I have 2 books that I read aloud:
(Click on the picture to see them on Amazon!)
The first thing that I do is get some black, red and white construction paper, along with black, red and white crayons or colored pencils. I have all of the children gather at carpet and I hand out the paper and crayons - making sure that the children with black paper get black crayons, white paper gets white crayons and red paper gets red crayons. I give them the instructions to draw me a beautiful picture while I read to them. At this point, a few smarties might pipe up and say something but I shush them and pretend not to understand.
Once I settle them down again I pick up "Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."
and begin to read it aloud. If you don't have this book, you need it!! It has gorgeous illustrations,the stained glass windows are breathtaking and the story is told so well that one by one the children stop drawing and just sit, so involved in the book! By the end, when Martin Luther King Jr. gets shot, there is usually complete silence for a moment as the children sit in shock, almost disbelieving that it truly happened. There are usually several tears and a lot of angst - we have a discussion on how people don't always agree with each other, but it's important to solve problems peacefully. We talk about the changes that came about because of Dr. King - usually I point out that some of the best friends in the class wouldn't even be going to the same school because they're not the same race.We talk about how we feel about his assassination and his dream. It is truly amazing the way these young children can verbalize how his message touches them and how they're glad that he changed things so we can all go to school together and be friends.
I collect all of the pictures and let everyone calm down a bit. Then I pick up "The Crayon Box that Talked" and read it aloud. It's such a simple story, and yet it really emphasizes how important diversity is - and the students automatically make the connection between Dr. King's story and the crayons! Next I give every child a large crayon to color - they may color it any colors they want to, but I ask that at the tip they draw a self-portrait. Those are usually the best coloring job I'll see all year! The children work really hard to use a bunch of colors and make the crayons unique. Once all of the crayons are colored I display them inside a poster board "crayon box" that says "Mrs Knopf's Crayons" and hang it on our door for everyone to see! Unfortunately, I can't find my picture of my crayon box from last year, but here's an example from site where I found my crayon pattern - I found that making the box from a single poster board and markers was easier than using construction paper - especially since my husband helps make the box each year!
At the very end of the day, just to see if they remember the message of Dr. King, I randomly hand about 1/2 the class a piece of candy. I usually base it on whether they're wearing the same color shirt as I am or some nonsense like that. When the other children ask why they don't get a candy I explain that I'm only giving the candy to children who look like me today - so since I'm wearing a green shirt, everyone who's wearing green can have candy! Someone always starts in about how it's not fair and I let them get ramped up a bit - until eventually someone mentions Dr. King and how he wanted everyone to be treated equally. I ask them what they think we should do and some of the children with candy will volunteer to give share their candy with those without. At this point I give everyone a candy and tell them I was just checking to see if they remembered Dr. King's dream!
I'd love to hear about how your lesson plans in honor of Dr. King!