Inside: Celebrate and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his birthday with this SEL Curriculum perfect for January with this Birthday Wish for Martin.
Each January, teachers everywhere try to help kids understand the power of Martin Luther King, Jr., his I Have a Dream Speech, and his peaceful protests towards racial equality so the Monday off from school isn’t just another day off.
We can ask students what their dreams are after we read about his.
We can talk about Dr. King’s life and legacy and assassination.
We can talk about racial inequality and the history of Black Americans and the impactful roles they play in our history.
But since we’re teaching our kids to intentionally be kind, we can connect kindness, social emotional learning and character education to Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ to make celebrating and commemorating Dr. King’s birthday in January more meaningful.
“I was looking for a MLK Jr craft for my storytime group for ages that range from 1-4 years old. Many of the crafts I found online were too advanced or even a little tacky. The birthday wish for MLK Jr was perfect. It was a fun and easy way to introduce the concept to the kiddos. Who doesn’t love birthday cake and wishes?!” – Laine H.
SEL and Character Education Ideas for January:
Every month is a great month to focus on social emotional learning and character education.
We can make New Year’s Resolutions to be Kind and use our Winter Kindness Challenge to encourage weekly kindness in January.
We can use our Family Kindness Calendar to start the year off right making kindness a habit.
We can focus on celebrating our differences (rather than just tolerating or accepting them) with this so all of our students are celebrated with our Rainbow Colors of Me.
Related: How to Teach Kids to Celebrate our Differences
We can also learn about and celebrate our differences with our Emergent Reader and Early Reader sets:
And we can partake in our January Volunteer Challenge that’s kid-friendly and can be done in under 30 minutes.
But we can also celebrate and learn about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his powerful words.
Nowhere in Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech does he use the word ‘kindness.’ But everything he demands requires kindness and compassion and empathy for our fellow man.
His version of kindness is not just ‘quiet kindness’ like smiling and holding the door for others or helping a friend.
Kindness is also ‘loud kindness’ like standing up for others, standing up for what’s right, and saying “Stop” and “No” loudly.
We can practice loud kindness by standing up for others, standing up for what is right, and being more like Martin.
And so to celebrate MLK’s birthday on January 17th, and remind students what he stood for and what he fought for and what he marched for, we can make a Birthday Wish for Martin.
How to Use a Birthday Wish for Martin to Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
1. Download and print the cake and candles on cardstock (download it below). You can choose to print in color or black and white.
2. Choose candles with words written in, or choose blank candles.
3. If you choose blank candles, kids can write in their own birthday wishes for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or they can copy wishes off the board you brainstorm together. Students can write words like:
4. Kids can color and decorate the cake and the candles.
5. Then cut and glue the candles onto the cake.
6. Continue the conversation about Martin Luther King’s message and how his “I Have a Dream” Speech was a “loud kindness, ” not “quiet kindness” as he stood up and fought for what he believed in.
7. For fun, figure out how old Dr. King would be this year. (Subtract his birth year 1929 from the current year) and sing to Dr. King as you celebrate him and his message for peace and equality for all.
Download the Birthday Wish for Martin here.
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