Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts: k-12 Close Reading Task

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Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts: K-12 Close Reading Task

Text grade band placement:



Text Complexity Analysis

Title: "I Have a Dream: Address Delivered at the March on Washington, D.C., for Civil Rights on August 28, 1963"
Author: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Citation/Publication info:

King, Martin Luther, Jr. "I Have a Dream." Prentice Hall Literature. Common Core Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2012. 538-539. Print.

Link (if applicable):


Lexile Level: 1140L

Word count: 1597


Purpose: This seminal, historic persuasive speech clearly discusses the Civil Rights Movement and the topics of race, prejudice, and equality.

Text Structure: The structure is largely straight-forward, with instances of repetition and other rhetorical devices that impact the audience.

Language Features: Although some archaic language is used, close reading of the text will uncover deeper meanings. The sentence structure is complex at times, though repetitive.

Knowledge Demands: The speech contains some allusions to outside texts. Prior knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement or the context of the public speaking event will add to the meaning, though it is not required to comprehend the meaning.

Reader and Task:

Potential Challenges: The complexity of the speech's theme, the issue of racial discrimination, and the vocabulary level would indicate that mid-level reading skills are necessary. These factors should be taken into consideration along with the reader's maturity level.

Differentiation: Struggling readers, including ESL students, will be offered additional support with vocabulary, historical placement in American history, biblical and political references, and deconstructing meaning from the text by sentence or by paragraph in small peer groups and with the teacher.

ELA Common Core Standards addressed by task

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).RI.9-10.6 – Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9 Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”), including how they address related themes and concepts.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1 – Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1 – Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

What key insights should students take from this text?

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. makes a logical and persuasive speech to help audiences understand his dream for freedom and equality.

  • The most effective speeches make good use of rhetorical devices and organizational structure.

  • Students are encouraged to explore the true meaning of equality, and how it relates to current social issues.

  • Students identify the importance of stating a claim and gathering credible support for that claim to create a solid argument.

  • Students will practice close reading and will continue to develop the skill of comprehending complex text.

Text-Dependent Questions

Prior Knowledge:

Who is Martin Luther King Jr.? What do you know about him?


What is the central idea of King’s speech? Support your answer with evidence from the text.

What three outside historical documents does King explicitly refer to in his speech?

Create a T-chart listing the injustices King mentions on the left side and the facets of his dream on the right side.


Explain King's analogy between a financial transaction and the idea of justice.


Why does King keep repeating “I Have a Dream” throughout his speech?


Find another example of repetition in the speech. What is the significance of his repeating this word or phrase?

Writing Mode

Writing Prompt


Review the chart you composed of the injustices and dreams of which King spoke.
Choose one significant aspect of King’s dream stated in this speech. Has this aspect of his dream been fulfilled or delayed? Write an argument using the text of the speech and one additional piece of research of current events to support your claim. Use specific evidence from the speech and your source.
Utilize the Tennessee Electronic Library to find your source.

Scaffolding and support for special education students, English language learners, and struggling readers:

Instruction for this lesson needs scaffolding with additional differentiation to develop the reading strategies and background knowledge necessary for students to successfully achieve the learning targets. This support comes with additional time, instructional support, aligning appropriate assessments, diagnosing each student and adjusting accordingly, and by closely monitoring individual student progress with the help of special education and ELL educators.

The most effective support will be in vocabulary. Students and teacher can identify the tier two vocabulary words and determine their meaning in the context of the text. There are also multiple allusions and extended metaphors for which struggling learners will need additional support or explanation to grasp the meaning.

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