Resource Center

MLK Speech Poetry Lesson


Help students appreciate the power of metaphor and other poetic devices in the context of communicating a dream.

Set up computer projector with “I Have a Dream” video set.
Students need pen and paper.

1. Look at This Twitter Post from the Deal School in New Jersey. Discuss why they are making Dream Flags as an MLK Day activity. Connect to “I Have a Dream” speech.
2. Discuss context of the speech. Unfairness, segregation, etc. Does not need to be too detailed.
3. Show video once. VIDEO LINK (There may be better ones. This image is a little blurry.)
4. Talk about what makes it powerful. What do you notice?
5. Have students listen again and note poetic language as much as they can, writing phrases.
6. Discuss the phrases and how they deliver impact. Here are some. (There are probably a bunch more.)

a. sweltering in injustices: sweltering is hot, uncomfortable
b. oasis of freedom and justice: What’s an oasis? How are freedom and justice like the plants that grow there? Or the water?
c. content of their character: Alliteration. One of the most famous lines of the speech.
d. dripping with words: Words don’t drip, but blood does.
e. symphony of brotherhood: Symphonies are different instruments playing together
f. mighty mountains: Alliteration. Starts the list of place. Also example of list poem as in “Daybreak in Alabama” by Hughes.
g. freedom ring: Ringing as in sound that travels. Connection to Liberty Bell as international symbol of freedom.
h. table of brotherhood: Table as something we all sit around. Share food. Talk. Connection to “I too” by Hughes.

Have student write a poem of 8 lines or more that starts with “I have a dream that one day…”

Download Resource