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Martin's Big Words Activities for the Classroom
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Exploring Peaceful Activism Through Biographies: Martin's Big Words Activities for the Classroom

This post explores interactive and thought-provoking activities based on Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. Discover how to use the Martin's Big Words book to teach your students about Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy through critical thinking questions, biography activities, and discussions on character development and societal impact. The Martin's Big Words activities are great for educators seeking to enrich their biography and non-fiction curriculum.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport

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Martin's Big Words Summary

Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport illustrates the life of Martin Luther King Jr, using his own words. The ‘big words’ are quotes from Martin Luther King’s speeches, including his impactful “I Have a Dream” speech. The quotes give insight into his life and belief in peaceful protests in the fight for racial equality.

The book includes a timeline and further resources to learn about this influential man. Use this biography to discuss:

  • Black History 
  • Civil Rights 
  • Segregation
  • Freedom
  • Peaceful Activism
  • Resilience through adversity


As a young boy, Martin Luther King grew up in the segregated south of the United States. He sees “whites only” signs and experiences racism firsthand when the parents of his white friends say they can’t play with him because of the colour of his skin.

As he questions his purpose in life, his mother tells a young Martin, “You are as good as anyone.” He takes his mother’s message into adulthood when he becomes a minister and leader for equality and civil rights.

 

Martin's Big Words Activities

This post will focus on Martin's Big Words activities for nonfiction and biography skills. There is also a quick overview of how it can teach other reading comprehension skills.

Martin's Big Words Book Cover
Click on the images to explore activities for Martin's Big Words.

Martin's Big Words Read-Aloud Questions

These questions encourage your students to think critically about Martin's Big Words story, character development, plot progression, setting, and underlying themes, helping to improve reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.

  • What are some of the ‘big words' the book focuses on? Why do you think these words were important to Martin Luther King Jr.?
  • How did Martin Luther King Jr.'s early experiences shape his views and actions later in life?
  • What was the purpose of the Montgomery Bus Boycott? How did it impact the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How does the author convey the idea of peaceful protest in the book?
  • Why do you think Martin Luther King Jr. believed in nonviolent resistance?
  • Identify challenges or obstacles Martin Luther King Jr. faced in his fight for equality. How did he respond to these challenges?
  • Why do you think the author used actual quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the book?
  • How does the author use illustrations to enhance the story's narrative and emotional impact?
  • How might the story differ if written from a first-person perspective?
  • What is the significance of the title “Martin's Big Words”?
  • How did Martin Luther King Jr.'s actions influence the United States? Can you provide specific examples from the text?
  • What message do you think the author is trying to convey about Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy?
  • How does this book contribute to your understanding of the Civil Rights Movement?

I have over 90 questions to use before, during and after reading Martin's Big Words in this activity pack. Here are some questions you can ask before reading the book. 

Martin's Big Words Biography Activities

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport introduces readers to the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., through a picture book format.

The book's distinct aspects contribute to its effectiveness in teaching biography and non-fiction skills:

Historical Context: Understanding the historical context where the biographical character lived is crucial in biography and non-fiction.

  • Timeline Creation: Students can create a timeline of Dr. King's life, marking significant events. This encourages chronological thinking and historical understanding.
  • Compare and Contrast: Students can compare and contrast the historical context during Dr. King's time with the present day, encouraging critical thinking about societal changes over time.

Significant Figure Study: Studying influential figures allows students to understand the impact individuals can have on society

  • Impact Analysis: Students can research and write about the impact of Dr. King's work on modern society, promoting critical thinking about cause and effect.
  • “Big Words” Exploration: Students can choose one of Dr. King's “big words” (quotes) from the book and explain what it means to them personally, promoting personal connection and comprehension.

Fact Verification: Understanding and using non-fiction skills require students to verify facts and distinguish between fact and opinion

  • Fact-Checking: Students can use other resources to verify the facts presented in the book, promoting research skills and critical thinking.
  • Fact or Opinion: Students can identify statements in the book as fact or opinion, promoting comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Source Documentation: Non-fiction often includes source documentation, teaching students the importance of referencing and acknowledging sources

  • Source Hunt: Students can look at the sources used in the book and discuss why they are reliable, promoting understanding of the importance of reliable sources.
  • Create a Bibliography: Students can create a bibliography for a short report on Dr. King, using books and online resources, promoting research skills and understanding of source documentation.
 
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Martin's Big Words Literacy Activities

Martin’s Big Words lends itself to being used in the classroom to teach non-fiction and biography skills. However, you can also use the book to teach other literacy and reading comprehension skills, including:

Cause and Effect: Dr. King's life is filled with cause-and-effect scenarios – his experiences of racial discrimination led him to fight for civil rights, which led to significant societal changes.

  • Timeline Construction: Have students construct a timeline of Dr. King's life, identifying key events from the book. For each event, they should write down the cause(s) that led to it and the effect(s) it had on Dr. King's life or the broader civil rights movement.


Author's Purpose: This book provides a clear example of the author's purpose – to inform and educate readers about the life and contributions of Dr. King.

  • Author's Intent Discussion: Facilitate a class discussion where students share their ideas about why Doreen Rappaport wrote this book. They should provide evidence from the text to support their thoughts on the author's intent to inform, persuade, or entertain. They should include specific examples from the book demonstrating how the author seeks to inform and educate readers about Dr. King's life.


Character Analysis: Dr. King's character is well-developed in the book, offering opportunities for students to analyze his motivations, values, and actions.

  • Character Trait Chart: Ask students to create a character trait chart for Dr. King, listing his traits, actions that demonstrate these traits, and quotes from the book that support their choices.


Inference: Students can infer the societal circumstances of Dr. King's time and the feelings of the people involved through the illustrations and text.

  • Inference Journal: Encourage students to keep an inference journal as they read. In this journal, they can note down what the text says and what they infer from it about the societal circumstances and feelings of the people.


Making Connections: The book deals with universal themes like justice, equality, and courage, enabling students to make connections to their own lives and current events.

  • Connection Circle: Students can create a “connection circle” diagram, with the book's themes in the centre and their personal connections, as well as connections to current events, branching out. 

Martin Luther King Videos

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