What is the most important message that young children can get from remembering and celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Peaceful problem-solving.
I recently read a wonderful post by Teaching Ace in which she shared how she focuses in her kindergarten class on Dr. King’s life as a peaceful problem solver. Her class creates a “Peace Book” reminding them of strategies they can use to solve problems. Given the amount of high-profile violence in our country recently, this is a much needed message. Here are some other activities for helping children become peaceful problem-solvers that can be incorporated into your Martin Luther King Day celebrations:
- Persona Dolls – these dolls, designed for anti-bias education, have a specific name, personality, and history. They can help you bring up difficult topics and get the children to empathize with being left out, bullied, rejected, or treated unfairly. Through role play, children can learn to defend others when they observe someone being treated poorly, and to intervene peacefully as an anti-bias strategy.
- Class Meetings – during the day, have a clipboard available in which children can draw or write about a problem they notice in the classroom. At group meeting time, review the problem and ask the children to brainstorm some possible solutions. Pick one solution, try it out, and review how well it’s working a few days later. Here's a great example from a 2nd grade classroom:
- Social Stories or Scripted Stories – these hand-made books are written in first person and focus on a specific problem that a child is encountering – such as expressing anger appropriately. Originally designed to teach children on the autism spectrum social skills, they are an excellent tool for all children. The Peace Book by Teaching Ace is a great example of a social story for the whole class.
- Peaceful Words – in order to be peaceful, children need to learn how to use peaceful words. Generate a list of kind things you can say to each other, post in on chart paper and read it daily. Be sure to give positive feedback when you hear children using peaceful words.
- Community Building Activities. In the middle of the school year, it can be helpful to revisit some of the “getting-to-know-you” activities that you did in September. Children need to feel a sense of group cohesion and learn to care about the group -- not just a few friends -- in order to want to solve problems peacefully. By revisiting these often, you can build deep respect, caring, and commitment to being a peaceful community.
How are you celebrating the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Please share your ideas in the comments!