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Big Quotes, Big Meanings
based on Martin's Big Words
Written by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Grades: K–3

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Big Quotes, Big Meanings (PDF)
Word Search (PDF)

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About the Book
Martin Luther King, Jr. is considered one of our greatest American heroes. His courage, his commitment to his beliefs, and perhaps most of all the legacy of his speeches and words, still resonate with adults and children alike. In this brilliant picture book, Doreen Rappaport has taken a new approach to this great man's life. Using quotes, or as Martin refers to them, "big words", she gives the readers a new understanding of the words that had such an impact on Martin. Weaving her words in with his own, the text conveys the power that words have to motivate, reassure, and even change lives. Bryan Collier's stunning illustrations add to this inspiring text to create a unique and beautiful book. His use of stained-glass windows throughout are used to represent different races and add a breathtaking quality of quietness, power, and grace to the "big words" found throughout the book. There have been many books published about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the role he played in our history, but this book truly stands as an amazing tribute to his life and gives access to his powerful words even for the youngest of listeners.

Set the Stage
Before sharing the book with your students, discuss what they already know about Martin Luther King, Jr. Weave into their responses the idea that one of the things most remembered about this great man are the speeches he gave and how he used words to inspire and motivate people to join his cause. Challenge your students to listen for the "big" words found throughout the book and to consider why they have such an impact on people even today. Also, remind them that Martin lived in a very difficult time and yet accomplished so much. Encourage them to see if they can discover what gave him the courage to face and overcome so many obstacles.

Ask them what the Caldecott award is given for. Share with them that Bryan Collier's illustrations won the Caldecott honor for his art in this book. Ask them to look closely at the illustrations and see if they can determine what art style he used, if there is a theme to his illustrations, and how the illustrations complement the text.

Review the Book
After students have read/listened to Martin's Big Words, have them reflect on the meaning of the story with the following sample discussion questions:
• What did Martin mean when he said, "When I grow up, I'm going to get big words, too"?
• What are some of Martin's big words?
• How many times does the American flag appear in the book?

Student Activity
Here's an activity your students can complete after reading Martin's Big Words. Discuss the quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke, which are featured throughout this book. Explain to students that in this activity there are nine quotes, but each quote is missing a word. Students find the correct word then write it in the line. We also included a fun "Big Word" search for students.

Print and Copy these Classroom Activities Now
Big Quotes, Big Meanings (PDF)
Word Search (PDF)

Related Activities
For more ideas on using Martin's Big Words in your classroom, see these related resources.

Read other teachers' ideas about how to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Learn about African-Americans who shaped history with this CyberHunt Crossword.

Find out more about illustrator Bryan Collier in the Authors and Books section of our site.