Free Writing And Looking At another Model of Good Oration

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SWBAT explore possible topics for their final written assignment by engaging in free writing. SWBAT examine the speech of a master writer, Martin Luther King Jr., by doing a close reading, watching video footage of the speech delivered and discussing the written and oral forms of this speech.

Big Idea

Taking a look at an all time master, Martin Luther King, Jr.


The lessons of this unit are leading to the final assignment of the school year, which is to write and deliver an original speech/talk. Because we will engage with speeches as well as talks, I am calling this assignment a speech/talk. These are the directions for the final speech/talk. We watched a couple of TED talks the day before to inspire students and give them a model of a talk exemplary in its writing and delivery. Today, we look at an exemplary written model, but first I give students a chance to begin brainstorming possible topics for their own speech/talk.

Free Writing

30 minutes

To brainstorm topics, I engage students in a free write following this document with Directions For Free Writes.

I explain free writes and give them the directions. I follow the steps that guide students to stop writing after 5 minutes of free writing, highlight any interesting ideas and elaborating on these ideas by engaging in free writing for 5 more minutes. In this video, you can see how we started the free write today.

I asked if any have a topic in mind by the end of this free write session. About 6 students raised their hand. This helps me get a sense of how much we will need to spend brainstorming topics.


MLK Speech

20 minutes

I now want students to begin to examine a written speech, the "I Have A Dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr. I distribute a copy of the speech for students. I ask them how familiar they are with this speech. I am assuming that they all have heard bits and pieces of this speech and know a variety of details about MLK, but they have never read this entire speech. They state exactly this. I tell them that we are reading this speech as a model of an incredibly powerful model.

I assign the first 5 paragraphs. We begin with these 5 paragraphs because I plan on showing students a video of MLK actually delivering the speech and we don’t have time to read the entire speech and watch the entire delivery today. I am mainly interested in giving students the experience of reading and hearing this powerful speech as they are going to be doing the same for the final assignment of this unit. 

I instruct students to read these paragraphs on their own and to underline anything that catches their attention. I explain that I am asking them to identify the details that make this one of the most important speeches in the history of this country. These are going to help them study rhetorical strategies we are going to study later in this unit.

I then play the footage of MLK delivering the speech. I play it up to the point they have read and then stop it to discuss. Specifically, I ask them if the footage made a difference? Students comment that it sounds more powerful. One student says that the tone of his voice makes a difference. I ask them which particular part sounded more powerful in the actual delivery. They mention a few phrases like, “But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt” and the phrase “One hundred years later.”  I share that I also think this last phrase sounds incredibly powerful in the way he delivers it. What I am attempting to establish here is that the power of a speech lies in the writing as well as in the delivery, both aspects they will have to work on for their final speech/talk.

I ask students to read the rest of the speech at home and annotate.