Is Martin Luther King A Hero Essay Prompt


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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day provides a great opportunity to teach about heroes. This lesson explores ways to help students identify with Dr. King—an American hero who lived and died long before they were even born—through reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities that provide a glimpse into Dr. King's life. Students record what they know about Dr. King on a KWL chart. They then read aloud the picture book My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers and add information to the KWL. They take a virtual tour of King's birth home and compare it to their own homes. Throughout the week, they explore Websites and other sources of information about Dr. King, record new information on the KWL chart, and keep a journal of their own thoughts and ideas.  As a culminating activity, they plan a birthday party for Dr. King to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. and Me: This journal template encourages students to make connections between themselves and Martin Luther King, Jr. by providing space for students to write and draw information about themselves after corresponding information about Dr. King provided on the printout.

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In their book Mosaic of Thought, Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann discuss the importance of "connecting the known to the new," in other words, the importance of helping students increase their understanding and involvement in what they are learning by making connections. Keene and Zimmermann encourage teachers to help students "relate unfamiliar text to their prior world knowledge and/or personal experience" (55). They stress creating strong mental images as we read and listen to a text, using all five senses as well as our emotions, to make the story come alive (141) .

As we introduce young students to history, our goal is to engage them fully and deeply in the story of real people like themselves, helping them build connections between their own lives and the lives of the people they are studying. By encouraging students to form these connections, teachers can help students understand an American hero like Dr. King, even though their world is quite different from the time, place, and life of Dr. King.

Further Reading

Keene, E.L., & Zimmermann, S. (1997). Mosaic of Thought: Teaching Comprehension in a Reader's Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Moss, Joy. 2002. Literary Discussion in the Elementary School. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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K-2: You Have a Dream

Martin Luther King Jr. is sharing his dream for what the world should be like. His dream was to have a fair, peaceful world where everyone is equal to one another.

What would your dream world be like?

3-5: Writing Techniques in the "I Have a Dream" Speech

Martin Luther King Jr. used several common writing techniques in his famous speech. Identify an example of each of the following writing techniques from the "I Have a Dream" Speech. You can refer to the full text of the speech for review

  • Simile
  • Repetition / Anaphora
  • Analogy
  • Quotes / Allusions
  • Metaphor

Using figurative language, Dr. King identifies clear, concrete goals he hopes this speech will help achieve. Identify at least one of those goals.

6-8:  The Power of Words

Martin Luther King Jr. gave this speech in 1963. In the nearly 50 years since this moment, his "I Have a Dream" speech has become an iconic message that still moves people.

Why do you think that Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech" was and is so powerful?

9-12: The Next Generation of Dreams

This speech identifies the goals of the Civil Rights Movement to overcome segregation and racism. Using the "I have a dream" speech structure, identify the new dreams of your generation. Consider the injustices still plaguing the United States for ideas.

Your list of dreams should include at least 5 images of your version of a the ideal American society.

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