Lesson plan

The Guiding Beliefs of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This lesson will teach your students about the six guiding principles of Martin Luther King, Jr. They'll read a picture book to learn about these beliefs. Then they'll write about how these principles were present in MLK Jr.'s life, and how they're present in their own lives.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards

Students will be able to make connections between Martin Luther King, Jr.'s guiding beliefs and his actions.

(2 minutes)
Graphic Organizer Template: Concept Web
  • Introduce students to the topic by showing the cover of Love Will See You ThroughBy Angela Farris Watkins, PhD. Read the title aloud to the class, and encourage them to look at the image.
  • Prompt students to turn and talk to a partner about what they think the title means, especially in the context of a lesson about Martin Luther King, Jr. Have them share out with the class.
  • Tell the class that they will learn about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s beliefs that helped him through the good and bad times of his life.
(20 minutes)
  • Frontload potentially challenging vocabulary from the story to provide some background knowledge. Display the words and a student-friendly definition. Some vocabulary suggestions include:
    • Guiding principle- a belief and value that is important to a person.
    • Courage- the ability to do something that is difficult or dangerous.
    • Segregation- the practise of separating people according to groups, especially racial groups.
    • Protest- to show or express strong disagreement with something.
    • Discrimination- the act of treating some people worse than others.
    • Resist- to fight against something.
  • Display the six anchor charts with the guiding principles labeled on them. (See Materials section.) Tell the class that they will learn more about how Martin Luther King, Jr. practiced and lived by these principles throughout his life as he fought for equality.
  • Read aloudLove Will See You ThroughBy Angela Farris Watkins, PhD, stopping to discuss the images and vocabulary, as needed. Check for comprehension throughout the read aloud to ensure students understand the context and the connection to the guiding principles.
(10 minutes)
  • Display a blank copy of the Concept Web graphic organizer, and choose one of the guiding principles to write in the centre oval. Explain that the outer boxes are for details, such as examples from the book, that show how Martin Luther King, Jr.'s actions connect to the guiding principle.
  • Demonstrate how to fill out the graphic organizer by looking back into the text for specific examples.
  • Invite students to help you fill out some of the outer boxes, as well. Add examples of how that guiding principle is relevant in your classroom, community, or the country.
(25 minutes)
  • Divide the class into 5 groups, and give each individual a Concept Web graphic organizer. Tell them that they will focus on one of the remaining guiding principles and share out with the class.
  • Assign each group a different guiding principle, excluding the guiding principle that was explored during the Guided practise section of the lesson. Have learners write their assigned guiding principle in the centre of their Concept Web. Instruct them to add examples of how Martin Luther King, Jr. lived by that principle or how the principle is currently present in their classroom, community, or country.
  • Have the groups share out with the class. While groups share out, record their ideas and examples on the anchor chart labeled with that guiding principle. These anchor charts will serve as support for students during the Assessment section of the lesson.


  • Invite students to complete their Concept Web graphic organizer in a small, teacher-led group.
  • Provide vocabulary cards for students that may need support with some of the foundational language used when discussing Martin Luther King, Jr. (e.g., segregation, equality, discimination).


  • Have students read Grandfather GandhiBy Arun Gandhi, and have them compare and contrast the principles of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandi. Additionally, challenge them to compare and contrast other elements of the books, such as the authors' writing style.
  • Give students the opportunity to find influential people in the present that are living by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s guiding principles. Have them share their findings with the rest of the class.
(5 minutes)
  • Distribute a blank index card to each student and have them answer the following question:
    • Which guiding principle do you think is the most important to live by and why?
  • Remind students to write their answers using complete sentences and to offer explanations. Allow them to use words and illustrations to support their point. Encourage students to use the completed chart papers to support them as they write their responses.
(3 minutes)
  • Call on individuals to share their response on the index card with the class. Prompt them to explain, and ask if others agree or disagree.
  • Remind students that Martin Luther King, Jr. was an important figure from history who lived by these guiding principles to make the world a better place. Ask the class to individually reflect on their own actions, determining if they align with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s guiding principles, or if they could make any changes so they could also help make the world a better place.

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