Analyzing "The Dream"

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SWBAT evaluate how a particular part of the "I Have a Dream Speech" fits into the overall meaning of the speech.

Big Idea

Keep Dreaming!

The Movie

17 minutes

My students asked repeatedly if they could see the video of Martin Luther King giving the "I Have a Dream" speech before they read it.  I told them that they needed to read the book before seeing the movie in this case.  I wanted the students to draw their own conclusions about the text before seeing the way it was delivered.  Now, I am going to have students watch the speech, and make some observations.  This is going to be pretty informal.  Students will have the text of the speech out as they watch it to reference as necessary.  They can jot down any observations on that paper.  When the speech is over, we will discuss what they noticed, and I will ask the same question again:  Why was this an effective speech?  I'll have them answer aloud and base their answers on the video.  

You can view the video here.  

Analyzing Words

25 minutes

Now that students have seen the speech and the way the crowd reacted to it on that day, I want them to look at a specific part and relate it to the meaning of the speech.  This text is extremely difficult, and I know that my students will struggle.  The rigor is definitely affecting their ability to hack through it with ease, however, they are able to make meaning and connections on some level.  I like the challenge that this difficult text presents, and I'll be around to help them through the toughest parts.  

Through the close reading lesson, I realized something interesting.  Our students recite the preamble to the Constitution everyday after the Pledge of Alligience.  The say the words, "We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal," but they have no idea what they are saying!  

I will ask the students why Martin Luther King decided to include the following sentence in his speech? 

We will decide two things:

1.  What does this sentence mean?

2.  How does it relate to the overall theme of racial equality that Dr. King speaks of?

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Each group of students will have a copy of this quote.  They will work together to paraphrase it in their own words.  First, I will have them look at the following words or phrases:  

rise up

live out the true meaning

it's creed


self evident

The students will define these, using resources if necessary, and rephrase them in different words to figure out the meaning.  Each group will present it's paraphrased sentence, and I will record them.  

Another example (pardon the spelling errors!)

One more

A rather enthusiastic reading

Next, I will have students discuss how this sentence relates to the overall theme of the speech.  I will ask, "Why do you think Dr. King included this part?" 

Each group will discuss this question and share it with the class.  I will record their responses as well.

Dream Check Up

10 minutes

To close out this lesson, I will ask students to think about Martin's dream one last time.  If Dr. King were alive today, would he think that his dream had been realized or do we still have more work to do in order for his dream to become a reality?

I will have each student answer this question individually.  I will encourage them to cite specific examples from their lives or the world as a whole that would support their opinion.  

I chose to end the lesson this way, because I think the idea of racial inequality is something my students aren't used to discussing.  They know it used to be a problem, but I am betting that most of my students don't think about it at all.  I hope that this speech and our discussions have given them a new perspective, and I would like to give them time to reflect on their learning.  

Sample Response