An I-Pod Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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I Say to You Today...I Have a Dream!

writing speeches about personal dreams and ideological beliefs

This lesson was created by Northern Nevada Social Studies teacher Tami Ruf during an I-Pods Across the Curriculum Workshop for teachers.

This writing prompt is inspired by the song

"Pride (In The Name Of Love)" by U2

Click here to do a Google search for the lyrics.

A note for teacher users: These lessons are posted so that you may borrow ideas from them, but our intention in providing this resource is not to give teachers a word-for-word script to follow. Please, use this lesson's big ideas but adapt everything else. And adapt it recklessly; that's how you become an authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Pre-step...before sharing the song The picture book mentor text (Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) is used in this lesson to give students some background information about MLK but would in no way provide in depth information about him. The intent is to give students just enough information so that they know who he was and what he stood for before hearing his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. The metaphor that is integral to this text is that some words are BIG in meaning (freedom, love, together, and peace) but not in size (number of letters). Martin gave his life to achieve freedom through peace, love, and togetherness and I wanted this to be clear to students before hearing him give his most famous speech.

Step one…sharing the song and other inspiring media:  To begin the lesson have students listen to U2’s Pride (In the Name of Love) while following along with the first graphic organizer. (Some background about the song: While Bono has admitted that the lyrics are about MLK, there are other references that students might pick up on). After a brief discussion of what they thought of the song and who they may have thought it was written about, if you can, play the YouTube video of John Legend singing the same song. This version includes one lyric change, “late afternoon” rather than “early morning,” which reflects the actual time of day MLK was shot. This video also includes a montage of film clips about MLK and through these the focus of the lesson will be revealed. If you can't see the YouTube link below, access it from a home computer and download it to your iPod, using a convertor program like Zamzar or Keepvid, and playing it directly from your iPod.


Next, direct students to this second graphic organizer, where they will follow the reading of the text while gathering some background information on MLK. I feel this is an important element of this lesson because I want the students to see the progression of the importance of words in Martin’s life. A discussion of metaphor is important also to guide students to the realization that BIG words can be small (in size) but BIG in meaning. I specifically want students to list freedom, together, peace, and love at the bottom of the page. I want the lesson, at this point, to move to looking at the events that were integral to Martin’s life. The book talks about the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama and I would integrate a short 10 minute clip from The Long Walk Home, starting from Scene #4 and ending right after the scene where the crowd is outside the Dexter Avenue church listening to a young Martin explain how the bus boycott will be conducted.

At this point, I would ask students what other events they may know of that Martin either organized or attended. Hopefully, or with teacher guidance, the discussion would bring us to the “I Have A Dream” speech. There are many excellent videos available on YouTube, and depending on the time allotted you may be able to show his entire 17 minute speech or, in not, skip forward in this video to about 12:04 and begin with the sentence, “I say to you today.”


I would have students watch the video (above), then attempt the questions on the right side of the third graphic organizer. The video could also be played a second time as students worked on the questions. I would discuss and validate their ideas and then direct them to the final graphic organizer that explains their writing assignment. This organizer will help them organize their ideas for their own futures, the futures of their families, and the nation.

Students’ final product will be a personal speech that follows the format that MLK used in his speech.

Step two…introducing student models of writing:  In small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the student models that come with this lesson.  The groups will certainly talk about the idea development, since it's the focus of the lesson, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's word choice as well.

WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use this lesson. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!

We're currently looking for student samples for other grade levels for this lesson!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  Visit this lesson's student samples page for details.

Step three…thinking, talking, and pre-writing:  Allow students time to write their own personal speeches. Be sure to redirect them back to the original format of the MLK speech, and allow them time to share snippets of their writing with each other as their speeches take shape.

While this lesson didn’t specifically call for using the song We Shall Overcome sung by Peter, Paul and Mary, it might be appropriate to play it at the end of one class period and discuss the impact singing this had while walking in marches for equal rights. Additionally, Old Crow Medicine Show sing a song called Motel In Memphis about the assassination of Martin Luther King that could easily be incorporated into an even longer unit.

Step four (revising with specific trait language):   To promote response and revision to rough draft writing, attach WritingFix's Revision and Response Post-it® Note-sized templates to your students' drafts.  Make sure the students rank their use of the trait-specific skills on the Post-it® Note-sized templates, which means they'll only have one "1" and one "5."   Have them commit to ideas for revision based on their Post-It rankings.  For more ideas on WritingFix's Revision & Response Post-it® Note-sized templates, click here.

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Adaptations from Your Toolbox.

Inspired by Barry Lane's Reviser's Toolbox, the WritingFix website encourages its teacher users to adapt our lessons, especially the tools of revision we have posted here. If you create an original revision tool (or adapt one of ours) when you teach this page's lesson, and post it, we might just end up publishing it directly here at WritingFix, and we will post it here, giving you full credit.

  • Original revision ideas from teacher users of WritingFix can be submitted through copy/paste or as an attachment at this link. Look for the "Reply to this Box" beneath the post. To be able to post, you will need to be a member of our free Writing Lesson of the Month Network.

Step five (editing for conventions):  After students apply their revision ideas to their drafts and re-write neatly, require them to find an editor.   If you've established a "Community of Editors" among your students, have each student exchange his/her paper with multiple peers.  With yellow high-lighters in hand, each peer reads for and highlights suspected errors for just one item from the Editing Post-it.  The "Community of Editors" idea is just one of dozens and dozens of inspiring ideas that is talked about in detail in the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Workbook for Teachers.

Step six (publishing for the portfolio): The goal of most lessons posted at WritingFix is that students end up with a piece of writing they like, and that their writing is taken through all steps of the writing process. After revising, invite your students to come back to this piece once more during an upcoming writer's workshop block.  The writing started with this lesson might become even more polished for final placement in the portfolio, or the big ideas being written about here might transform into a completely different piece of writing. Most likely, your students will enjoy creating an illustration for their writing as they ready to place final drafts in their portfolios.

Interested in publishing student work on-line? You might earn a free classroom resource from the NNWP! We invite teachers to teach this lesson completely, then share up to three of their students' best revised and edited samples at our ning's Publish Student Writers group.

To submit student samples for this page's lesson, click here. You won't be able to post unless you are a verified member of this site's free-to-use Writing Lesson of the Month ning.

Learn more about U2 by clicking here.

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