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Introduce Vocabulary: Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King (Marzollo)

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Lesson Type: Introduce
Grade: K, 1, 2, 3
Group Size: Small Group, Whole Class
Length: 20 minutes
Goal: After listening to a fiction read-aloud, students will know the meaning of three Tier Two vocabulary words.

Materials: Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King (Marzollo), board or chart paper

What to Do


Select three Tier Two vocabulary words to teach your students. A list of suggested words appears below. Write the vocabulary words on the board or on chart paper.


1. Introduce the story.

Today we are going to read a story entitled Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King.

2. Introduce the three vocabulary words you have chosen.

Before we read the story, I want to introduce some new words that we will come across. Please repeat each word after I say it.

3. Read the story.

Let’s read the story. Make sure to listen for today’s vocabulary words and to think about how they are used in the story. If you hear a vocabulary word while I am reading, raise your hand.

4. Define key vocabulary words. See definitions below.

Let’s think about our vocabulary words. The word ______________ means ____________. Does anyone remember how this word was used in the text?

Call on students to answer the question. Then refer to the text to show how the word was used in context. Repeat this process for each vocabulary word.


Now let’s practice what we’ve learned.


Famous means a lot of people know who someone is. What’s the word?

Sometimes famous people would like to be left alone. If you’re famous, people you don’t know will recognize you.

I’m going to name some people. If you think a lot of people know who the person is, say famous. Otherwise, stay quiet. Ready?

  • The president of the United States
  • An artist in a museum
  • Your mailman
  • Your baby brother or sister
  • George Washington


Freedom means being able to live how you want, without anyone telling you what to do. What’s the word?

In the United States, we have a lot of freedom. What’s more important to you than freedom?

I’m going to name some things adults do. If you think kids can do these things when they want to, say freedom. Otherwise, stay quiet. Ready?

  • Check out books from the library
  • Drive
  • Vote
  • Spend money
  • Go to church


Justice means fairness to all people. What’s the word?

All people deserve to be treated with justice. You would feel bad if others were treated with justice but you weren’t.

I’m going to name some things. If you think the thing shows fairness to all people, say justice. Otherwise, stay quiet. Ready?

  • Telling some people they can’t have a job because of the color of their skin
  • Allowing all adults to vote
  • Allowing people to live wherever they want
  • Letting people talk without getting in trouble
  • Telling women they can’t be doctors


Leadership means showing people how to do good things so they want to do good things too. What’s the word?

Martin Luther King showed leadership because he taught people how to stand up for what’s right. You can show leadership in your classroom by being fair to everyone.

I’m going to name some activities. If you think the activity shows someone how to do a good thing so they want to do it too, say leadership. Otherwise, stay quiet. Ready?

  • Being quiet and responsible in the lunchroom
  • Listening politely to the speaker
  • Making your bed every morning so your mom doesn’t have to
  • Stealing
  • Sleeping in class


Talent means being very good at something. What’s the word?

Some people have natural talent at playing the piano; others have to work very hard at it. Do you have more talent in music or sports?

I’m going to name some activities. If you think a monkey is very good at the activity, say talent. Otherwise, stay quiet. Ready?

  • Swinging in trees
  • Swimming
  • Reading
  • Climbing
  • Picking bananas


For Advanced Students:

If time permits, have students create more examples for the vocabulary words.

For Struggling Students:

If time permits, have students record the words on a Vocabulary Discovery Chart or in a Word Journal.

For ELL Students:

In order to help ELL students learn the words, it may be helpful to use realia and/or to teach cognates.

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