The life and words of Martin Luther King Jr. are embedded throughout the city of Atlanta (and beyond), where I live. I love the idea of volunteering to honor his lifelong work by helping others on MLK Jr. Day. The social challenges that sparked this Pastor’s passion for peace are complex and difficult for some of my students to understand. With my younger students, I like to focus on the concept of why we should help others. It fits beautifully into a social thinking framework of taking someone else’s perspective, thinking about how our actions and words make someone else feel and the value of doing something kind for another person, without expecting anything in return.
At first glance, these are pretty big social concepts, right? However, when you look at Dr. King’s vision and the words of his sermons, you will see the essence of his message is to love and accept other people. A big part of being able to do this is to be able to think about how other people might feel and think, in relationships to our words and actions. In order to talk about this concept, we break big picture ideas into scaffolded steps, like this helping hand wreath.
I found these great free clip art hands from Teacher’s Clipart on TPT. I printed them, cut out the shapes, and then let my kids pick a hand. Your students can also trace their hands on construction paper and cut them out too for an ink saving version with a fine motor bonus. Add to the lesson with Readworks , a free website that has many articles at different comprehension levels/grades that help us talk about MLK in the context of history and social change like this second grade passage with great pictures. It is important to talk about why we honor someone, what that looks like and how helping other people can do this.
Next, I ask the kids to think of a way they can help someone and we talk about the idiom “give someone a hand”. They can then write or draw how they can help someone on their paper hand. It doesn’t have to be formal volunteering, it can be as simple as bringing the garbage can in for an elderly neighbor, holding the door open for someone or picking up your room without your mom asking you to do it. The object is for their actions or words to help someone (and in turn that person will have good thoughts and feelings about them)! It can even be a “secret mission” as the point is not recognition for a good deed or even telling others what you did, but that doing for others makes us feel good too. They often come back and share how it went and it is a great time to connect how their actions and words made other people feel. I hope this activity lights a tiny flame of altruism that they carry throughout their lives and effects positive social change for them too.
How do you teach the bigger concepts of kindness and service? Share here…