Rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed



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The following text is an excerpt from "I Have a Dream" as delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I say to you today, my friends...even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brother-hood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

UNIT LESSON PLAN

INSTRUCTOR_______________ DATE___________ CLASS LEVEL _ABE Level C______

I Have a Dream Speech Unit: 5 days

Topic: January: Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday

I Have a Dream” Speech



Lesson Objectives:

The students will:

1) Gain a deeper understanding of non-fiction literature through collaboration with peers

2) Analyze the text through in-depth reading, text-dependent questions, study of vocabulary, and discussion of figurative language.

3) Choose between 2 writing prompts to develop a text-based response to the speech.


CCR Standards Aligned to this Lesson:

RI/RL.4.1 , RI/RL.5.1, RI.4.3, RL.5.4, RI.4.5 , W.5.1 , W.4.2 , W.5.4 , W.5.5 , SL.5.1 , SL.5.2 , L.5.5, L.4.4 & 5.4



Reading: (to include text dependent questions and pre-reading strategies as needed, such as vocabulary, grammar, spelling, phonics, sentence structure)

Vocabulary: excerpt, rooted, creed, self-evident, brother-hood, sweltering, injustice, oppression, transformed, oasis, freedom, justice, character, interposition, nullification

Sentence structure: use of commas, use of periods

Grammar: future verb tense with “will”

Figurative Language: allusion, anaphora, repetition, prediction

Text Dependent Questions Possible Student Answers

In this famous section of King’s speech, he repeats phrases and words, which is known as “repetition.” Give examples of repetition using evidence from the text.

Lines 17, 24- transformed

Lines 8, 12, 15, 21, 23- King repeats the phrase “one day”

Lines 8, 19- nation


What is the meaning of the word “sweltering” in line 16? Contrast the definition of “sweltering” with the concept of “oasis” in line 18.

Sweltering” means suffering from very strong heat. It is the opposite of the word “oasis,” which means something that is refreshing and place of peace, safety, and happiness in the midst of trouble or difficulty.

According to King, what is more important than the color of a person's skin? Use text to support your answer.

The content of one’s character is more important than the color of your skin. Line 22.



In lines 7-8, King refers to the “American dream.” What is the American dream? What can you infer from the text about King’s belief in the American dream?

The term “American dream” is used in many ways, but it essentially is an idea that suggests that anyone in the US can succeed through hard work and has the potential to lead a happy, successful life. In lines 6-7, King states that his dream is deeply rooted in the American dream, which means that he believes in the idea and thinks that it will apply to all people in the future.



What is the definition of creed in line 9? What is the creed he refers to, and what does it mean?

Creed- a belief or principle. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” This creed means that all people should have equal rights and freedoms because we are all the same in the eyes of God.


In the beginning of the excerpt, King’s quote refers to the Declaration of Independence (lines 9-10) . What figurative language does he use in this example?

Allusion- a reference to something historical, literary, religious, or mythical. The author usually uses references that will be understood by his or her audience, such as an event, book, myth, place, or work of art. Allusions can help people see connections between two ideas.

Anaphora is a figurative term that describes when a word or phrase is used to begin many sentences. Give an example of anaphora in the speech—what phrase is repeated at the beginning of several sentences? Provide evidence from the text. What is King’s purpose in repeating this phrase?

The phrase “I have a dream…” is an example of anaphora in this speech. Found in lines 8, 11, 14, 18, 21, 27.

It causes the reader’s/listener’s attention to be drawn directly to the message of the sentence. King is making predictions about the future of freedom and equality in America.



What verb tense is used throughout the speech? Provide examples from the text. What is the common theme of his predictions?

The verb tense is the future tense with the verb will.

Lines 8-9: one day this nation will rise up

Lines 12-14: sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brother-hood.

Lines 14-17: one day even the state of Mississippi…will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

Lines 18-19: my four little children will one day live in a nation

Lines 19-20: they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Lines 21-24: one day the state of Alabama…will be transformed

Lines 24-26: little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

A common theme of his predictions is that there will be equality and racial harmony for all people regardless of their skin color and race. There will be a change in the way that people view and treat African-Americans in the future.





Writing: Use the graphic organizer to take notes on the speech. This will enable you to write more effectively. Choose a writing prompt and use your notes to help you write your analysis.

Prompt 1: Choose two of the three terms of figurative language that we discussed in class. Write a 2-paragraph analysis of the text by providing a definition in your own words for each figurative language word. Use definitions of your own words for each term, and use examples from the text to support King’s use of figurative language.

Prompt 2: Throughout his speech, Dr. King repeats the phrase “I have a dream…” Write a 2-paragraph response to this speech. In the first paragraph, describe his dream for all Americans using examples from the text. In the second paragraph, discuss the ways in which he predicts his dreams becoming reality, once again using examples from the text.

Listening/Speaking:

How can I use this speech to affect my listening and speaking skills?

Be aware of the length of the sentences and the number of commas. Short phrases allow effective delivery. Pause at the commas and periods to allow for better understanding by the audience.

Listen to and watch this video excerpt from King’s speech: http://www.schooltube.com/video/d2e3b88289874e4b8d3f/Martin%20Luther%20King%20I%20have%20dream

How does King’s pausing at commas affect his delivery of the speech?

It allows the audience to understand it better, as well as to emphasize important parts of the speech.



How I will scaffold my lessons to reach all of my students' levels:


  1. Guide the students in shared reading activities (close reading, chorale reading, reader and response).

  2. The class will participate in whole class and small group discussion as we analyze the text.

  3. Discuss the meaning and use of vocabulary words in small groups using the vocabulary word activity.

  4. Use pictures and simplified definitions for lower-level students who need them.

  5. Play the vocabulary game in groups of 3.

  6. Listen to the video/ audio portion of the “I Have a Dream” speech.

  7. Guide the students to make predictions about Dr. King’s dreams for the future

  8. Use a graphic organizer to write for the writing prompts.

Differentiated instructional techniques:
Differentiated instruction for writing prompts: For students who are at a lower level, encourage them to choose writing prompt #1, and write about only 1 term of figurative language. For students at a higher level, encourage them to choose writing prompt #2, or to write about all of the discussed figurative language for writing prompt #1.


How I will assess my students' mastery of the lessons:
Review the speech with students who are at a lower level to check for fluency and increased pronunciation. Place students into cooperative groups to do the vocabulary game. Analyze student work, vocabulary notes, and graphic organizers, as well as comprehension of the text-based questions. Monitor student writing and the use of grammar and syntax. Monitor use of the peer-editing checklist.


Suggested Five Day Plan:
Day 1: The teacher reads the speech a couple times out loud, and then students do a shared reading a couple times together. Have students use the Vocabulary Builder model to record vocabulary words (Write the word, Write the definition, Draw a picture)

Day 2- Do a class shared reading of the text. Review the meaning of vocabulary words by playing the Vocabulary Builder Game (see page 6 of I Have a Dream Speech Critical Thinking.”). Choose 10 words from the list to do this exercise. Teacher-led discussion about text-dependent questions. Check for comprehension and understanding

Day 3- Continue discussion about text-related questions if needed. Check for comprehension and understanding. Watch the video clip and discuss listening/speaking skills tips for delivering a speech. Emphasize the importance of pausing at commas and sentences. Using graphic organizers, take notes about the speech to prepare for the next 2 days of writing assignment.

Day 4- Finish graphic organizer if needed, and choose a writing prompt. Begin writing your first draft. Finish your first draft if possible.

Day 5- Finish your rough draft of your paper, and if you have already finished, find a partner to do the peer-review worksheet to check your writing. Re-write or type your final draft and give it to the teacher.


Vocabulary List


  1. excerpt- a passage selected from a larger work

  2. rooted- firmly fixed or held

  3. creed- any system of principles or beliefs

  4. self-evident- evident without proof or argument

  5. brotherhood- the feeling that men should treat one another like brothers

  6. sweltering- to suffer from intense heat

  7. injustice- the practice of being unjust or unfair

  8. oppression- being kept down by unjust use of force or authority

  9. transformed- changed in form, appearance, or nature

  10. oasis- a shelter serving as a place of safety or sanctuary

  11. freedom- the condition of being free

  12. justice- the quality of being just or fair

  13. character- the mental and moral qualities that a person has; personality

  14. interposition- the belief that an individual state of the U.S. may oppose any federal action it believes affects its rights.

  15. nullification- the states''-rights doctrine that a state can refuse to recognize or to enforce a federal law passed by the United States Congress

    • Context for the definitions of “interposition” and “nullification”: At the time of the speech, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama was a strong supporter of racial segregation. This portion of the speech refers to the attempts by the governments of Alabama and other states to prevent the U.S.A. from enforcing laws requiring racial integration.

Figurative Language

1. Allusion: used to explain or clarify a complex problem. Note that allusion works best if you keep it short and refer to something the reader / audience is familiar with, such as famous people, history, (Greek) mythology, literature, and the Bible. If the audience is familiar with the event or person, they will also know background and context. Thus, just a few words are enough to create a certain picture (or scene) in the readers’ minds. The advantages are as follows:

We don’t need lengthy explanations to clarify the problem.

The reader becomes active by reflecting on the analogy.

The message will stick in the reader's mind.

Example: A quote by Richard Cushing

Plan ahead. It was not raining when Noah built the Ark. (allusion on the biblical Ark of Noah)

2. Anaphora: the same word or phrase is used to begin many sentences. This allows the reader's / listener's attention to be drawn directly to the message of the sentence.



Example: a quote by Pearl Bailey

A man without ambition is dead. A man with ambition but no love is dead. A man with ambition and love for his blessings here on earth is ever so alive.

3. Repetition: Words or phrases are repeated throughout the text to emphasize certain facts or ideas.



Example: Alice in Wonderland

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time? she said aloud. […]
Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so Alice soon began talking again.
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