Do You Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day?
January brings along with it the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I feel that this is as much about celebrating an awareness of unfair prejudice, and true "liberty and justice for all..." as it is about teaching about this icon for civil rights.
Just because my Y5's are really not familiar about what went on during this historical period of time, does not mean they are not familiar with prejudice. I think there is still all sorts of that kind of thing going on in an elementary playground: girls against boys, coordinated students against the clumsy, geeks & nerds versus the more popular students. It all still boils down to prejudice.
My little ones are very quick to exclaim: "That's not fair!" so I try to keep things especially "fair" in our classroom, at the same time letting them know that "life" really isn't fair and then try to equip them with some life skills so they can handle "life" when it sometimes rears its uglier side.
To introduce the topic of prejudice to my students, I read Dr. Seuss's The Sneechs. I pass out star stickers to the girls and not to the boys just because they are girls and then ask everyone how they feel. Surprisingly some of the girls aren't as happy about receiving a sticker as they might be, because they feel sorry for the boys. On several occasions, girls have even given their star sticker to a boy.
I then pass out lollipops to the boys, simply because they are boys and give none to the girls. Once again we talk about feelings. The topic of not being "fair" and feeling "left out" and "helpless to change things" always comes up. Since a few little lips tremble, and I don't want tears, I quickly give everyone star stickers and lollipops as we continue our discussion of how much better it feels when everyone IS treated fairly/equally.
I send a note home to parents about the entire "experiment” along with our new vocabulary words: prejudice, equality, civil rights, etc.
Do you celebrate Martin Luther King Day? How do you introduce the topic of prejudice to your students? Do you feel it's appropriate to celebrate this day?
For more ideas, check out my mini Martin Luther King Unit by clicking on the link.