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Lesson Plan

Exploring the Power of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Words through Diamante Poetry

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Exploring the Power of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Words through Diamante Poetry

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sharon Webster

Narragansett, Rhode Island


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



This lesson asks students to explore the ways that powerful and passionate words communicate the concepts of freedom, justice, discrimination, and the American Dream in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Students read, listen to, or view King's speech and pay close attention to his word use and use of literary devices. They analyze King's definitions of freedom, justice, discrimination, and dreams as demonstrated by the details in his speech. After a thorough exploration of the power of the speech, students choose powerful words and themes from the text and arrange them into original diamante poems.

While this lesson focuses on the "I Have a Dream" speech, it could be adapted to any of King's speeches, as well as to famous speeches by others, such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech, Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address," or Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?"

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Diamante Poem Writing Assignment: This printout includes a chart showing the breakdown of lines in a diamante poem.

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In her article Words Made Public/Words Made Powerful, Susanne Rubenstein writes "...we do not recognize how powerful our students' words are. For both reader and writer, the impact of words made public is tremendous..." She goes on to describe the power of words: "Our children know too well how to arm themselves
with guns and ammunition, but we can-and should-teach them that words are commanding weapons, too. Words can pierce the heart and change a life, and to wield words well is extraordinary power. Young people want to be heard...We can give young people another way to express themselves and the beliefs they hold, and that is through written language." (10)

In this lesson plan, students explore the powerful words of one of the world's most passionate speakers, Martin Luther King, Jr. and in the process they have the opportunity both to investigate the deep meanings of King's words and to choose words that they find powerful themselves as they compose their own poems in response to King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Further Reading

Rubenstein, Susanne.  "Words Made Public/Words Made Powerful." Voices from the Middle 8.1 (September 2000):10 -15.

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