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MLK Day 2010: Discussion and Activities

  • Monday, January 18, 2010 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Use these questions and activities to address the holiday and the man whom it honors
  • Feel free to adapt these questions and activities to accommodate students of different grade levels and learning styles

(CNN Student News) -- Discussion Questions

1. When did the U.S. government establish a holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? When in January does this holiday typically take place?

2. Who was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? What are some of his accomplishments? What cause did he work for? How did he approach this cause? How did he think that people should bring about political and social change?

3. What is the title of Dr. King's most well-known speech? When and where was this speech given? What do you think Dr. King was trying to say in this speech? Why do you think that it has become so famous?

4. How does community service play a role in the MLK holiday? What does "A day on, not a day off" mean? What are some of the activities that people participate in to observe the holiday in Dr. King's honor?


1. Read or listen to Dr. King's famous "I have a dream" speech. What were the points Dr. King was trying to make? What views did he express on equality? Why do you think that he chose to promote peaceful protest as a means to that end? What are your reactions to this speech? Share your thoughts with the class or write them in a journal.

2. In the "I have a dream" speech, Dr. King says that he hopes that one day, his children "will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." What does this mean? Create artwork, song lyrics or an interactive presentation that captures what Dr. King meant when he spoke of the content of one's character. Share your creation with the class.

3. Many people volunteer for community service projects on MLK Day. If you have ever been part of a community service project, share your experience with the class and talk about how the community benefited from the project, and what you got out of helping others. If you have never been involved in community service, consider what you could do to help someone else. Do you have a talent or skill, however small, that might help someone else? Elderly neighbors might appreciate your willingness to pick up their mail, for example. Another student might need help in a subject that you excel in. And if you are capable (and have your parents' permission), you might even consider being part of a bigger project, like landscaping around a school or painting a community center. Think about what you can do, not just on MLK Day, but on a regular basis to help your community be a better place, and then make a commitment to make it happen.


Social Studies

V. Individuals, Groups and Institutions

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions.

VI. Power, Authority and Governance

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people create and change structures of power, authority, and governance.

The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
( are published by the National Council for Social Studies (


The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute ( The I Have a Dream Speech (

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service (

The King Center (