Analyzing Author’s Craft: “I Have a Dream” | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M3B:U2:L12

Analyzing Author’s Craft: “I Have a Dream”

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can determine the meaning of words and phrases in text (figurative, connotative, and technical meanings). (RI.8.4)
  • I can analyze figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. (L.8.5)
  • I can analyze the development of a theme or central idea throughout the text (including its relationship to supporting ideas). (RI.8.2)

Supporting Targets

  • I can analyze the development of the central idea in Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
  • I can analyze Dr. King's word choice in "I Have a Dream" and how it contributes to the meaning of the text.

Ongoing Assessment

  • A Mighty Long Way structured notes, Chapter 12, pages 200-210 (from homework)
  • Answers to text-dependent questions


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

    A.  Sharing Structured Notes and Reviewing Learning Targets (8 minutes)

2.  Work Time

    A.  Close Read: "I Have a Dream" (35 minutes)

3.  Closing

     A.  Previewing Homework (2 minute)

4.  Homework

     A.  Read Chapter 13 and complete the structured notes.

  • This lesson and Lesson 13provide another opportunity for students to understand the national Civil Rights movement.  In Carlotta's journey, she has moved on from Central High School, but it is critical for students to understand that the Civil Rights movement was still very active nationally.  Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech is a seminal moment in the Civil Rights movement, so it is essential for students to understand this primary source document.  Carlotta briefly mentions the March on Washington, where King gave the speech, in Chapter 13 of A Mighty Long Way.  For homework, students will consider how Carlotta reacts to this and other important events. 
  • In this lesson, students closely read Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The focus of this lesson is on the central idea, as well as some of the ways that Dr. King uses figurative language in the speech. Students will continue to analyze the speech in the Lesson 13, focusing on Dr. King's use of language to create meaning.
  • Throughout this speech, Dr. King uses the term "Negro." Remind students that in this context, at this time in history, the word is not derogatory; it was the way that Dr. King, and many of his time, referred to African Americans.
  • Preview the Close Reading Guide. Based on the needs of your class, you may need more time. Consider adjusting the flow of lessons so that this close read extends over two class periods.  In the first lesson, ensure that students understand the gist and have an opportunity to define unfamiliar words.  In the second lesson, focus students on the text-dependent questions, pausing to discuss whole group as needed. 
  • Post: Learning targets.


Emancipation Proclamation, manacles, languished, promissory note, militancy


  • "I Have a Dream" speech (one per student)
  • "I Have a Dream" text-dependent questions (one per student)
  • Close Reading Guide: "I Have a Dream" (for teacher reference)
  • A Mighty Long Way Structured Notes, Chapter 13, pages 211-227 (one per student)
  • A Mighty Long Way Supported Structured Notes, Chapter 13, pages 211-227 (optional; for students needing extra support)
  • A Mighty Long Way Structured Notes Teacher's Guide, Chapter 13, pages 211-227 (for teacher reference)



A. Sharing Structured Notes and Reviewing Learning Targets (8 minutes)

  • Invite students to retrieve their A Mighty Long Way structured notes, Chapter 13, pages 211-227 from homework and sit with their Denver discussion partners. Ask students to reread the focus question:

*   "Why do you think Carlotta focuses this chapter on Maceo's trial? How does it impact her journey?"

  • Invite students to discuss their responses with their partners. Listen for students to say something like: "Maceo's trial kept Carlotta connected to Little Rock and her decision to integrate at Central High School, even after she moved away."
  • Share with students that Carlotta has a different perspective now that she has left Little Rock. Ask:

*   "What additional changes has Carlotta experienced?"

  • Invite students to work with their partners to add to stage 2, "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around", of their Journey to Justice note-catchers using Chapters 10-13. After a few minutes, cold call on student pairs to share the changes Carlotta is experiencing. Listen for students to add details like the bombing of her family's home, her father's arrest, Herbert and Maceo's trials, Carlotta's high school graduation and starting as a student at Michigan State.
  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets. Read the learning targets aloud to the class:

*   "I can analyze the development of the central idea in Dr. King's 'I Have a Dream' speech."

*   "I can analyze Dr. King's word choice in 'I Have a Dream' and how it contributes to the meaning of the text."

  • Let students know that they will be reading the text of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Close Read: "I Have a Dream" (35 minutes)

  • Explain that Dr. King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington in 1963, where thousands of people gathered in support of the civil rights movement. He delivered the speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
  • Let students know that they will be reading this speech in this lesson and the next to give more context to Carlotta's experience in A Mighty Long Way.
  • Distribute the "I Have a Dream" speech, and the "I Have a Dream" text-dependent questions. Students should work through this handout as you walk them through the reading with the Close Reading Guide: "I Have a Dream."
  • For students who struggle with reading, give them smaller chunks of the text. Begin by giving them the third paragraph of the speech to focus on.

Closing & Assessments


A. Previewing Homework (2 minutes)

  • Distribute the A Mighty Long Way structured notes, Chapter 13, pages 211-227 for homework.


HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs
  • Read Chapter 13, pages 211-227 in A Mighty Long Way and complete the structured notes.
  • Provide struggling learners with the supported structured notes for additional scaffolding as they read the memoir.

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