For me one of the big highlights of my family's vacation last summer to Washington, D.C. was standing in the spot outside the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. Even though the pool was drained because of construction, I stood on that spot and tried to imagine what King must have seen. In my opinion, that speech is one of the best ever given by anyone in history.
Teachers all over the U.S. celebrate King's birthday in various ways. I have been a long-term sub in two different classrooms (second and third grade) and both times I did a similar activity. My absolute favorite book depicting King is Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. To me it is a perfect introduction to a very delicate subject for elementary-aged students.
But rather than me reading it, I prefer to play this YouTube video narrated by Michael Clarke Duncan, who you might remember from "The Green Mile." The video also uses spiritual songs to accompany words from King's famous speeches, including "I Have a Dream." Every time I watch this video, it stirs me inside, and I feel the tears well up. And I have watched the same thing happen in students.
After watching it, I open up for discussion what was seen in the video, and then I give them an open writing prompt... usually about their own dreams for the world. I always find it interested how many students have trouble understanding discrimination with "separate but equal" facilities. And then I think, how wonderful is that... that we've come far enough that many children today cannot even fathom their friend having to drink at a different water fountain. It warms my heart. You can be artistic about the assignment too and use one of the very creative projects I found and pinned on my MLK Teaching Ideas Pinterest board.
Have we achieved King's dream? I would say we have made huge strides, but we also have a ways to go yet.