Analyzing Diction, Anaphora And Rhetorical Strategies In Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream Speech (1 of 2)

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SWBAT draw conclusions about an author's purpose by evaluating diction and rhetorical devices in Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech.

Big Idea

Can a text be so complex that it has multiple purposes directed toward diverse audiences?

Warm Up---Let's rev up our schema!

5 minutes

Upon entering, students are grabbing their weekly warm up sheet and adding an entry for today.  They will have four minutes to respond to the following:

Write everything you know about Martin Luther King, Jr.  (W.9-10.10)

I anticipate students being all over the board with this answer.  However, MLK is someone that should be accessible to them.  I begin class in this way to help them connect with prior learning and to help me get a sense of the class's prior knowledge.  I often begin class with connecting students with prior knowledge.  It helps me plan the next day's lesson.  It also helps me be flexible in the lesson that I have planned.  

Mini Lesson---Let's read and appreciate a historical text

25 minutes

This is day one of a two day lesson.  Day one asks students to read and understand Martin Luther King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech.  I know that many of my students have heard or read parts of the speech, but I doubt many of them have evaluated King's purposes.  The standards explain that students must analyze US documents of importance, and this surely is one (RI.9-10.9). Examining King's speech and appreciating it for its place in history and for his brilliantly constructed argument while identifying to whom he was speaking is our primary aim today.  

To get students to understand the time period surrounding the speech, I students watch this short film from YouTube.



After watching the short film, students receive a copy of King's speech.  After we read the speech together, students read it again, silently this time, while annotating.  I tell my students to always read with a pencil in hand.  Annotating is part of the culture in our classroom.  Specifically, today I tell students to identify parts of King's speech that are shocking and/or surprising.  Students and I read the speech together a third time.  However, this time, I will chunk the text into thirds and tell the students that we are reading with the intention of identifying to whom King is speaking in each section. King has multiple audiences and I want students to understand that in persuasive text there are often multiple purposes and audiences.  

After we read each section, we stop and think aloud about King's audience and purpose (RI.9-10.6). I ask questions like, Who is King speaking to here? How do you know?  What language would he use if he was talking to someone else? 

When finished, we take notes on the board about King's audience(s) and purpose(s). We also identify the ways that King uses rhetoric to advance his purposes.  This speech is a great way for students to understand that often times an argumentative text, particularly a speech, doesn't have once audience or one purpose.  This clip explains the  Audience and Purpose notes we take on the Smart Board. 

Student Work Time---Let's transform text into a visual representation

15 minutes

Today is a great day to do a little creative writing.  Common Core has really forced me to evaluate my assignments.  I have worked to get rid of the "fluff" lessons that I only had students do because I liked them.  However, I do think it is important for students to appreciate the aesthetic appeal of a wonderfully written piece of literature.  To end class, students identify King's most important line from his speech.  I tell students that a carefully placed line/word/phrase/sentence can advance an author's argument (RI.9-10.5) and often that carefully placed line often advances the author's claim/purpose.  Students are identifying which line/sentence most advances King's argument and captures the essence of his argument.  Then, students create a visual representation of the line/sentence and explain why they chose it (W.9-10.10).  Here is an example

After seven minutes, students hang their visuals with explanation in the hall.  Each member of class chooses a partner and each student takes turns presenting their visual, reading their writing and explaining their interpretation to their partner.  This is a great way for students to practice participating in a range of collaborative discussions (SL 9-10.1).  

As class comes to an end, I tell students to talk to their parents about MLK's speech.  I want them to understand that the speech was not delivered that long ago.