Image of Martin Luther King, Jr and an American flag with text,

I Have a Dream: High school literature activities

Expand literacy skills, figurative language and note taking skills with this memorable speech!

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.

Literacy Activity

Review the literary terms

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:

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.)

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.

I Have a Dream speech, docx

I Have a Dream speech, audio clip:

Activity questions

Using his/her notes, ask the student to:

How does the use of these literary phrases enhance the overall impact of the speech?


Here are some resources on teaching note taking skills to younger students:

Here are posts about note taking applications:

By Diane Brauner, 1/9/23

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