Close Reading the famous "I Have a Dream" speech is no easy task no matter what strategy you choose, but while focusing on the word choice lesson from Falling in Love with Close Reading, it proved to be hard, but meaningful! Obviously MKL's speech is very long, so I decided to shorten the speech into three sections. Today we focused on just the introduction, which the students were unfamiliar with. I copied it, cut it to fit into their notebooks, and began the lesson. Together we picked a stopping point and read up to that point. We turned and talked to our talking partner about the main idea of the section.
I charted the ideas and we discussed how most of us had the same main idea of the short selection. We then discussed that the author is doing his/her job correctly if everyone gets the same idea from reading/listening to his/her writing. In order to get the audience to interpret a similar meanings, it is all about word choice. Instead of discussing content at this point, I played the song (from youtube), Best Day of My Life, by American Authors. The classes really love when I incorporate music, art, technology, or anything else fun into the lesson, and their reaction was just as expected. I asked the students to discuss with a partner what this song was about and how it made them feel. They came up with words and phrases that supported their answers and it led to a great conversation. I was shocked when the kids started relating the song to MLK and his speech. One student was so excited to realize the song's lyrics said, "I had a dream..." just like MLK's speech! While others discussed and debated that the song could be from MLK's perspective about how if he was alive now, he would "never wanna look back" because the present time is so much better than the past. We also discussed the words that were used to relay the message to the listener and why the song writer chose those words. This only lasted a few minutes, but was very beneficial, got the kids engaged, and served a strong purpose.
From there we selected words that stood out in MLK's speech and highlighted them in the text. I charted the words as the students told me their choices. There are certain steps to follow while using this strategy from Falling in Love with Close Reading and the next step is categorizing words. We looked for words that provoked strong emotions, strong images, and clear ideas. The first emotion that was brought up was anger. We color coated all the words that brought up that emotion in blue and continued to categorize until all the words were used. Some words were sorted through whole group, partners, and individual thinking. We also learned that some words could fit into multiple categories as long as you could explain why. This may sound like something simple, but I was BLOWN AWAY by the students understanding of word choice from this activity! Falling in Love with Close Reading gives suggested sentence starters to help students express their thinking while supporting their thoughts with content. ALTHOUGH we only read four sentences up to this point my students learned SO much. We turned and talked, had class discussions, and piggy backed off of each other's ideas. We tried the answer frames as a class and these are some of the responses I heard...
"Some words fit together like injustice and not free and made me feel guilty because African-Americans suffered in history from being enslaved to being forced to attend different schools, they were never looked at as equal."
"Seared, flames, captivity, slaves, and withering are all depressing words because it symbolizes how we had treated African-Americans for hundreds of years and it is wrong."
and my favorite...
"The author could have used 100 years repeatedly, but used "5 score years" because he wanted to connect his speech to Abraham Lincoln's speech about the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery. He wanted to continue Abraham's revolution and finally free African-Americans. MLK appreciated the work Abraham Lincoln did and by "symbolic shadow we stand today" it means that MLK was giving his speech in front of the Lincoln memorial for a historical and meaningful reason."
That last answer was an amazing discussion followed by a ton of students piggy backing off of one another and coming to a conclusion. The students were SO proud of themselves for getting SO much information out of four sentences and were begging to go on, BUT we ran out of time. We will be continuing with this strategy tomorrow and moving onto a patriotic graphic organizer from Jivey's February & March Graphic Organizer pack to find the message/theme of the whole speech. It will be perfect to work on while celebrating President's Day.
I am so thankful for a supportive coach, Kara, without her forcing me (hahaha) to take this risk, I wouldn't have had this experience. Thanks Kara! :)
Want to check out this new strategy and implement it into your classroom? Since we found this book so helpful, we want to give one away! We are giving away a copy of the new book, Falling in Love with Close Reading! Fill out the Raffle Copter below for your chance to win! :)
Disclaimer:I have no affiliation with this book and they did not ask me to write this post. :)