Learning About Martin Luther King, Jr., and More!

This week in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I'm sharing a free Sound Effects Story download to help kids learn about this great man, plus two fun ideas for crafts to go with it!  I'm also giving you a free download of my penguin guided drawing activity, and explaining how I got my kids started writing phonetically.  I also have some information on the rest of those matching sets 11-30 worksheets I've been sharing with a winter and spring theme!  Enjoy!

1. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sound Effects Story

I have been trying to find time to write a sound effects story! If you are not familiar with the term, “Sound Effects Story,” this is a story that you tell and have the children listen for certain key words in the story. You have them make certain sounds and motions as those words come up. This helps them pay attention and adds a bit of fun to a lesson!

So I wrote one this week, hoping to try to use it before we leave for the CKA conference in Santa Clara! I was able to introduce it on Tuesday with my class, and then did it again on Thursday. I am including it for you here as a free download today!

The only issue with this story is that, at least when I told it, my children were so stunned by the message of what life was like back then that they were actually not having a lot of fun! And understand this: I never even mentioned that King was shot or died at the end! I totally left it out of the story. They were just plain unhappy about the fact that life was so unfair to anyone at all, and this could actually be a rule that everyone would have to follow. One of the sound effects that I gave them was to listen for anything that is not fair, and just say, “That’s not fair!” and shake your finger. I guess it turns out that having them repeat over and over, “That’s not fair!” spontaneously is a very effective means of getting them to internalize the message.

At the end of the story, one of my little boys jumped up and stood in front of the class and declared, “I know what happened to him then. Somebody shot him- with a GUN!” The kids asked why, and I told them that this person didn’t like it when the rules changed. They wanted things to be unfair and didn’t want to share their parks and schools, etc. And they all just sat their with their chins dropped to the floor in disbelief. I so WISHED we had more time to discuss it, but it was dismissal time, and we had to go!

Now this is the first time that I have introduced the concept of King’s message to my class without a picture book, and I would have expected a picture book to be more effective. However, the children were visibly upset with the message of what was happening to King as a boy, and I have never seen this happen with a picture book. The fact that he could not attend the same schools, play at the same parks, or even use the same drinking fountains as white children was horrifying to them- and I’m very glad to report that this was the case!

I always add a movement to help "cue" the children so that they will better know when to make their sound effects during the story. :)

Did I want and expect the story to be fun? Yes, because of the sound effects! But more than that, I wanted them to understand the message of what was happening in our country during that time, and the fact that it took someone very special and brave to fix it. And the story certainly did accomplish that. And from there, I went on the next day to explain how to do the Martin Luther King themed art projects listed below.

2. Martin Luther King, Jr. Art Project

We used to make a Peace Prize necklace that the kids would decorate for Martin Luther King, Jr. day each year. If have no idea at all where that project originally came from; I inherited it from the teacher that I used to work with years ago. I was going to share that one with you, so I brought it home to re-draw the master, because it had been recopied so many times it was in terrible shape! But when I checked online to find out what a real Nobel Peace Prize looked like, I found out that it looked NOTHING like the project we had been giving children to make for so many years! In fact, the pictures I found online resembled a penny with Lincoln’s head on it. I decided that this might ultimately be very confusing for the kids, so I decided that we needed a fresh art project that would help them understand the main idea of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message.

After giving it some thought, I came up with a picture of multi-cultural children playing together! We happen to have one of those Ellison Die Cut machines at our school, so I punched out five different colors of boys and girls for the project, in various shades of tan, light brown, dark brown, peach, and black.  (If you don't have a die cut machine, perhaps some sponge painted little people would work!)

To make the sample, I sponge painted the grass on the bottom of the page, and added the children standing on the grass, some flowers, and a happy faced sun. Then I added some features to the children’s bodies. To finish it off, I decided to print out the words, “I have a dream!” and cut them apart.

The children will need to use their reading skills to put the words in order and place them across the top of their picture. I really like the way it turned out! We did this project on Thursday so that I could be there to see it. I did have them sponge paint the grass ahead of time so that it would be dry when it is time to decorate the picture.

I also saved the scraps from the die cut machine and decided that we would use them as stencils to paint some “Rainbow People” as well! I had a volunteer tape these “stencils” down lightly, and I am going to let the children paint the inside of the children with as many different colors as they would like. Then we are going to talk about how much nicer it is when there are lots of different colored people instead of just one. I suspect that they will enjoy this project more than the one I had actually prepped for - but that’s okay!

Their pictures came out beautifully, and I think that they really enjoyed it and understood the point of the projects- that we should all be friends, and it doesn’t matter what color anyone’s skin is. The only important thing is what is on the inside. And by all means- the more colors, the better! But then I think that kids already know that instinctively. After all, if you let them go, you’ll even get rainbow colored penguins from some of them! They like to use every color in the crayon box.

3. Penguin Guided Drawing

I do love to do guided drawing projects with my kids, and penguins are fun and easy to draw! The directions are included here as a free download. The children are always so proud of their creations! And I love that when we go to write about them, everybody has an idea of how to draw one. Later, I even showed them how to draw a penguin sliding on its belly! Yesterday, a child showed me a picture she drew of a penguin going down the slide on our playground. Too cute! Enjoy!

4. Getting Kids Started With Inventive Spelling

This question was emailed to me regarding writing instruction in Kindergarten, and it occurred to me that my reply would make a good addition to my blog this week. So I am including both the question and my answer. If any other readers have some tips on this that they would like to share, I think that we would all like to know! You can leave comments on this blog, or on my HeidiSongs Facebook page.


“I was looking for some tips on writing sentences since it seems a lot of my students are sticking to sentences with "I like.." or "It is a" Do you have any suggestions as to how I could help them further develop sentence writing. This is my first year and I am looking for any suggestions...”

My response:  

After a while, I tell my students that we are not going to write those kinds of simple sentences any more, because "that's for babies!" They are too smart for that. And if they start in writing "I see___" or "I like ____," then I stop them right away and give them a fresh paper and remind them that I said we were going to write something else today. A few of them find this very frustrating initially, but I just stick to my guns. I also model writing other sentences in front of them and show them how to write something else.

Teaching beginning writing with those structured sentence patterns is a nice easy way to get them started, (see my blog entry on this topic)  but it can be difficult to make them let go of the comfort of knowing exactly how to write something and knowing exactly what to do. They stick to those sentences because they are easy for them, and some kids, especially those who are "perfectionists," need a good nudge to get them out of the "it's got to be perfect" mode. I also assign other sentences for writing practice at home. I try to get parents on board with writing phonetically by showing them what I am looking for at parent conferences and Back to School Night, etc. This helps a whole lot!

Children who get extra practice at home in writing "as it sounds" get used to the process and start to accept that what we are really looking for is their thoughts on the paper, and not each word written perfectly. I do tell parents that if we have learned sight word song for a certain word, then I would expect that word to be spelled correctly. But if we have not learned a song for the word, then the child should spell it like it sounds and leave it at that.

Last year I had a little guy whose homework showed that he spelled everything perfectly, but when in the classroom, he absolutely shut down and refused to try any inventive spelling at all, and cried. I highly suspected that his parents were spelling for him at home, so I gave them a call and explained the problem. Even though I had already explained the process at Back to School Night and at parent conferences, they still felt that I would want everything spelled correctly on the homework. When I assured them that I absolutely did not want them to spell for him, the crying stopped and he started writing phonetically as I was asking him to do.

So in conclusion, I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it is to get parents on board and to help them understand what it is you are looking for! It can make all the difference in the world!

5. Getting Ready To Test on Matching Sets 0-30

We have been practicing this skill since the middle of November, and I think that most of them have it just about mastered. So we have been reviewing it this week by putting as many of these practice sheets I have been giving away in the past few weeks on my blog as I could find into the Communicator Clearboards that I told you about on my blog in the entry for Friday, September 17, 2010 in the Number Monsters section.

I made some new worksheets with snowmen, penguins, Eskimos, snow hats, mittens, and also some with hearts and bunnies, etc., to add to my collection and use for review in the coming months. The kids really loved the new pictures, and the practice seemed to do them good! If you are unfamiliar with these dry erase sleeves, all you do is slip a worksheet into one of them and give the children a dry erase marker. I had them try to complete one whole worksheet and then show my aide their work. If it was correct, they could go on to another one. If not, then they had to count over and try to fix it.

This 13 page set of Matching Sets Worksheets is $3.00.

With all of the practice that they had, I am happy to report that the great majority passed their test on matching sets all the way to thirty! I figured that most of them would do fine if I can just get them to count carefully. It’s the careless counting that causes the mistakes! Of my 26 students, I have one that cannot count abstract pictures accurately yet (a fall birthday child), and another who simply circled the middle number on the section that tested from 20-30 because he didn’t want to do it, so he missed most of them. I also had another higher student who seemed to be having an “off day” and missed four out of ten of them on the 20-30 section. But that was it!

In the past weeks I have given away three of these pages (that's one of them above), I think, but now I am ready to sell the rest of them as a download. If you would like to purchase the set, please click here.  This four dollar download includes ten more pages, plus the three free ones that I already gave you for a total of thirteen practice pages for $3.00.

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