Make the adage ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’ resonate by requiring students to reflect on their freedoms.


Another holiday is among us—Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is Monday, Jan. 21. Although schools will be closed, teachers may be looking to integrate the holiday into lesson plans. Simplicity is on your side with these two ideas. Also, they can be modified to be age-appropriate.

Freedom Slips:

At the beginning of the day, ask students to write down three to five of their favorite activities, one on each slip of paper. Then, ask them to tape the slips of paper onto the board. Let them know that throughout the day they should pay attention to see what happens to their slips of paper, jotting down or mentally noting how it makes them feel. After the task is complete, move on to another lesson or task.

Throughout the day, take a slip of paper from the board and rip it up. Also, you may take the slips of paper and amend the activity, adding statements like, “only if you are over the age of 50” or “if you are a male.” Whatever these statements may be, it should impose a feeling of regret or sadness. This activity demonstrates what it means to have personal rights taken away, so use the opportunity to reflect on the various emotions that were evoked through the exercise.

Freedom Reflection:

Ask students to list the words, phrases and emotions associated with their favorite activity, which may be something like playing basketball, having dinner with their family at a restaurant or going to the movies. Then, tell that group that the government has banned them for doing so because of their skin color. It’s important to inform students that people of another skin color have not had any personal freedoms taken away.

Ask students to list how it made them feel to let them know they would no longer be able to do their favorite activity. Make sure students discuss the various parties impacted by the new legislation.

At the conclusion, take the opportunity to discuss the history associated with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, stressing his impact on the Civil Rights Movement.


Check out additional resources for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the National Education Association website.


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