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HistoryFix: I Have a Dream...Exploring the Civil Rights Movement

A Writing Across the Curriculum Lesson from HistoryFix
Historical Topic: Civil Rights Movement Students Write: diamond-shaped poems

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I Have a Dream

This writing across the curriculum lesson was created by Nevada teacher Denise Boswell.

Denise considers this history lesson to be appropriate for students in grades 5-12.

Lesson Overview:

Objectives/Overview: Looking for a way for students to find the passion in the Civil Rights Movement and “I Have a Dream” speech? After listening to the audio of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” students will locate words in the speech that connect to the Civil Rights Movement and create a diamond-shaped poem of their own. Through the poem students will express their own thoughts of the meaning of the poem and the movement.

Time Needed: two 45-minute class sessions.

Writing skills (traits) to stress while teaching this lesson:

  • Idea Development (writing with a clear, central idea or theme in mind)
  • Organization (beginning the writing with a strong introduction; ending the writing with a satisfying conclusion by linking theconclusion back to the introduction)
  • Word Choice (using precise nouns to assist the reader’s understanding; incorporating interesting adjectives into the writing; and using strong verbs to keep the sentences interesting)
  • Voice (conveying passion towards the message of the writing or the topic)
  • Conventions (spelling skills; and capitalizations skills)

Materials List:

Teacher Instructions:

  • Read We Dream of a World to the class.
  • Discuss the challenges that people face today that were discussed in the book and others students come up with.
  • Pass out copies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream" speech.
  • Play the audio of the speech and have students follow along.
  • Students then highlight interesting words, words they don’t know, and words they feel are linked to the civil rights movement.
  • Students look up definitions of unknown words.
  • Pass out 20 index cards to each student.
  • Students choose 20 words to write on the 20 index cards.
  • Students choose 16 cards to create their poem, arranging and rearranging, until they feel their poem is finished, working on word choice, word order, beginning and ending.
  • Students transfer their chosen index card words onto the diamante (diamond) poem template
  • Students type their poems in the computer lab and share.
  • Teacher evaluates poems with the lesson rubric (made at the Rubistar website).


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