized the federal government to enforce desegregation of all public places and outlawed discrimination
  • 1965 Voting Rights Act: this act gave African-Americans the same opportunity to vote as all Americans


The Martin Luther King, Jr. lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet. All of these worksheets test the student’s knowledge and understanding of the lesson material.


The activity worksheet for this lesson will require students to work with their group members to review and discuss five different questions/responses. Each group member will have an equal amount of time to share their thoughts on each question and will write those thoughts down. Once students have discussed within their groups, they will share with the class during a class discussion.

Students may also work either alone or in pairs for this activity.


Students will first match the description to the person. For example, they will match “President during MLK’s sit-in arrest in 1960” to “John F. Kennedy”. Next, they will match the description to the place or thing. For example, they will match “Protest involving remaining in place at a location” with “Sit-in”. Finally, they will place ten events in chronological order. These events include “Rosa Parks arrested in Montgomery” and “Civil Rights Act passed”.


For the homework assignment, students will read statements and decide whether they are true or false. They will then read various Martin Luther King Jr. quotes and write down what those quotes mean to them. Their answers will vary.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. No answer key is provided for the activity worksheet as students’ answers will vary. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Biography, Social Studies, Video

State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.7, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.3

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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    MLK Materials

    This was a great resource. It was exactly what I needed to teach my students more about MLK and to provide them with a basis for writing a paragraph about MLK.

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    Very clear and easy

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    Decent, with one glaring typo

    Good overview of his life, but one of the last instances of King's name in the final paragraph is spelled 'Kind'. I appreciated the photographs.

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    Great Content

    I really love the resources that Learn Bright offers to homeschoolers like us. The resources are exceptional.

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    Always great material and activities!