In the search of books to read to my own children at home, I came across the book “What Was Your Dream, Dr. King?“*** It was written for children, yet I find it very informative and descriptive about that moment in the history of the United States and still at the level of a second grader. While reading the book, the idea occurred to me to write something that I know my 4th and 5th grade students can read and understand.
I feel fortunate that all the schools I’ve taught in here in the U.S. make a special point to mention Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. around this time of year to commemorate his birthday and legacy. Sadly, I don’t understand why some of us (yes, including me!) have to wait for a special month to talk or incorporate important events like this one in our curriculums. We have to be intentional about including this in our curriculums. And yes, it’s possible to teach them in the target language. It’s possible to make it comprehensible. ¡Sí se puede! You can always reserve that 10% for the L1 if necessary (note this is actually recommended by ACTFL).
It’s certainly possible that you might feel that this topic is not directly related to your curriculum, but I believe it is! I feel that as a language teacher I have to honor the diverse cultures and backgrounds of my students as well as to help them understand the wider world, teaching about the cultures of Spanish speaking countries. And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s messages for equity, equality, and inclusion was and is universal, leading to rich discussions in any language that can help deepen connections with your students. The fact that his message of peace and social change spread all over the world makes him relevant for students and cultures worldwide, and his words (e.g. “Free at last”) and actions (e.g. the March on Washington or the Montgomery Bus Boycott) inspire me and fuel me as a teacher, too. After all, students who apply their knowledge to do what’s right are the kind of young people I want to help bring up in the ever-changing world.
Click here to download this resource to use with your students. It’s recommended for grades 4 and up!