Race and Rhetoric in Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech

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SWBAT recognize and evaluate an author's use of rhetoric in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech.

Big Idea

Rhetoric is the discussion topic of the day as students discuss persuasive techniques.

Do Now: Reviewing Arguments

5 minutes

For the "Do Now" today, I am asking  students to take out their index cards on which they identified three arguments to answer the following questions:

"Is killing ever justified? Should George be punished for killing Lennie in Of Mice and Men, or was the killing justified?"

I will be using this Ethos Pathos Logos I Have a Dream Day1flipchart to guide our work today. In order to view the flipchart, you will need to download the free ActivInspire software at the Promethean Planet site.

We are referring back to these cards because I am preparing my students for an on demand writing assignment and they will have to use multiple sources to write an argumentative response(CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1) to the question above. I will ask my students to read over their arguments and make sure that they could be supported with facts from informational sources. I have chosen to have students do this because reviewing their arguments will prepare my students for collecting evidence in a future lesson, but today we will be analyzing these arguments for their rhetorical devices (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6).

Building Knowledge: Taking Notes on Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

10 minutes

For this part of the lesson, I have a cool, creative video that succinctly explains the rhetorical devices (ethos, pathos, and Logos) in a way that I KNOW my students will remember. I have chosen this video because it has memorable visual images, funny songs and sound effects, and written notes. It speaks to most of the types of learners in my class, so I am sure that it will be a hit.

I'll ask my students to take notes by writing one rhetorical devices on the back of each of their argument cards. They will use the back of these cards to take notes as they watch the clip.

I am having them take notes on the cards because this will provide a written record of the definitions of these terms that students will use when we analyze arguments and write them.

After we watch the video and take notes, I will have my students refer back to their arguments on the front of their note cards. I will ask them to categorize each of their arguments as ethos, pathos, or logos and share those categories with a partner (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3) in order to evaluate each others' use of rhetoric.

Check out these clips of some of my students justifying how they categorized their arguments:

Ethos Pathos Logos video clip 1

Ethos Pathos Logos video clip 2


Building Knowledge: The Civil Rights Movement

20 minutes

During this part of the lesson, I will show a few pictures of events that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement so that my students will understand the context of the "I Have a Dream Speech."  We will be reading this speech today as an example of argument and use of rhetoric. I'll first ask what they already know about the movement. If they seem to know a lot, I will have them narrate what is happening in the pictures. I am showing the pictures from America.gov.

I chose this site because it is a slide show that shows students African American students attempting to attend all White schools. It also shows students protesting outside of Woolworth and students sitting at the lunch counters that were marked "For Whites Only." These are powerful images that might shed light on the feelings of the nation and particularly Dr. King's feelings and thoughts as he made his famous speech.This will be a time when students can feel free to openly dialogue about what they are thinking as they view the images (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d).

Whole Group Discussion

15 minutes

Before we read Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, I've decided to throw out a couple of controversial questions to the whole group to see what they think as we begin to discuss controversial racial issues (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d).

1)Last month, we were out of school for Dr. King's birthday. Why is it that we didn't really honor Dr. King on the announcements or in our school?

2) February is African American History month. Why haven't we heard any announcements about it this month?

I'm not simply asking these questions because I'm trying to incite a riot. On the contrary, I want to know what my students have to say because these are genuine questions that I have been thinking about while preparing this lesson. My school is not the most racially diverse school, but my kids are wonderful, and I think they are ready to have a respectful conversation about race that I hope will prepare them for these types of conversations in the future.

Application: Applying Understanding of Rhetorical Devices to Text

20 minutes

During this part of the lesson, I will ask my students to listen to and read the "I Have a Dream" Speech (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9). During this first read, I simply want them to focus on how Dr. King's develops his claims and arguments (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5) and noticing rhetorical devices.They can make notes of these devices by using a post-it or jotting down notes in their notebooks.


After the reading, I will have students turn and talk to a classmate to discuss the following:

1) What were you thinking as you listened to and read the speech? (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1a)

2) What rhetorical devices are present in the speech? How did they affect you as you read them (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3)?

Right now, this is just a conversation because during our next class session, we will read the text a bit more closely. I am doing it this way so that we will be more prepared for a closer reading.


10 minutes

For this part of the lesson, I will ask my students to orally share the parts of the speech that seemed to be the most persuasive to them and why (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3). I'll also ask them to tell me whether these pieces of the text are ethos, pathos, or logos.

I am doing this because this will serve as a quick assessment of whether they understood the purposeful use of language (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5) used in Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech." These responses should also tell me whether students can apply their knowledge of rhetorical devices to a text.