Martin Luther King Day Writing Activity

Quote Writing Prompts for Martin Luther King Day

Encourage students to think deeper about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movements through writing. The prompts listed below include narrative, explanatory, and opinion writing. They were designed for students to make a connection with each quote from Martin Luther King. 

These prompts work well for quickwrites, bellringers, journal assignments, and more. Use this short video from the History Channel to provide students with a brief overview of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the Civil Rights Movement. A read aloud of this children’s book based on Martin Luther King’s life will also work.

Five Reasons to Use Quickwrites

  • They provide students with a low-stakes opportunity to share thoughts and feelings. 
  • They allow students to be creative, reflective, and imaginative.
  • They make writing accessible to all students.
  • They give students a choice in what and how they write.  
  • They help students process ideas, formulate questions, and remember information.

Narrative Prompts (Personal & Fictional)

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” New York City, 1962 

Describe what it is like to learn something new. Use an example from your life to explain what you learned and how it felt to do something you had never done before. 


“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Strength to Love, 1963

Write about a time in your life when you solved a problem. Describe the problem and the steps you took to overcome it. 


“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” St. Louis, 1964

Write a story about two people who become friends after being enemies.  

Informative/Explanatory Prompts

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Spelman College, 1960

Write about a person from history that achieved greatness despite facing major obstacles. 


“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Montgomery, Alabama, 1957

Explain three qualities of a good leader. 


“If democracy is to live, segregation must die.” Portland State, 1961

Describe what it would be like to live in a world where everyone looked the same. 


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Strength to Love, 1963 

Explain three ways people can show love to others. 

Martin Luther King Writing Activity

Opinion/Argument Prompts 

“Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” “I Have a Dream,” 1963

Is it possible for something good to come from something bad? Use an example to explain why or why not. 

Martin Luther King Day Quote Writing Prompt

“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.” Selma, Alabama, 1965

Can kids use their voice to create change? Use an example to explain why or why not. 


“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” “The Purpose of Education,” 1947 

Would you rather attend school online or in person? Support your choice with at least three reasons. 


“Hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.” “Where Do We Go From Here?” 1967

Is it possible to love something you once hated? Use an example to explain why or why not. 

Martin Luther King Reading Passage & Questions

Martin Luther King Article and Questions

“Great resource for getting my students to look for text evidence and to analyze the text. I really liked how they have to come up with their own sentences…it really got their brains working!” -Rene B.

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