Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.?

In this Remarkable Idea, students will learn about the life of the man who changed our nation, Martin Luther King, Jr., and how his ideologies are still relevant in the classroom, school, and community today.

This activity addresses:

  • Choice making
  • Social skills
  • Cause and effect
  • History
  • Vocabulary
  • Alternative methods of access

What you need:


1. Write the definitions for the vocabulary words on a large piece of paper / whiteboard / chalkboard.
2. Create vocabulary cards for the terms: equality, leadership, selflessness, hope, and community, with symbols and words sized for the All-Turn-It Spinner.
3. Create overlays using the AbleNet Symbol Overlay Maker app.
4. Create a vocabulary board on SoundingBoard app with examples of how they can apply to your community.
5. Record each fact on the Step-by-Step:
“Martin Luther King, Jr. was a civil rights leader, which means he promoted equal rights and treatment among all people.”
“Some words that are associated with Dr. King are: equality, leadership, selflessness, hope, and community.”
6. Record definitions for “timeline” and “boycott” onto TalkingBrix.

What to do:

1. Begin by introducing Dr. King and allow the students to activate the Step-by-Step to share information about Dr. King.
2. Place the vocabulary cards on the All-Turn-It Spinner and have the iPad with SoundingBoard app ready.
3. Allow students to take turns spinning the All-Turn-It Spinner. When a student lands on a vocabulary card, remove it from the All-Turn-It Spinner and have them find the definition either on the board (if they can read) or on the SoundingBoard app. Attach the vocabulary word next to the correct definition on the board. Continue until all definitions are complete.
4. Select a student to be the “Word Whiz” to activate the TalkingBrix for the two remaining vocabulary words: timeline and boycott.
5. Introduce and discuss the timeline of Dr. King’s life. Have your “Word Whiz” give the definition of “timeline.” Draw the timeline on the board so students have a visual representation.
6. When you have finished the timeline, ask students how they feel they can apply Dr. King’s teachings in their community. If students are having a difficult time coming up with examples, allow them to use the SoundingBoard app with the examples you choose.


“Martin Luther King, Jr. was a civil rights leader, which means he promoted equal rights and treatment
among all people.”
“Some words that are associated with Dr. King are: Equality, leadership, selflessness, hope, and


Equality: The quality or fact of being equal. The same.
Leadership: Leading or being in charge. A guide.
Selflessness: Devoted to the well-being of others.
Hope: A belief that things will turn out for the best.
Community: A group of people sharing common characteristics, interests, or leading a common life.
Timeline: A series of connected events.
Boycott: To avoid buying from or using a service.

Additional suggestions:

To help set the tone, use background music from the era or protest/freedom songs. Use Google to find a list of U.S. freedom songs/protest songs.
Portions of Dr. King’s speeches are available online if you wish to share these with your students.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. timeline:

  • January 15, 1929: Michael King, later known as Martin Luther King, Jr., is born in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • September 20, 1944: King begins his freshman year at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
  • August 6, 1946: The Atlanta Constitution publishes King’s letter to the editor stating that black people “are entitled to the basic rights and opportunities of American citizens.”
  • February 25, 1948: King is ordained and appointed Assistant Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
  • June 8, 1948: King receives his Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Morehouse College.
  • September 14, 1948: King begins his studies at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.
  • May, 1951: King graduates from Crozer with a Bachelor of Divinity degree, delivering the valedictory address at commencement.
  • September 13, 1951: King begins his graduate studies in Systematic Theology at Boston University.
  • June 18, 1953: King and Coretta Scott are married in Marion, Alabama.
  • September 1, 1954: King begins his pastorate in Montgomery, Alabama.
  • June 5, 1955: King is awarded his doctorate in Systematic Theology from Boston University.
  • November 17, 1955: Yolanda Denise King, the Kings’ first child, is born.
  • December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to vacate her seat and move to the rear of a city bus in Montgomery, AL to make way for a white passenger. Jo Ann Robinson and other Women’s Political Council members mimeograph thousands of leaflets calling for a one-day boycott of the city’s buses on December 5.
  • November 13, 1956: The U.S. Supreme Court affirms the lower court opinion in declaring Alabama bus segregation laws unconstitutional.
  • December 21, 1956: Montgomery City Lines resumes full service on all routes. King is among the first passengers to ride the buses.
  • February 18, 1957: King appears on the cover of Time magazine.
  • May 17, 1957: At the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., King delivers his first national address, “Give Us The Ballot.”
  • October 23, 1957: Coretta King gives birth to their second child, Martin, III.
  • September 17, 1958: King’s first book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story is published.
  • September 20, 1958: During a book signing in Harlem, New York, King is stabbed and rushed to Harlem Hospital.
  • October 19, 1960: King is arrested during a sit-in demonstration at Rich’s department store in Atlanta. He is released on October 27.
  • January 31, 1961: Dexter Scott, King’s third child, is born.
  • July 27, 1962: King is arrested at an Albany, Georgia prayer vigil and jailed. After spending two weeks in jail, King is released.
  • September 28, 1962: During the closing of a conference in Birmingham, AL, a man assaults King, striking him twice in the face.
  • March 28, 1963: Bernice Albertine, King’s fourth child, is born.
  • April 16, 1963: Responding to advice that African Americans wait patiently for justice, King pens his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
  • June, 1963: Strength to Love, King’s book of sermons, is published.
  • August 28, 1963: King delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • January 3, 1964: King is named “Man of the Year” by Time Magazine.
  • June, 1964: King’s book Why We Can’t Wait is published.
  • June 11, 1964: King is arrested and jailed for demanding service at a white-only restaurant in St. Augustine, FL.
  • December 10, 1964: King receives the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. He declares that “every penny” of the $54,000 award will be used in the ongoing civil rights struggle.
  • June, 1967: King’s book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? is published.
  • April 3, 1968: In Memphis, TN, King delivers his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”
  • April 4, 1968: King is shot and killed while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
  • April 9, 1968: King is buried in Atlanta, GA.