Lesson Plan: Words That Create A Vision Unit

Print Friendly and PDF

Lesson Plan for Black History Month

Unit: Words That Create a Vision
I Have a Dream

By Susan Harris
Huntsville, Alabama

   Some teachers may ask why there is so much in this unit.  When I began, I wanted to develop something very simple, but I have found that most students do not have the historical background knowledge to understand even simple allusions in speeches, literature, or periodicals.

    This unit was written in response to three requirements by our school system: first, to develop and use interdisciplinary units; second, to participate in Black History Month; third, to develop a concept-based unit; and fourth, to teach the skills for state testing objectives.   Interestingly enough, the more constraints and demands that are placed on teachers actually present increased opportunities for creativity and in-depth studies. 

    I selected a relatively brief speech that was very clear and forthright on the surface, but one that would, on further examination, demonstrate complexity and require in-depth study.  Any number of speeches, songs, or essays could actually be successfully substituted for the “I Have a Dream” speech. 

    It was a pleasure to develop a sense of history and appreciation for the complexity of significant writings /speeches.  One of the most rewarding moments for me was a student’s remark, “How did he do that?”  The student had begun to appreciate the complexity of thought and language expression illustrated in this particular speech.  More importantly, this remark opened the door to discussing how an individual’s world view is an interweaving of what he/she has read, seen, and experienced.  This view takes observable form in one’s conversations, written work, and activities.

   Most of the essential questions and the essential understandings are designed for use with other selections from literature or historical documents.  They are open-ended with higher level questions and goals.  In a few of the activities, the questions are very specific to “I Have a Dream,” but even those can be changed to accommodate other works. 

   Notes:  The optional journal entry references are used if you have the students keep a log or journal for their thoughts and responses.

    Although you may wish to use the entire unit with your personal additions and adjustments for varying grade levels, the activities may be used individually.  Teachers should develop their own ideas from the suggested activities. 

  Grade levels:  I selected grade levels 7-12 because students begin to think abstractly, and they enjoy examining issues.  As they reach high school, they begin to write and speak more deliberately in expressing their views.  Teachers of younger students will find some of the activities, as well as variations of others, useful.  This unit may also be used simply to enrich a teacher’s background knowledge or planning.

    My conceptual lens or “big idea” for the year is Beliefs and Values.  The theme of this unit is “Words That Create a Vision.”

Black History Month   (3 to 6 weeks)  “I Have a Dream”

Conceptual Lens:  Beliefs / Values

Concepts: Vision, justice, passive resistance, persuasion, historical memory, historical context, belief systems, and symbolism.

Skills: Analysis, research / gathering data, identifying sequences, dramatization, classification, mind mapping, identifying figurative language, planning, decision making, visual representations development, sentence structure, journal and speech writing, evaluation, listening, and oral presentation.  They will also have the opportunity to choose support material related to song writing and music composition, cartoon design, video production, and PowerPoint design.  Possible grammar topics for emphasis: sentence structure, vivid verbs and modifiers, and public speaking.

NOTE:  Activities are used according to length of time the unit is used.

Topic / Theme: Words That Create a Vision

Over Arching Questions:
1.  What is a vision?  In what ways can visions be shared with others?
2.  How can words be tools for creating a vision?
3.  How have great speakers created a vision to persuade groups or individuals to follow them in accomplishing a task? What have been the consequences of people following the gifted speakers?
4.  What speeches, presentations, or articles have had an impact on your thinking or decisions?  What made them effectively reach you?  
5. How could you determine if a vision is worthy or valid, regardless of the speaker’s ability?

Activity:   Discussion of questions and journal entry

Essential Understanding 1
Common historical memory, common vocabulary, and common knowledge may enhance the understanding of and identity with a specific person’s vision.

Essential Questions for activity 1:  
Discuss these questions before and after the following activity.
1. How can your knowledge or lack of knowledge of vocabulary, history, geography, and literary sources affect your understanding of a person‘s vision? 
2. How might the location of a speech affect the presentation or message?
3.  In what ways could the references (direct and indirect)  enhance the message?
Activity 1 (pairs, large group):  Listen to a recording of “I Have a Dream.”  Next, read it in pairs or small groups, marking unfamiliar words or ideas, as well as references you recognize. Classify the different types of problematic areas:  unfamiliar vocabulary, historical events or documents, geography, and figurative language.

Essential Questions for Activity 2:
1.  How can the acquiring of knowledge of the geographic and historical references affect your understanding of the vision presented in a speech?
2.  What is the significance of quoting from primary documents such as those of the United States? 

Activity 2  (groups): 
Research the references to geography and history, including copies of the original historical documents, sharing your findings with the class.  Emphasize the historical context of the documents.  Individual: Draw a map of the sites alluded to in the speech.  

Optional Journal Entry

Essential Understanding 2
Literary techniques such as the use of figurative language (allusions, paradoxes, etc.) may increase the effectiveness of the speech.         

Essential Questions for Activity 1
1.  How can literary devices be used to create an effective argument?
2.  Which devices in this speech enhanced your understanding?
3.   What makes allusions so powerful and distinctive?

Activity 1:   Find examples of figurative language, including allusions and paradoxes.

Essential Questions for Activity 2
1.  What creates an effective word picture?
2.  Do these word pictures influence your response?

Activity 2:  Illustrate one of the literary devices used in the speech.
Essential Questions for Activity 3           
1.  Why can understanding the logic of the speaker increase our understanding?
2.  In what other ways can a mind map develop an understanding and
appreciation for the speaker’s message?

Activity 3:  Create a mind map of the speech, illustrating the academic disciplines and/or sources from which he draws and the sequential development of the speech.  
Optional Journal Entry

Essential Understanding 3
Visions may be rooted in a common belief or value held, but not necessarily practiced, by a group or society.

Essential Questions for Activity 1
1.  How could a speaker/writer tie the values in the historical documents to contemporary problems?
2.  In what ways do you share Dr. King’s values?

Activity 1:  Review the historical documents to which Dr. King refers for the major points regarding shared values and beliefs at the time.
Activity 2:   Read the passages from Hebrew and biblical sources to which he alludes and from which he quotes.  Discuss the historical context for the passages and compare to King’s historical context.

Essential Questions for Activity 2:
1.  How does his speech draw from commonly held values?
2.  Why do you think he quoted Isaiah 40:3-5?
3.  How can you determine if Dr. King was looking forward to more than legally imposed equality of opportunity?

Activity 3:  Illustrate the standards from historical documents and biblical sources against which Dr. King measured achievement and progress.  List the ideals and their sources and present in a visual form.

Essential questions for activity 3:
1.  How did the standards compare with the progress?
2.  What could you possibly infer about the proposed solution to the problem?
3.  Why might people profess one thing, but practice another?
Optional Journal Entry

Essential Understanding 4
You may be affected by powerful speakers to support causes about which you have not researched for factual data.

Activity 1:   Students listen to and read excerpts from speeches.  They attempt to identify the context and totality of the message.    
1.  What standards did you use to evaluate ideas presented in the speech excerpts?
2.  How did your interpretation compare to the real message of the speaker?  How did you react when you discovered its historical context? 3.  How can you be sure that facts quoted by speakers are accurate?     
4.  What responsibilities do you have as a listener?

Optional Journal Entry

Culminating Activities

Select a speech to analyze and present your findings according to the following guidelines:
Assigned parts: 
1.  Using a visual, one student will inform the audience of important historical information, important vocabulary, or unusual language structures.  
2. One student will help develop the visuals and presentations for numbers 1 and 3.
3. One student will dramatize the speech in appropriate period clothing.
4.  The group will develop a tangible means of evaluating the effect on the audience.

Select a problematic issue that is of special interest to you. 
a.)  Complete historical research to validate facts for your presentation. Document with notes, resources, and bibliographic information.
b.)  Develop a mind map to include the disciplines ( at least three, such as geography, music, history) from which you have drawn references, and include the progression (sequence) of your ideas in the speech.
 c.) Write a persuasive speech presenting the problem and a creative solution to the according to the following guidelines:
      1.  Your standards must be clear.
      2.  It must be based on facts acquired from your research.
      3.  It must demonstrate an understanding of the audience.
      4.  You must use figurative language to capture your audience’s imagination.
       ***  To accompany the speech, you should select a second or supportive approach to presenting your ideas:  political cartoon, song, video, or PowerPoint presentation.