Lesson plan

Visualizing Words: Martin Luther King, Jr.

To celebrate Black History Month, students will spend time studying Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech as they practice important comprehension skills through journaling and art.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to demonstrate comprehension of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech through journaling and art.

(10 minutes)
  • Call students together.
  • Ask students if they have ever dreamt about doing something. Allow students the opportunity to share something they would like to do or have happen in their lives.
  • Have students listen to the CD recording that comes with I Have A Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (illustrated by Kadir Nelson).
(10 minutes)
  • Explain that the speech they just heard was by a man named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was an important person because he was a leader in the civil rights movement.
  • Say, "Can you think about a time when something happened that wasn't fair?"
  • Briefly describe the civil rights movement by saying, "In our country, there used to be laws that said you weren't allowed to ride in buses, eat in restaurants, or go to schools with people who looked different from you. It wasn't fair. People like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought to make sure that all people were able to work, play, and learn at any place, regardless of how they looked."
  • Tell students that drawing a visual is one tool that can be used to better understand information. It can also be a way to help others understand information, like the speech they heard.
  • To demonstrate this point, perform a read aloud of the story with illustrations. Point out to students that these are the same words they just heard on the CD.
  • Discuss with students each experience: one of only hearing the words and the other of hearing the words with pictures. Which experience did students prefer? Why?
(10 minutes)
  • Demonstrate to students how to illustrate a piece of text by choosing a line from Dr. King’s speech. Write down the sentence(s) on the board and ask students to pick out the key words. Then have student volunteers draw images for these words. Repeat this again as necessary.
  • Go over any unfamiliar language as a class and include any additional discussion about the content of the speech as you go through this process.
  • Choose another line from Dr. King’s speech. Write this line on the board and read it to students. Ask students to illustrate it in their journals or on a blank piece of paper. When students are done, have them do a think-pair-share with a partner about their drawings. Repeat this again as necessary.
  • Inform students that they will now be going back to their seats to illustrate the sections of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech that stood out most to them.
  • As a class, take a second to brainstorm some of the lines from Dr. King’s speech that stood out to students. List these on the board as a reference tool for students as they work.
  • Before sending students back to their seats to work, ask students if they have any questions. Remind students of any rules for independent work times that might apply (e.g. remaining seated or speaking only in a whisper).
(15 minutes)
  • While students are working, any adults in the room should be circulating, taking anecdotal notes, redirecting students, and answering questions.
  • The CD of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech could be playing while students are working.
  • It can be useful to have copies of the illustrated book available at different places in the room for student inspiration.


  • To scaffold this activity, students can work in pairs.
  • Students can use oversized writing instruments that are easier to hold/work with.
  • In order to make it more accessible to your students, focus on a particular section of the speech for reflecton.
  • Stickers and stencils can be used to form shapes students may want.
  • Use pictures or illustrations as scaffolds for complex vocabulary.


  • For students who need a greater challenge, encourage them to write their own speech complete with illustrations about something they dream for themselves.
(5 minutes)
  • Anecdotal notes about student comments and listening/drawing habits can be used to assess whether students are engaged with the material and comprehending.
  • Student journaling can also be used to assess whether students are able to create images that demonstrate a comprehension of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech.
(10 minutes)
  • Call students back together.
  • Ask students to share their drawings with the group. What do students notice about each other’s drawings?
  • Discuss with students their experiences drawing. Did this help them to better understand Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message?
  • Ask students to share what they know understand about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message.

Add to collection

Create new collection

Create new collection

New Collection


New Collection>

0 items