Skip to contentContribute to ReadWriteThink / RSS / FAQs / Site Demonstrations / Contact Us / About Us

 

 

Contribute to ReadWriteThink

ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, videos, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.

More

 

Professional Development

Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.

More

 

Did You Know?

Your students can save their work with Student Interactives.

More more

HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Entering History: Nikki Giovanni and Martin Luther King, Jr.

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

 

Entering History: Nikki Giovanni and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Jaime R. Wood

Jaime R. Wood

Portland, Oregon

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Session Five

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will:

  • identify unfamiliar words and phrases in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
  • define these unfamiliar words and phrases both denotatively and connotatively.
  • explain in their own words what the speech says.
  • write quiz questions about the speech for their peers and themselves.
  • read the speech orally.
  • demonstrate an understanding of the historical context of the speech and Nikki Giovanni's poem "The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr."
  • write reflectively about what they've learned about Martin Luther King, Jr., Nikki Giovanni, and/or Civil Rights in general.

back to top

 

Session One

  1. Give students the text version of the speech, and ask them to read along silently as they listen to the audio version of the speech. Explain that they should focus on King’s voice and the way he accentuates certain words and phrases.
  2. Ask students to share what they noticed about how King used his voice to make certain words and phrases more powerful. Use the following questions to guide discussion: How did his voice change during moments of repetition in the speech? How did his tone of voice affect the way the speech sounded and felt to the listener?
  3. Model for students how to create a profile and use the Word Mover mobile app using King's "I Have a Dream" speech.  After reflecting on the questions above, have students experiment with different parts of his speech, using the tools within the app to show important parts and words, changes in his voice, etc. 
  4. Have students share their designed poems with a partner or small group, explaining why they made the style choices that they did.
  5. Return to the paper copy of the speech and ask students to underline words and phrases they may not know or ones that have to do with history such as “Emancipation Proclamation.”
  6. Give students the “I Have a Dream” Graphic Organizer, and explain that each student will be responsible for one section of the speech. Assign sections.
  7. Ask students to record their section of the speech at the top of their “I Have a Dream” Graphic Organizer, making sure to record it verbatim.
  8. Have students record the words and phrases from their section only in the middle of the organizer. It is important for them to choose words and phrases that will help them better understand the speech and its historical context. Share the example organizer if students need a model for their work.
  9. Explain to the class the difference between a word’s dictionary definition and what it means in context. For example, a manacle is something that confines or binds, but in the context of Dr. King’s speech, it refers to the effect that segregation has on African Americans.
  10. Using print dictionaries or an online dictionary, give students the rest of the class session to locate meanings of the words and phrases they have listed. They should record these meanings in the middle column of the organizer.
  11. Once students locate the dictionary definitions of the words and phrases, they can explain the meanings in the context of Dr. King’s speech in the right-hand column.
  12. Finally, students should complete the last section of the organizer by explaining what their segment of the speech is saying in their own words.
  13. Students should finish Steps 10, 11 and 12 for homework if they do not complete them in class.

back to top

 

Session Two

  1. Begin class by asking students to make a line in the front of the room according to the part of the speech for which they are responsible.
  2. Ask each student to read his or her part so that the speech is read in its entirety.
  3. After students have returned to their seats, ask the class to discuss what they learned about the speech through their research. They might want to share what they wrote on their organizers about what the speech says.
  4. Explain to the class that each student is now going to write 3 to 5 quiz questions about his or her section of the speech. The goal is to see how well the class understands the speech. Quiz questions should include inquiries about vocabulary, historical references, and symbolic language.
  5. Share the Quiz Checklist with the students so that they know what kinds of questions to include.
  6. Ask students to fold a piece of notebook paper in half and tear it along the crease. They will write their questions on each of the pieces of paper, one to turn in and one to keep.
  7. Give each student a chance to share one of their quiz questions before the end of the class session. Explain that you will choose at least one question from each student for the quiz they will take at the end of the lesson.
  8. Pick up quiz questions and “I Have a Dream” graphic organizers. Check organizers for completion and accuracy. Copy students’ quiz questions on the left side of the butcher paper before the next class session.
  9. For homework, ask students to answer their own quiz questions making sure that their answers are thorough and correct.

back to top

 

Session Three

  1. Begin class by showing students the left-hand side of the butcher paper where you have recorded the questions that will be on the quiz.
  2. Ask students to turn in the answers to their quiz questions so you can check and record them on the right-hand side of the butcher paper. Explain that the butcher paper display will give them a place to review for their quiz.
  3. Ask students to get out their speeches and explain that they need to decide how to perform their section of the speech.
    • Students will need to know that readers’ theater requires that they not use props and that they stand in one place to read the speech directly from the page.
    • They will need to decide which words and/or phrases to read with emphasis or with more than one person. For example, there is a section of the speech where Dr. King repeats “Let freedom ring” several times. This might be a good phrase to have boys and girls alternate until the last time when the whole class can read it together.
  4. After each student decides how the speech will be read, students will stand one at a time, starting with the person with the first section of the speech, to explain to the class when girls, boys, and the entire class will read. All other text will be read by the individual who is responsible for that section.
  5. Students who are not standing should be underlining the parts they will be reading. (It will be helpful for you to mark the speech on an overhead with G for girls, B for boys, and C for class according to which lines will be read by whom.)
  6. Ask students to stand up at the front of the room so they get used to performing that way. Spend the rest of the class time practicing the speech.

back to top

 

Session Four

  1. Begin class by reviewing quiz questions and answers with students using the butcher paper as a visual.
  2. Practice the speech, making any changes to reading parts that may be necessary.
  3. Read Nikki Giovanni’s poem “The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
  4. Explain that King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, on August, 28, 1963, and he was assassinated at the age of 39 on April 4, 1968.
  5. Ask students to share their general reactions to Giovanni’s poem.
  6. Ask them what they think Giovanni meant in these lines of the poem: “But death is a slave’s freedom / We seek the freedom of free men / And the construction of a world / Where Martin Luther King could have lived / and preached non-violence.” Focus especially on the meaning of “freedom.”
  7. Give students the following three writing prompts and ask them to choose one to write about for homework:
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. in today’s world: Ask students to focus on the last four lines of Giovanni’s poem: “We seek the freedom of free men/ And the construction of a world/ Where Martin Luther King could have lived/ and preached non-violence.” Have students write about whether or not they believe Martin Luther King could live and preach non-violence in today’s world. They should support their opinions with evidence from what they’ve learned about the Civil Rights Movement, examples of current events, and their understanding of the word “freedom.”
    • Writing as Nikki Giovanni: Ask students to imagine that Nikki Giovanni was in Washington in 1963 to hear Dr. King’s speech. How would she have reacted to his speech? How would it have made her feel? What would she have written about it? Students must put themselves in the place of Nikki Giovanni and write a reflection about the experience of hearing King’s speech from her point of view. It can be in the form of a letter, journal entry or poem.
    • Agents of Change: Ask students to write a letter to a politician, modern-day civil rights activist, or a newspaper explaining what needs to change in your community or in America in order for Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to be realized. You may want to start by brainstorming a list of actions with the class that may promote positive change. Tell students that they should focus on one thing they think should be changed and explain why and how making that change will help your community or our country become more tolerant of differences.
  8. Share the Reflective Writing Rubric with the students so they know the expectations of their writing project.
  9. If time allows, return to the Word Mover mobile app and have students choose "My Own Words," where they can then enter the words to a section of Giovanni's poem and repeat the same exercise that they did for the MLK poem.

back to top

 

Session Five

  1. Begin class by reviewing quiz questions and answers with students using the butcher paper as a visual. Remind students that this will be the last day of review and that the quiz will occur during the next class session.
  2. Spend some time practicing the speech and preparing for the final readers’ theater performance.
  3. Ask volunteers to share their reflections, choosing students who wrote about each of the three prompts.
  4. Discuss the personal reactions students may have about their peers’ reflections, Dr. King’s speech, Giovanni’s poem or the Civil Rights Movement in general.

back to top

 

EXTENSIONS

  • If you wish to focus on the writing element of this lesson, allow time for students to workshop and revise their reflections. Arrange the class in groups according to which prompt they chose and guide them through a workshop, asking them to focus on specific areas such as purpose, organization, fluidity, and so forth. These reflections can be posted on a class Web site, around the classroom, or collected and bound together.
  • Introduce students to other writing by Nikki Giovanni and Dr. King. Some recommendations include Giovanni’s “Poem (No Name No. 3)”, “Poem for Black Boys (With Special Love to James)”, and “The Great Pax Whitie.” “Promised Land” is the speech Dr. King delivered the day before he was assassinated, and the letter he wrote while in jail in Birmingham, Alabama, also provides a great deal of historical context for students who are interested in learning more about the Civil Rights Movement. Some poems by Giovanni, as well as records of her reading her poetry, can be found at her Website.
  • For more classroom resources on Nikki Giovanni and Martin Luther king, Jr., see the calendar entries for January 15: Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in 1929,  August 28: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, and June 7: Poet Nikki Giovanni was born in 1943.

back to top

 

STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • Student generated quizzes: While students will write the initial questions, you will decide which ones most thoroughly test students’ understanding of King’s speech. Students will answer their own questions before the final quiz is created. Grade the final quiz according to the answers that have been studied and reviewed.
  • “I Have a Dream” Organizer: This assignment can be assessed according to whether or not it was completed accurately following the directions.
  • Reflective writing: Assess students’ reflective writing based on the directions on the writing prompts using the rubric. How stringently these reflections are graded will depend on whether students are given time to workshop and revise them.
  • Readers’ theater performance can be evaluated for preparation and the appropriate use of emphasis, volume, eye contact, and so forth.

back to top