Upon the Clouds of Equality (1st Grade)

K, 1, 2

The students experience a simulation demonstrating unequal treatment and discuss justice and fairness. Students will reflect on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of equality and his actions as a philanthropist.

PrintOne 60 minute or two 30 minute class periods

The learner will:

  • learn the definition of a philanthropist (someone who gives of their time, talent and treasure and takes action for the common good).
  • listen and respond to the book Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (see Bibliographical Reference).
  • listen and respond to Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech.
  • create a cloud with a dream for the world written or drawn on it.
  • Small “treats” for the Anticipatory Set – this could be edible or special pencils, erasers, stickers, etc.
  • Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport (see Bibliographical References)
  • Old newspaper to stuff the clouds
  • Stapler
  • Fishing line or yarn
  • Drawing paper and materials for making clouds
  • Handout One: I Have a Dream speech, See Bibliographical References for the web site


  1. Anticipatory Set: Explain to the children that they will be participating in a simulation – a game that will imitate something that happened in real life. Tell them that during the simulation not everything will be fair, but after the simulation they will all be treated fairly.Giveout the “treat” to only the students who share a certain characteristic.Tell them the characteristic.For example, “All of the students wearing blue jeans get a treat today.” Listen to their reactions. Some students may get very upset. Encourage those students to share their feelings by restating their feelings: “You seem pretty angry about this.” “You think it isn’t fair.” “You think treats shouldn’t be given for the clothes someone is wearing.” After the students seem to understand the point, tell them you agree (they have convinced you with their words) that it isn’t fair to treat people differently because of how they look. Give out the treat to the remaining students.

  2. Tell the students that they should be proud of themselves for solving the treat problem with words. They are following the example of a great man who lived (about 40) years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. Tell them that they will hear a book read about this man and should listen for words that describe how he felt about unfair treatment of people and how he tried to solve the problem.

  3. Ask the students what they think big words are used for. (To tell others that the word is important) Read the book Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport (See Bibliographic Reference). Stop periodically to check for understanding: What people were not treated equally/fairly? In what ways? From the story, what do you think segregation means? How did MLK try to solve the problem? How did the government (mayors, governors, police chiefs and judges) respond to the protests? What is the Nobel Peace Prize?

  4. After reading, ask the students to respond to the following questions: How did Martin Luther King, Jr. use big or important words? What was Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream? How did he work to make that dream come true? How can we keep this dream alive today? How should we respond when we see some unfair treatment? How was MLK a philanthropist? (A philanthropist gives time, talent or treasure and takes action for the common good.)

  5. Read aloud MLK’s dream paragraph taken from a speech in 1963 (See Handout One: I Have a Dream) http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0874987.html. Discuss the big words he uses, the images that help in understanding his dream and the meaning of his dream—what is he working toward?

  6. Distribute two pieces of drawing paper to each student. Tell the students that they will be making two matching cloud shapes. Demonstrate for the students that this can be accomplished with very little cutting - hold both pieces of paper together and simply round the corners with the scissors - in order to have two large matching "clouds." Ask the students to write “I have a dream….. for me” on one of the clouds. On it they should draw their dream for themselves when they are older. Perhaps it is a dream of them being a teacher, or a police officer, or an artist, or helping others. On the second cloud they should write “I have a dream… for the world” and draw a picture that shows people living and working together. It could be a picture of diverse people playing a game together, or another illustration that represents fairness and/or respect for diversity. Optional: Students may write a sentence that explains the picture, or may dictate their sentence to an adult helper or older reading buddies.

  7. Staple the two clouds together but leave an opening for stuffing with newspaper.

  8. Stuff with one sheet of newspaper to give the cloud a 3-dimensional look. Attach fishing line or yarn and hang the clouds.

  9. Give students the opportunity to share the the meaning of their clouds with each other.


Observe the student response to the simulation. As the students are illustrating the clouds engage each one in conversation about what they are drawing and its meaning.

Cross Curriculum 

Students share their dreams with students and school families with a hallway or website display.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.5 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibility.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.10 Give an example of an action by an individual or a private organization that has helped to enhance a fundamental democratic principle.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Give examples of actions students can take to improve the common good and list or describe responsibilities that go with those actions.