Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Kindergarten Art Project

  After Christmas, I spend a good portion of January teaching my students about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There are so many reasons I love that we celebrate his life in January. One of them is that it makes for a nice transition from the celebration of peace in the gift of Jesus to the world to the celebration of peace that surrounds everything about positive about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Yes, I do insist that my five year olds know how to say his entire name. While some may feel it is "hip" to say "MLK" I do not feel it is respectful to do so. At the end of January, so many times, I would find that my kindergarteners could remember some aspects of his life, but not all or most of them. About five years ago, I began having them create this project and I immediately saw a spike in what they were able to remember about him! I think in spending time creating a project that accurately portrays him (sort of), they were able to remember more key facts about him and what his hopes for all humanity could be. By the way, as I am making my own at the board, all of them are at the table creating their own project step by step. These are amazing in that they all turn out similar but like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. I mat them on yellow paper to make him stand out and sometimes re-mat those on black paper. When I hang these up in the room, we receive tons and tons of compliments! Below are our step-by-step directions:

Materials per student:
1 8x11 piece of light brown construction paper
1 8x11 piece of black construction paper
1 4x4 piece of white construction paper

With a brown crayon have them draw an oval head that takes up almost the entire light brown construction paper. Add an ear on each side. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT to also draw a neck. Cut this out with scissors.

Next, turn the black construction paper the long way (hot dog) and snip of the top two corners (to make his shoulders). Only put glue on his neck and stick his black jacket to the neck. If you glue all across the back of the black, you will end up with glue all over the table.

Take the white paper and cut out a very tall triangle. Turn it upside-down and glue it so that the flat part of the white triangle lines up with the flat part of the black jacket, right under his chin. Put away scissors and glue.

With a brown crayon, draw an L shaped nose in the middle of the head. Directly above the L shape, draw two large circles. If you don't tell them "large" they WILL draw itty-bitty ones. I show them how to do it before they do it. I have them color these circles black or brown. I then have them draw an oval around the black circle and color the inside of this white. Color fairly dark with the white and it looks great. I make sure to tell them that the oval has to touch the black circle at the top and the bottom. I spend some time explaining about adding detail whenever we draw, so I show them how to make eye lids with their brown crayon by just adding some layer to the top of the oval. We then use black to make eyebrows. Under the L shaped nose, we use brown to make the lips. I told them they can make the lips by drawing a slightly bent hotdog bun. Sometimes, we add a bit of pink to them.  Right above the lips, we add a curly black moustache. Then, I show them how to start at the top of one ear and make his curly hair all the way across the top of the head to the other ear. 

Finally, we add the tie detail. With a pencil, I show them how to go about a third of the way over to the top of his white triangle and draw a straight line down toward one shoulder. We then do the exact same thing on the other side of the white triangle. In the middle of these two lines, we make a U shape (the knot of the tie). Directly under the U shape, we draw a straight line down (in line with the two lines above) on each side. I then allow them to decorate his "tie" anyway they'd like to...being careful to only color the U shape and below, otherwise, they end up coloring in his white shirt.

I have done this project many times now, and always end up changing it a bit each year. By doing this project, my students end up with a great memory maker to take home (once it has graced my classroom walls for a bit) and ALWAYS seem to be able to remember many more important key facts about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  

I will come back and post a picture of them hanging once we have completed them!


  1. Christina, you always have such great ideas! I love using music with everything. I found a song that you might like called "Stand Up For Martin Luther King" by Dr. Jean. It's a very informative song, sung to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean." It also uses his full name, like you mentioned in your post.


  2. Wow! Thanks so much! I appreciate that a lot!


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