Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of January. Martin Luther King, Jr. is known as the spokesperson for nonviolent activists in the Civil Rights Movement, which protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the I Have a Dream speech! This activity is geared for high school students.
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his inspiring I Have a Dream speech to more than 200,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washing D.C. This memorable speech was part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A Ph.D. from Boston University, Dr. King was well-versed in both American history and religious scripture, and weaves references from both into the fabric of his speech.
Review the literary terms
Figurative Language: Refers to words or phrases that are meaningful, but not literally true.
Metaphor: A figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn’t literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison.
Personification: A figure of speech when you give human qualities to something that isn’t human.
Simile: A figure of speech in which two unrelated things are compared to each other, using comparison words such as “like”, “as”, “so”, or “than”.
Symbol: A figure of speech that stands for or represents something abstract.
Oratory: A skill or eloquence in public speaking.
Refrain: A regularly repeated phrase of line.
Dramatic pause: An intentional pause in delivery in order to build suspense or magnify the importance of a point.
Hyperbole: An exaggeration used for emphasis or dramatic effect.
Note: Students may want to have access to the above Literacy Terms as they complete the assignment. Download the Literacy Terms Handout here.
Prepare for reading
Discuss several examples of figurative language that can be found in the text. For example:
“Seared in the flames of withering injustice”
“Whirlwinds of revolt”
“Oasis of freedom and justice”
“Symphony of brotherhood”
Prepare the students to find additional examples of figurative language in the speech.
Read the speech and take notes
The I have a Dream speech is available below as an audio clip or a digital document. Choose the best format for your student; keep in mind that the student will need to take notes while listening or reading the text. Students should have good tech organizational skills and the ability to efficiently take notes. (The activity below requires the student to create a list of figure language phrases from the I Have a Dream speech.)
Listening and taking notes simultaneously: Before starting the audio clip, open a blank document and label the document, such as “I Have a Dream Literacy”. Switch applications to the I Have a Dream speech audio clip. Start the audio clip and quickly switch back to the document. While listening to the speech, write in list format the examples of figurative language.
This is the most efficient method of taking notes (note taking while listening); middle school and high school students should be expert note takers using this method!
Listening: The student will need to be able to pause and start the audio to allow note taking. Note taking can be done in a separate application, so the students will need to have a second app open, a document labeled for the I Have a Dream literacy activity and should be efficient in note taking skills (what content should be written down, an organized way of taking brief but accurate notes, etc.) and efficiency when switching between the two applications.
Digital document: The student should be able to either mark passages within the page (by highlighting or using comments) or by taking written notes in a separate document. Note: It might be more efficient for the student to take notes within the page while reading; however, the following activities below are easier when notes are taking in a separate document.
Teacher’s Note 1: As with most note taking skills, creating a list of literacy phrases is an organizational tool that makes it easier to navigate the phrases and to expand the notes in the activities listed below.
Teacher’s Note 2: Determine how many figures of speech your student should find; it can be a number of overall literacy phrases or one of each category of literacy terms. For students who are not as efficient with note taking, it might be beneficial to ask the student to find ALL the phrases to identify how many phrases are captured; this might provide insight on if the student is missing important content when taking notes and/or how much content is missed.