Martin Luther King Day
January 21st is Martin Luther King’s Birthday, which we observe by remembering the injustices, sacrifices, protests and speeches that were such an integral part of our country’s civil rights movement.
Lesson plans usually include discussions of discrimination, the I Have a Dream speech, and the concepts of equality, the Declaration of Independence and basic freedoms which are supposed to be “self-evident” to all citizens of the United States. Like many social studies topics, it can be challenging to simplify the concepts enough to make them accessible to students with significant cognitive disabilities.
I have searched the internet for lessons and activities which can be either used as is, or adapted for students with intellectual disabilities and autism. Remember, when adapting curriculum to:
1) Consider the scaffolding necessary to understand the topic
2) Use simple language
3) Support lessons with visuals
4) Review and repeat as necessary
A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words. A good way to start any social studies unit is with a picture. Show the students a picture of Dr. King and see if anyone knows who he is. If your students have difficulty answering direct questions, consider allowing them to answer by selecting a visual from a field of 2-3 pictures. Click here to download free visuals that can support your instruction about Martin Luther King.
Watch a Video. You could also start the unit with a video. I watched many of the videos available on YouTube looking for something that I thought would be accessible to students with significant cognitive needs. Most of the videos used language and/or concepts that would probably be too challenging. In the end I picked this one because I loved the way it uses primary sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pG8X0vOvi7Q
I recommend you play it without sound, pausing the video to explain what is happening, using words you know your students will understand. Play the video a few times prior to your lesson and get a feel for what concepts you want to emphasize.
Read a Book. Here is an excellent list of picture books that teach about Martin Luther King and his contributions to our country. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/1618549842765321/
Direct Instruction. Looking for a lesson plan? I looked at many, and thought this one was the most appropriate for students with intellectual disabilities. You may need to further adapt, depending on your class. https://www.brighthubeducation.com/preschool-lesson-plans/61253-understanding-martin-luther-king-jr/
Say It With Art. Want an art project to go along with the unit? I liked these Martin Luther King “puppets” made from paper towel rolls. This project makes use of many fine motor skills including; cutting, coloring and gluing. Also, I just have always loved 3-D art projects! http://www.makinglearningfun.com/t.asp?b=m&t=http://www.makinglearningfun.com/Activities/MLKJr/MLKjr-TPtubePuppet.gif
Here’s A Fun Idea! I really liked this idea for a bulletin board. (You will have to scroll down on the page to get to it.) https://www.pre-kpages.com/mlk/ You can build it over the course of the unit, adding each element after it has been taught.
Adapted Book and Assessment. Finally, if you are looking for an adapted book, there are many to choose from, but I like this one the best. The text is easy to understand and it has the comprehension questions with visuals at the bottom of each page. You could easily use this as an assessment at the end of your unit! https://www.pinterest.com/pin/328692472798164305/
I hope you find these suggestions useful, and that they help make Martin Luther King and his legacy accessible to your students, regardless of their cognitive abilities.