Author Archive for Samantha P.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The following resources are appropriate to help teach third graders about the contributions Martin Luther King, Jr. made to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States (Virginia Social Studies SOL 3.11 b).  Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Martin became a minister after graduating from Morehouse College.  His charismatic speeches from the pulpit garnered much attention, and he was asked to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  From then on, King was an influential leader in the Civil Rights Movement until his assassination in 1968.  The non-violent ideals that Martin espoused, and the dream of equality that he propagated live on through his legacy.

Relevant Children’s Literature


Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Written by Bonnie Bader
Illustrated by Nancy Harrison

This beginner chapter book is punctuated by beautiful black and white pictures on each page.  Spanning Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life from birth to death, the book is divided into chapters based on aspects of his life.  These chapters can individually be read and understood if there is not enough time during class to read the entire book.  Perfect for a strong third grade reader who wants to delve more deeply into King’s life, the last chapter of the book even talks about King’s legacy after his death, and the lives of his wife and children.  Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?  is very well organized, and the time line in the back of the book will further help students to arrange the details of King’s life in their minds.


Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Written by Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated by Bryan Collier

“He said “together” when others said “separate”. He said “peace” when others said “war”(p. 9).”

Martin’s Big Words is not about the long vocabulary words that Martin Luther King, Jr. used in his speeches.  Rather, the book emphasizes the words that encompass the big concepts that King stressed through his leadership and oration.  These concepts include, “together”, “love”, “freedom”, and “peace”.  The actual print in the book is typed with different fonts and sizes, highlighting some of the important concepts. More impactful than the changing fonts, the beautiful illustrations set the tone of the book.  Created by using a mix of collage techniques with original drawings, the illustrations catch the feeling of the era.


If A Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks
Written and Illustrated by Faith Ringgold

Martin Luther King, Jr. became a Civil Rights leader when he was asked to direct the Montgomery Bus Boycotts.  However, the Boycotts would never have occurred if it had not been for the courageous stand of Rosa Parks, who refused to get to the back of the bus.  Marcie is a little girl waiting for her school bus, when a talking bus pulls up to the stop instead.  Boarding the talking Cleveland Avenue Bus, Marcie embarks on an adventure to learn about the life of Rosa Parks, and the 381 day boycott that initiated Martin Luther King, Jr. into the Civil Rights Movement. With beautiful pastel pictures, If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks, whimsically describes Parks and the important stand she took.


Martin Luther King, Jr.
Written by Mary Winget
Illustrated by Tim Parlin

Using a mixture of primary source pictures and drawings, Martin Luther King, Jr. is a very accessible biography for elementary students.  The primary photographs accurately show what the world looked like to King.  Students are shown pictures of him attending a birthday party as a child and giving speeches as an adult.  Such pictures help to bring King alive to students who never saw him during their lifetime.  The drawings help take complicated concepts and simplify them by enacting the concepts through the artwork.  The drawings and pictures enhance this biography that extends from Kings life to his life’s work.  Special people and events in his life are highlighted and explained in separate sections, such as a page on Ghandi and Rosa Parks.


My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Written by Christine King Farris
Illustrated by Chris Soentpiet

Unlike many books on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., My Brother Martin focuses not on his life as a Civil Rights leader, but on his childhood years.  Written by his eldest sister, the book shows a mischievous but thoughtful young boy growing up the son and grandson of ministers in a world rampant in prejudice.  Children can easily relate to the child that they read about, but the book also paints a picture of the injustices of segregation from a child’s point of view.  Particularly moving, and often cited as the catalyst that made King so passionate about desegregation, is the vignette when the two white boys that the King brothers play with tell them that they can not play with them anymore because they are black.  All children understand the sting of rejection, making this story extremely powerful.

Relevant Websites for Students

 “I Have a Dream” Speech

This YouYube video begins with pictures from the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, overlaid by the spiritual song, “We Shall Overcome.”  In only seventeen minutes, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers the most important speech of his life, and inspires millions to share his dream of equality for all.   Students should hear the cadence of his voice, and will feel like they are on the front seat of history as they see and hear this famous leader talk.

Rags to Riches

When you play Rags to Riches, for every answer you get correct about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr., you will advance to the next level of the game.  Just like the television game show, I Want to be a Millionaire!, this game has helpful hints that you can use if you choose, and each level you play is for a certain amount of money.  The amount increases incremently until you reach 1 million dollars.   If a student does get a question incorrect, the correct answer is shown, and this way students will be playing a game, and learning new facts about King.  A wonderful review of King’s life, the fun game allows you to start over as many times as you need until you become a millionaire!

 The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. is an online comic book starting at King’s birth and continuing until his assassination in 1968.  The colorful and provocative comic book is especially interesting because students have the opportunity to begin imagining what King was thinking throughout his life.  While it is impossible to know King’s actual thoughts, the thought bubbles that float above his head throughout the comic let students imagine what he could have been thinking.  In truth, this is the same as imagining his motivations, and helps to create empathy for his cause by having students put themselves in his place for awhile.

 Martin Luther King, Jr. Quiz

This quiz, created by the Seattle Times, gives students the opportunity to test their knowledge of Martin Luther King, Jr..  Unlike most online quizzes that just tell you the answers after you submit your guess, this quiz goes one step further.  After you submit your answer, a dialogue box comes up with the correct answer, and a short explanation of the answer.  This deepens understanding and and allows students to understand why or why not their submission was correct.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Time Line

Created by students, this time line is a slide show, in chronological order, of the important events in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr..  Each slide has the year across the top, a short description of the event at the bottom, and a picture created by students describing the caption.  All of the slides are signed by the pair of students who created them.  Students will love seeing a product created and published completely by other students!

Helpful Resources for Educators

Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Before teaching a subject, it is important to delve into the material and become as informed as possible with the content.  This biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. is from the Official Site of the Nobel Prize.  As a Nobel Prize recipient, King has a biography on their site that details the work that led to his awarding and acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Printable

Perfect for morning work, or as review at the end of the unit, this printable has a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the top for students to color in, and lined space at the bottom for a written response.  The writing could be in response to any number of questions, including a synthesis of all they have learned about King, what they feel his most important contribution was, or what characteristics he had that made him such a charismatic and effective leader.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Online

A one stop website with quotes, speeches, videos, and  pictures of Martin Luther King, Jr. that can be used to supplement any lesson plan, this website is very user friendly and accessible.  One of the most interesting features of the site is that relatable current news items are added to the site regularly.  For instance, President Barack Obama spoke at the Ebenezer Baptist Church a day before the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, and his speech was uploaded to the site.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Lesson Plans

This page provides links and materials with lesson plans and ideas for teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. for kindergarten through fifth grade.  This is a great resource to look for lessons, and to find creative ideas to teach about King.  The top five lessons are listed with a brief description of the lesson and the suggested grade levels to use the lesson with.  When you click on the lesson, a new page appears with the lesson objective, vocabulary, content, and assessment. In addition, lessons of interest from other websites are listed at the end of the page, again with the suggested grade level.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle in the Classroom

The following resources are appropriate to begin teaching first graders to become conscientious environmental advocates (Virginia Science SOL 1.8).  These resources, including pertinent literature and websites for both students and educators, help highlight the potential consequences of poor environmental stewardship and the positive impact that all students can have if they reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Relevant Children’s Literature:


   Michael Recycle

Michael Recycle 
Written by Ellie Bethel
Illustrated by Alexandra Colombo

“There once was a town
Called Abberdoo-Rimey,
Where garbage was left
To grow rotten and slimy.”

So begins the story of a garbage heap of a town that is saved by the surprising presence of a child super hero- Michael Recycle.  Entertaining as well as educational, the presence of Michael, a young boy, as the town’s savior empowers children to believe that they too have the ability to affect a change.  In that vein, the end of the book lists several green strategies everyone can implement.  For example, “Quick and Clean!  Take shorter showers… unless you are really, really smelly.”


Pollution?  No Problem!
Written and Illustrated by David Morichon

Albert believes his invention will make his life easier… that is until it begins seeping a purple goo.  Albert and his friend Henry spend the rest of the book trying to get rid of the goo, but to no avail. Albert tries everything, from burying the goo down deep, to sending it into outer space, but the goo always finds its way back to earth.  The boys quickly learn that when you throw something away, it does not just disappear.  Albert’s journey is a great lead into a discussion about where our garbage goes when we throw it away (a landfill) and the consequences of the improper disposal of trash.


The Tin Forest
Written by Helen Ward
Illustrated by Wayne Anderson

An old man lives alone in the midst of a garbage heap. He dreams of jungles and living animals to keep him company, and finally one day slowly begins to create the jungle of his dreams with the garbage and tin surrounding him.  His tin forest attracts the attention of a real bird, who brings a friend, and a seed.  Slowly, the tin forest makes way for a real wilderness.

A story about imagination and the power of dreaming, The Tin Forest is also a great jumping off point to talk about the power of restoration.  Considered by some to be the fourth “R”, to restore is to take something and bring it back to life.  The old man sees the potential beneath the trash, and his effort restores life to his surroundings.


The Lorax
Written and Illustrated by Dr. Seuss

The Once-ler cuts down all of the Truffula trees, destroying the habitat of such fanciful animals as the Brown Bar-Ba-Loots, Humming Fish, and Swomee Swans.  The Lorax continually tries to “speak for the trees” but is ignored by the Once-ler until it is too late.  All of the animals are forced to travel away, leaving only the Once-ler to preach this cautionary tale about irresponsibly taking with no thought to the environmental consequences.

For more resources on teaching The Lorax, visit Lorax Project.


Recycle Every Day!
Written and Illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

Minna is a young rabbit who is excited to enter a contest at school to create a recycling poster.  The winning poster will be put in the Community Recycling Calendar!  Minna can not decide what to make her poster about, and as she looks around for inspiration, is surprised by all of the little things that her family does everyday to make a difference.  All of these small things add up to make a big difference, causing Minna to create the poster, “Re-re-remember.  Re-re-recycle Every Day!” Using found and recycled objects to create the art for the book, Nancy Wallace shows the students how important it is to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle at every possible opportunity.

Relevant Websites for Students

Michael, Michael, Go Recycle!

I would recommend this fun, age appropriate game as part of a center rotation after a whole class reading and discussion of Michael Recycle.  Although the game is not affiliated with the book, it is a nice extension about appropriate waste disposal, and the positive impact that every student can have on the environment.

The game is a maze, in which the student fights against the clock to collect 10 pieces of litter and then place them in the proper disposal receptacles. Very fun and user friendly!

It’s Not All Garbage!

A very neat quiz, testing students knowledge of how they can dispose of trash, without throwing it away.  There are 30 items, ranging from leaves to a rocking chair, that students must decide to either recycle, compost, give to charity, or put in the trash.  At the end of the quiz, the students are told what answers they did not get correct, and are given the opportunity to try again.

Recycling Zone

Hopefully students will be inspired by the message behind the RRR unit, and will take some of their new found passion home with them.  This website has fun activities that students and parents can do together to begin being more earth friendly at home.  Examples of initiatives are composting and creating recycled paper.

Video of the Lorax

Twenty-five minutes in length, this animated movie of the Dr. Seuss classic incorporates songs (whose lyrics are also written by Dr. Seuss) into the original story line.  An engaging way to show the impactful story in another format, perhaps as a center rotation.

Green Games

The Green Family is all about taking care of the environment.   Watch their informative episodes, or click on this link to play games that reinforce their environmental message! “Lights Out” reminds us to turn the lights out when we leave a room, and “Thrifty Threads” allows you to redesign old clothes to give to charity.

 Helpful Resources for Educators

Recycle City

Before it became Recycle City, it was a disastrously dirty town known as Dumptown.  In order to clean up Dumptown, you need to research several clean up options, and choose the most efficient and cost effective ones to clean up the town.  While the language in this game is far beyond a first grade level, it would be a fun whole class activity to look at each of the options, and discuss the impacts on the town.   The students will enjoy seeing the town clean up before their very eyes as their decisions affect positive change.

Garbage: How Can My Community Reduce Waste?

This website is extremely informative and user friendly, giving background on the nature and disposal of all types of waste, from hazardous waste, to sewage and solid waste.  The website also shows a global prospective, and the importance of sustainability for the future.  This website would be especially helpful to look at before reading and discussing Pollution? No Problem! with a class.

Old CD Case Frames

A fun way to show students first hand the possibilities of reusing.  Ask parents to send in any old CD cases, and you have an earth friendly, and inexpensive project, perhaps for Mother’s or Father’s Day.

Recycle Zone For Teachers

Full of lesson plans and printables to help teach recycling, this website is very easy to navigate and has a wealth of knowledge for educators teaching this unit.