Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech Lesson Plan

Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Lesson Plan


I have a dream that all my students will understand Martin Luther King Jr’s brilliant use of figurative language. Study up on all the similes and metaphors used in his “I Have a Dream” speech.  I realize my dream sounds impossible.  So did his.


Before you do anything else, download this free lesson plan for Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech lesson plan. If you like it, feel free to check out the 8 Simple Writing Lessons handouts.

Here’s the download: Writing a Rhetorical Precis.

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Common Core Standards

MLK SpeechReading and Analyzing MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech satisfies the following ELA Common Core Standards.  This, of course, depends on how you teach it.

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.
RI.9-10.2  Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail 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.
RI.9-10.3  Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
RI.9-10.4  Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
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).
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.
RI.9-10.7  Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
RI.9-10.8  Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
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.
RI.9-10.10  By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

“I Have a Dream” Lesson Plan

I thought I knew how to analyze a speech, but it wasn’t until I learned how to annotate a speech that I truly mastered it. And it wasn’t until I taught students how to annotate a speech that I really learned how to do both in conjunction. I owe it all to this annotation lesson plan.

  1. Hand out a copy of the “I Have a Dream” Speech.
  2. Watch the speech.
  3. Instruct students to identify the following elements and make notations: figurative language, images, symbols, sound devices (alliteration, consonance, assonance, rhythm, onomatopeia)/
  4. Instruct students to circle any part of the speech that stands out, confuses them, or that they think is important.
  5. Write questions in the margin; highlight unusual words; mark phrases that indicate the speaker’s meaning.
  6. Determine the speech’s theme and draw arrows to the lines that support the theme.

I have provided my own analysis of important quotes.  Check them out for ideas.

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