January 20, 2014

I Have a Dream Too! - MLK Day Activity

Happy Martin Luther King Day everyone!

I'm using my extra day to get a few things done. Here is a quick look at my To-Do List:
  1. Post simple, fun, and effective MLK writing activity to blog.
  2. Grade the heaps and mounds of papers sitting on my coffee table.
  3. Sign up for a charitable 5K in February.
  4. Do laundry.
  5. Go to the gym for spin class.
  6. Stop at Starbucks and get coffee. 
  7. Complete my application for the Trinity Prize Excellence in Teaching Award which I was nominated for by the amazing colleagues I work with at my school. 
Whew! It's going to be a busy day. I think I may need to move the trip to Starbucks to the very top or at least to right after I tell you about this simple and powerful MLK Day activity.

For the past seven years, I have had my students write their own "I Have a Dream" speeches. They always turn out more profound than I expect and reflect the current cultural, political, and environmental climate of the times.  I wish I had saved examples from year to year. Just from reading the dreams of a 4th grader, you get a pretty good idea of what was going on in the world during that year and what weighed on the hearts and minds of elementary students.

Like most teachers, I start the discussion with a book. By fourth grade, they already know so much about MLK that this is simply a spring board into discussion. My very favorite book to use is Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. The illustrations are beautiful and the text tells the story of Martin Luther King using both the author's words and excerpts from his speeches. Important Note: Make sure to read both the author and illustrator's notes at the front of the book.

After watching a clip of the original speech, it is finally time to start writing. Students use the simple frame below to complete the sentences and express their thoughts, ideas, beliefs, hopes, and dreams. They will typically write for 20-30 minutes without a sound. As they finish, they always want to share. So be sure to save time for everyone to stand up and read their own "I Have a Dream" speech. 

You can download the writing frame I use with my class for free at my TPT store. I hope your students enjoy this activity as much as mine have in the past. 

Happy Martin Luther King Day!


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