Grade: Senior

#4061. Historical speeches

Social Studies, level: Senior
Posted Wed Dec 5 12:19:00 PST 2007 by Tracy Miller (
The History Place Great Speeches Collection
Troy University Student, Dothan AL USA
Materials Required: Web access
Activity Time: 5: 1 - 1.5 hour lessons
Concepts Taught: Connecting with history

This is a weeklong unit using the guidelines of Triarchic instruction focusing on analytical thinking. The purpose of this unit is to provide 11th grade students an opportunity to exercise critical thinking skills and analytical thinking strategies. This unit will integrate goals from English and U.S. History curriculum standards. The students will research noted speeches from history and the context under which they were delivered. The students will analyze noted speeches through response journals and prepared questions. The students will participate in a Socratic discussion focused on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech discussing his purpose, imagery, motivation and impact. The students will produce a product of choice related to speech writing, delivering or analyzing. Gifted students at this level require projects that have relevance to the world around them. Their work should be authentic enough to be evaluated by real professional audiences outside of educational circles. High expectations, reality based scenarios, real artifacts and authentic outcomes build deeper, more meaningful and connected learning. As these students are the potential leaders of tomorrow, a study of oratory principles should begin as early as possible. It is critical that gifted students study historical events and the words of great leaders from the past. Gifted students of all ages should be trained to analyze historical writings and speeches in context of the time in which they were delivered.

This unit is designed for students in 11th grade who have demonstrated mastery and are ready for extension activities related to the Alabama Standard Course of Study objectives listed below.

SS-11-#12 Trace events of the modern Civil Rights Movement from post- World War II to 1970 that resulted in social and economic changes, including the Montgomery bus boycott, the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, the March on Washington, and the Freedom Rides.
SS-11-#12(c) Explaining the contributions of individuals (including Martin Luther King, Jr.) to the modern Civil Rights Movement.
This unit is an extension to the Alabama Standard Course of Study objectives listed above and use of the following:

English 12th #1 Comprehend a variety of reading materials by applying appropriate strategies.
English #11.) Formulate strategies to locate, select and evaluate research materials. -Primary and secondary sources -Library research Examples: computerized data, cataloging systems, Reader's Guide, reference books, databases.

Overall Goal:
The students will use analytical, practical, creative and critical thinking skills to analyze great speeches of history. The unit will culminate in a product of choice (original speech, reaction as a character(s) in the audience, review as a political consultant, dramatic recitation of historical speech, video, memorial moment proposal, PowerPoint discussion of historical impact, honorary website, artistic rendering of a tribute to the speaker or other approved expression of understanding).

TSW make notes as they research self-selected speeches and the historical context in which they were delivered.
TSW reflect in writing in preparation for and as a personal assessment of the Socratic circle discussion.
TSW prepare a product of choice analyzing, presenting or honoring a great speech from history.

Learning activities:
1- Explanation teacher directed exposure, modeling and demonstration.
2- Individual research and discovery.
3- Socratic questioning dialogue.
4- Individual product development.
5- Peer review, support and editing for improved product development.

Variety of instructional strategies (Including Socratic questioning):
1- Research: Use individual skills of representing and organizing information when researching and reporting to group.
2- Cooperative: In pairs consolidate and evaluate research - share resources - formulate a strategy - pick a product and refine needs to accomplish that goal - assign tasks and work to accomplish pair goals - provide interim feedback - revise and edit as a team - use peer review to improve product outcome.
3- Individual product development, practice and revision.
4- Socratic questioning on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech -his purpose, imagery, motivation and impact.

1- Research and notes.
2- Discussion preparation sheet and reflection form.
3- Peer editing reflection form.
4- Final product - Model statue or memorial, video, newsreel, PowerPoint presentation, research paper, speech, review or other visual, oral or physical representation of the speech. Written report with project detail the speech itself, the purpose, historical background, impact, imagery, speech patterns, suggestions, reception and later remembrance of the speech.

1- Subjective concept based test with excerpts from speeches for individual critical thinking responses.
2- Socratic circle rubric providing feedback on participation and depth of engagement.
3- Rubric for project or presentation. (Includes time on task, grammar, spelling, timeliness, depth, creativity...)

Note: The entire class could analyze and discuss Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" and then a smaller more motivated group could continue with the project and finding their own historical speech to analyze.

Analytical elements:
Students are identifying the problem or challenge in history that led to the need for the speech.
Students are representing and organizing the information contained in the speech.
Students are breaking apart the speech to understand what resources the speaker was allocating and what strategy he/she was formulating to address the problem at hand. Students are looking at historical outcomes to monitor and evaluate the speechwriters intended solutions.

Interested students may want to continue with a study of oratory elements including great speakers of the past and analysis the key characteristics that made them such great orators. (Rhythm, language, tone, pace...)

Resources: (speeches from many nations) (speeches with anecdotes) (many links to great speeches) (Uniquely American speeches with context elements) (historical documents) (speeches in MP3 format)

Sample writing prompts:

Write a paragraph summarizing Martin Luther King's Dream in your own words.
What are some of the specific injustices against African Americans, which Dr. King mentions in his speech?
What sources does Dr. King cite as sources for his own dream?
What is the American dream?
Why do you think Dr. King named specific states in the end of his speech?
If you had been in the crowd that day, would you have been moved by Dr. King's speech? Why? why not?

Possible extensions:

Learn about writer's guilds.
Organize a toastmasters group or attend a meeting of an existing group.
Interview business leaders about speech writing / presenting and its' importance in their work.
Look at current political campaign speeches - show and share words of candidates / discuss.
Write to a speechwriter as a mentor - ask questions over e-mail or in a snail mail format.
Research White House speechwriters ... Are they the real voice behind the leaders? How does it work?

The following pages are a brief outline of the Core Goals for the 5 days the students will spend on this extension activity. This will require approximately five: 1 - 1.5 hour blocks. These core goals for each day can be punctuated by class starters, journal writing prompts, additional research or preparation homework, selected readings, quizzes or tests at the discretion of the individual teacher. The author strongly recommends journal writings from prompts similar to the ones listed above.

Lesson 1: Guided Independent Research: Day 1 - 60 minute class.
(Day 1: 60 -90 minutes)
(May be small group or whole group) The students will read and research historical speeches including Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech." The students will analyze, react, reflect, connect and formulate questions for the upcoming Socratic discussion of this material. The students will engage in vocabulary development, understanding the speech, analyzing the speech, connecting with and relating to the issues in the speech and analyzing the rhetorical structures or figures of speech. The teacher will lead the discussion and assess student understanding through question and answer sessions and looking over reflection journal entries.

Lesson 2: Analyze speeches. Make a plan for product. Get started.
(Day 2: 60-90 min.)
(Differentiation group) The students will further analyze speeches during the class session. The students will formulate a plan for their individual product and begin. Product development will continue for the rest of the week in and out of class. The teacher will circulate and provide individual feedback to work in progress.

Lesson 3: Socratic discussion: "I have a Dream." by: Martin Luther King.
(Day 3: 60 - 90 minutes)
(Differentiation group) Socratic discussion related to the Martin Luther King Speech. The students will participate in a discussion: "What has become of Martin Luther King's Dream?" -What is racism? How has the world changed since the speech? Has racism been eradicated? How is the world a better place? How is the world not a better place? What can we do to realize the dream? Should we try to realize the dream? Who has to be invested in realizing the dream? Are they failing or succeeding? The teacher will assess with Socratic circle questions list and rubric checklist.

Lesson 4: Peer review and revision of product. (Day 4 - 60 -90 minutes.)
Students will meet with a partner and discuss progress on the product due tomorrow. There may be private screenings or practice deliveries with constructive feedback and revision. The students will turn in feedback forms with final product for assessment. The teacher will informally assess by rotating around to groups and engaging in informal assessment of progress and redirection when necessary.

Lesson 5: Product presentations. (Day 5: 60-90 minutes.)
Day 5- Product delivery. Assessment will be on a prepared rubric that was distributed day 1. Students will deliver product and then answer questions related to the relevancy and accuracy of the product delivery.

Project rubric sample (attached).
Socratic circle rubric (attached).
Peer feedback form (attached).

Barton, Mary (1996) @ Literature/LIT0004.html
Bosarge, Anne(2004) Georgia Learning Connections, A place in history writing prompt @