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Martin Luther King Jr.: A Clothesline Timeline

Subjects: Arts & Humanities, Educational Technology, Holidays, Language Arts, Mathematics, Measurement, Social Studies, U.S. History, Visual Arts
Grades: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Brief Description

Students create a clothesline timeline depicting events in the life of Martin Luther King Jr.



  • use print and online resources to learn about the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • identify important events in King's life.
  • sequence lists of important events by date.
  • create art representations of the important events.
  • sequence art on the clothesline timeline.


Martin Luther King, sequence, timeline

Materials Needed

  • clothesline and clothespins
  • index cards or paper cut to index-card size
  • books and other research resources
  • Internet access (optional)

Lesson Plan

Explain to students that they are going to create a clothesline timeline about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Before they begin, share with them another student-created timeline about the civil rights leader. The Dr. King Timeline Page at might serve as an example of, and an inspiration for, the timeline students create for the classroom. For additional sources of dated information about Martin Luther King Jr., see the resources provided at the end of this section.

  • Note: If possible, plan to hold the first class session in the school library or computer lab. Provide students with index cards or paper cut to index-card size, and tell them they are going to investigate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Explain to students that as they research, they should make a note of each important date and event in King's life.
  • For each important date or event, have students record on index cards the date of that event, a statement describing the event, the source of the information, and their own names.
  • Back in the classroom, string a clothesline across the room.
  • Organize students into small groups, and invite them to share the information on their cards with other group members. Then ask the members of each group to put their cards together and sequence them by date.
  • Now it's time to share as a class. Write King's birth date -- January 15, 1929 -- on the chalkboard or on a chart. Ask each group whether it has recorded an event that happened in 1929. If so, ask one student in the group to briefly discuss the event. Collect the card -- which will be the first card in a combined stack. Continue in this way until all the cards are sequenced. You may prefer to ask for events in two- or five-year increments, especially in the early years of King's life when less detail is available.
  • Distribute the cards, one per student, and have each student illustrate on a piece of paper the event listed on his or her card. When the drawings are complete, attach a card to each drawing and hang the illustrated date on the timeline in chronological order. Add photographs of King from magazines and other sources (see photo source list below) to correct proper places on the clothesline timeline.

Additional Timeline Sources: Martin Luther King Jr.

Picture Sources: Martin Luther King Jr.


Students use the classroom clothesline timeline to answer ten questions in a teacher-created scavenger hunt.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards





NT.K-12.5 Technology Research Tools

See more lessons at Happy Birthday, MLK at

Click here to return to the Martin Luther King Jr. lesson plan page.


Last updated 1/01/2012