Influencing Others in Our World

Many individuals in our recent and distant past positively influenced the world in which they lived. When we study their lives, we can become inspired to also try to make the world a better place.
Suggested Time Allowance
1 hour
  • Students will understand that the actions of people can have a positive influence on a community.
  • Students will use a variety of resources to research biographies of African Americans.
  • Students will begin an inquiry into the lives of the historical figure studied.


  1. Introduce key vocabulary: influential, African American, civil rights, fairness, community, laws vs. attitudes.

  2. Gather the class together for discussion. With chart paper and pens available for recording, ask the class, "What does it mean to influence others?" While collecting various definitions and examples, solicit examples of people who positively and negatively influence others.

  3. Introduce Martin Luther King Jr as an important and influential person. Read A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr to the class. While reading the story, keep a list on chart paper of the questions and interests of the students. These will be the basis of the Internet research done in the next step.

  4. Have students do some reading and research on their own to find some concrete examples of "positive influence." Hand out the worksheet, so that as the students are researching, they can collect information. Direct your students to educational websites about Martin Luther King.
  5. While students are researching on the Internet, circulate among them, keeping track of findings and questions that are being asked. Remind students to record their findings.

  6. Gather the children together to debrief and share research findings. Take notes about findings, including questions that arise, questions about vocabulary, and events that will need further explanation. From the questions and wonders, the next steps of the study become clear. Group discussions and books can help fill in students' ever-growing interest in the topic.
  • From the notes taken during the class meeting, be sure to put each person's name with their discussion offerings. Keeping notes from all discussions will produce a running record for assessment analysis.
  • Ask the group, "What do you think was the impact of Martin Luther King Jr on our community?" Take notes on chart paper, recording names for later evaluation.
  • Write a story or poem about Martin Luther King Jr's life.
Extension Activities
  • Using the same format, take the lives of other influential people: Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, Ruby Bridges.
  • Compare the life work and outcomes of this work. Make a large graph comparing each person's efforts, the time frame, challenges each faced, and effects of their work.
  • Make timelines of each student's life, including the influences on their lives and the influences they have had on others.
  • Make a timeline of each influential person studied. Students can work together in groups and as a class to construct a timeline of King's life. The years of his life should be split up with each range of years being assigned to a group. For example, his life could be split up as follows:
    1929-1944; 1945-1955; 1956-1963; 1963-1968
  • Have a class discussion about nonviolence as a means of resolving conflict and how this is related to Dr. King's movement.
  • Read and listen to audio of Dr. King's famous speech " I Have a Dream." (
    • Standards Correlation

      • Understands how democratic values came to be and how they have been exemplified by people, events, and symbols
      • Understands the folklore and other cultural contributions from various regions of the United States and how they helped to form a national heritage
      • Understands selected attributes and historical developments of societies in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe
Students will study the lives of individuals, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, who have positively influenced the world in which they lived. This is an excellent lesson plan for Black History Month.
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