Lesson Plan

Civil Rights Movement

A lesson on the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s involvement.
Kristen C.
Classroom teacher
Tennessee Technological University based at RSCC-OR
Oak Ridge, TN
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My Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies

5.65 Analyze the key events and struggles during the Civil Rights Movement, including: (C, E, H, P)

  • Brown v. Board of Education
  • Non-violent protest and the influence of the Highlander Folk School    
  • Central High School-Little Rock, Arkansas and Clinton High School in    Clinton, Tennessee            
  • Montgomery Bus Boycott and Rosa Parks            
  • Tent Cities in Fayette and Haywood Counties            
  • Nashville Sit-Ins and Diane Nash            
  • Freedom Riders                    
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Central Focus

How did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. influence the Civil Rights Movement?

The purpose of this lesson is to introduce Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his achievements in life. The students will learn the sequencing of his major life events. This lesson will also serve as a building block for knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn and use vocabulary related to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.
  • Sequence the major events in Dr. King's life.
  • Discuss Dr. King as a leader and his impact on the civil rights movement.

Language Function & Key Learning Task

Students will be able to display their understanding of the major events in Dr. King’s life and analyze domain specific vocabulary by showing correct placement of the card sort activity. They will use the vocabulary to describe Dr. King as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.  

Content/Academic Vocabulary

  • Assassination - to kill (someone, such as a famous or important person) usually for political reasons
  • Boycott - to refuse to buy, use, or participate in (something) as a way of protesting
  • Civil rights -  the rights that every person should have regardless of his or her sex, race, or religion
  • Eloquent - having or showing the ability to use language clearly and effectively
  • Liberal - believing that government should be active in supporting social and political change : relating to or supporting political liberalism
  • Overturn - to decide that (a ruling, decision, etc.) is wrong and change
  • Pastor -a minister or priest in charge of a church or parish
  • Protest -  to show or express strong disagreement with or disapproval of something
  • Segregate - to separate groups of people because of their particular race, religion, etc.

Discourse & Syntax

  • Discourse - Students will use academic vocabulary correctly during class discussion and in written assignments.
  • Syntax - Students will display proper use of sentence structure, puctuation, and grammar during written assignments.


  • Students will use the KWL chart to document what they know about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., what they want to know, and what they learned from the lesson.
  • Students will use the “Order of Events” worksheet to support their learning while watching the “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” movie on BrainPop.
  • Students will use vocabulary and definition cards to support their knowledge of vocabulary learned throughout the lesson. Students will play the vocabulary memory game in order to test their knowledge.

Materials & Resources

  • Computer
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Printed or projected copy of the KWL chart
  • MLK Sequencing Events Cards
  • MLK Vocabulary Cards
  • MLK Definition Cards


  • Formative Assessment

Quick Write - In the middle of the lesson give students a sticky note. Ask students to reflect on what they just learned and discuss with their group.

  • Summative Assessment

Card Sort - Students will match the vocabulary words and definitions to assess what words they understand and what words they do not understand. I will walk around to see if they students are correctly matching. I will have a checklist of students, if they match 7/9 correctly that will be considered mastery.

  • Academic Feedback

I will look at the students quick write assignment to determine if they have an understanding of what we discuss. I will also check the card sort to determine if the students have an understanding of the vocabulary used in the lesson. If they do not understand I will give the student the opportunity to think pair share with a partner.


  • High-Level Learners: Let the high-level learners do further research and write a brief summary on another important figure of the Civil Rights Movement Ex. Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, JFK, etc.
  • On-Level Learners: On-level learners will follow the lesson plan as given.
  • Struggling Learners: Struggling learners will focus on smaller groups of vocabulary at a time.
  • English Language Learner: Provide ESL learners with English and their known language on their vocabulary cards.
  • Other individual needs of the students/class you are teaching?
  • Provide larger text for visually impaired students.
  • Let hearing impaired children sit closer to the speakers or use headphones during movie.
  • Allow a five minute break in the middle of the lesson for bathroom breaks, stretching, and for struggling students to catch up


There are no safety issues. Students are expected to pay attention well, listen to directions, and do their work. If these students’ decide to not do what is expected of them, the teacher will conference with them individually about their behavior. Any misbehavior will be reported by the students signing their name in the consequence book and stating the reason why they have to sign the book. If the students’ get one check, ten minutes will be taken from their recess.


This lesson will incorporate many ways to equally involve and help all students learn about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. All students will be given the opportunity to watch the BrainPop movie at their own pace and find the strategy that will help them learn the vocabulary the best.


Vygotsky's theories stress the fundamental role of social interaction in the development of cognition, as he believed strongly that community plays a central role in the process of "making meaning."

Vygotsky’s theory states that cognitive development stems from social interactions from guided learning within the zone of proximal development as children and their partners co-construct knowledge. The environment in which children grow up will influence how they think and what they think about.

This theory applies to this lesson because the environment and the culture in which students grow up will directly affect their thinking and how they perceive certain ideas. For example, people from the south may be prone to certain stereotypes and prejudices concerning different cultures and ethnicities.  

Common Misconceptions or Difficulties

  • MLK Jr. was a bad person.
  • The Civil Rights Movement started out violent.
  • MLK was against caucasian people.
  • MLK had little to no support from caucasian leaders.






Social Studies
civic engagement
social justice
cultural understanding
historical figures
power structures
Grades 5
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Set/Hook/Motivator

Activity: Conversing

Show students pictures of African Americans who are role models in politics, broadcasting, sports, etc. Ask students who/what they think inspired these people to achieve their goals.

Student Instructions

Who or what inspires you to achieve your goals?

Who or what inspired Barack Obama to run for president?

2 Instructional Procedures

  • Teacher will seat students in teams of four and present the KWL Chart to the class. Give each student their own copy of the chart.
  • Begin by telling your students that you’re going to show them a short video about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ask them what they already know about Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement and add their ideas to the first column. Then ask them what they want to know about those topics and add them to the chart.
  • Play the BrainPOP  Martin Luther King Jr. Movie. Periodically stop the video and ask students to summarize the important events and ideas and clear up any misconceptions. Give each student a set of Sequencing Event worksheet. As the students watch the movie ask the students to listen for those events and write the year of the event on the worksheet.
  • After watching the movie and discussing it, ask students to help you add information to the last column on the KWL chart which represents new information that they learned from the video.
  • After completing the KWL chart, have your students take the quiz together as a class. To keep your students actively engaged, have them respond by writing the letter of the correct answer on dry erase boards to show you or by using sign language hand signals for the corresponding letters of the alphabet.
  • Students can use the vocabulary and definition cards to play the traditional game known as Memory or Concentration. Each team or pair mixes up all 20 cards and places them face down in four rows of five cards. Then they take turns flipping over two cards, trying to find a match. If they find matching cards, they keep the cards and take another turn. If the cards don’t match, they place them back down and the next player takes a turn. Play continues until all cards have been used.
Student Instructions
  1. Why was Dr. Martin Luther King an inspiration to others?
  2. What did Dr. Martin Luther King do to help others?
  3. Why was Dr. Martin Luther King considered radical by some Americans?
  4. What are civil rights?
  5. Why were civil rights important to African Americans.

3 Closure

Activity: Assessing


Students will play popcorn vocabulary review game to review what they have learned. When the teacher holds up a card whoever “pops” up out of their seat first gets to answer the question.