Examples Of Reflective Essays On Martin Luther King Jr

Ten Writing Prompts for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is an entire day dedicated to celebrating the birthday of one of the most beloved civil rights activists in history.

One way for teachers to encourage their students to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is through writing prompts. Education World has gathered a list of writing prompts teachers can use in the classroom to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Journal Buddies: This site offers 61 writing prompt ideas to use on Marting Luther King, Jr. Day:

  1. Would you be a non-violent leader? Why or why not?
  2. Why is peace important?
  3. How does racism effect people? How does it effect you?

The Holiday Zone: Students can tackle more complicated issues with this list of writing prompts:

  1. Make a list of ten things that you can do to make the world a better place
  2. Write a paragraph explaining how discrimination and prejudice impact our world today
  3. Pretend that you had an opportunity to interview Dr. King. Write out five questions that you would like to ask him. 

TeachHub.com: "I Have a Dream" Speech Video Writing Prompts: 

Students can watch Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech", and write a prompt afterwards. This site offers different prompts for grades K-12. Here's the prompt for K-2 and 3-5:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.

Build Creative Writing Ideas:

  1. What does it mean to "do the right thing?" Why do you think some people choose to do the easy thing as opposed to the right thing?
  2. Why do you think segregation is wrong? How would you try to convince someone in support of segregation that it was not fair? Would you be successful? Why or why not?

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor


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Lesson Plan

Entering History: Nikki Giovanni and Martin Luther King, Jr.


Grades6 – 8
Lesson Plan TypeStandard Lesson
Estimated TimeFive 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author





Students read Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in conjunction with Nikki Giovanni's poem "The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr." in order to better understand the speech and the impact it had both on observers like Giovanni during the Civil Rights Movement and on Americans today. After researching and writing quiz questions about the vocabulary and content of King's speech, students practice it orally before performing it readers' theater-style in front of an audience. Students synthesize their learning by writing reflections exploring various questions about King's dream in today's society, Nikki Giovanni's response, and ways to promote social change.

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This lesson, taken from the NCTE book Living Voices, uses constructivist teaching methods to explore literature and vocabulary. Wood explains in her introduction to the book, "This philosophy of teaching is beautiful because students are not so much being fed meals of information cooked up by someone else, so to speak. Instead, they are constructing something new based on the ingredients they already have without necessarily knowing what all of the ingredients are or what the meal is to be called until afterwards"(xv). Wood offers the following example of this pedagogical approach:

For example, in Chapter Three [of Living Voices], students are asked to use sensory language to describe known objects in new ways. When they begin, they have no idea that the meal they are preparing is called sensory imagery or that this activity is practice in order to identify and explain the importance of sensory images in one of Pat Mora's poems, which is ultimately the goal of the lesson. All of this is done without defining concepts for students because they come to the definitions themselves through exploration and questioning, and therefore they are feeding themselves new knowledge that is more appetizing than information that is fed to them by someone else. (xv)

Like the activity Wood describes, this lesson plan invites students to explore a text independently then share their reading and reflections with the class. Wood asserts, "Not only are constructivist methods more successful for students, but I have found that I am a more satisfied teacher when I organize my lessons this way. My relationship to students becomes a collaboration in which students show me what they know, and I show them how they can use the knowledge they already have to learn new things." (xv).

Further Reading

Wood, Jaime R. 2006. Living Voices: Multicultural Poetry in the Middle School Classroom. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.



Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).



Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.



Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.



Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.



Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.



Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.



Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).


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Resources & Preparation


  • An audio copy of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech
  • A hard copy of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech
  • Nikki Giovanni's poem "The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr.", which can be found in three texts: Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgement; The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni; and The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni
  • General classroom supplies such as pencils (preferably), paper, butcher paper, and markers
  • Overhead projector or LCD projector
  • Computer access
  • Tablet devices for student use of the Word Mover mobile app

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Grades   3 – 12  |  Mobile App  |  Writing Poetry

Word Mover

Word Mover allows children and teens to create "found poetry" by choosing from word banks and existing famous works; additionally, users can add new words to create a piece of poetry by moving/manipulating the text.


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  1. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Speech from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 28 August 1963, also known as the "I Have a Dream" speech. Available versions include the following:
    • HTML Text, from TeachingAmericanHistory.org
    • PDF Text, available in multiple languages, from The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University
    • Audio recording, from History and Politics Out Loud Website
    • Video of the speech, from Martin Luther King Online. Note that excerpts of the speech are included on videos about the Civil Rights Movement, such Eyes on the Prize, which may also be available in your school media center. The speech is available in its entirety on VHS from Mpi Home Video: Martin Luther King, Jr.—I Have a Dream (1986).
  2. Locate an audio version of Dr. King’s speech (which can also be found in most public libraries), and arrange to have computers or audio equipment available to present the speech. Additionally, make an overhead of the text version of the speech or project it using an LCD projector.
  3. Review and download the Word Mover mobile app for students to use on tablet devices. 
  4. Mark the text version of the speech according to where you want to divide it, giving each student a few lines for which to be responsible.
  5. Make copies of the full text version of the speech, “I Have a Dream” Graphic Organizer, "I Have a Dream" Quiz Checklist, and Reflective Writing Rubric for each student.
  6. Locate Nikki Giovanni’s poem “The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr." and then make copies or put it on an overhead.
  7. Make an overhead or handout of the three reflective Writing Prompts from which students can choose.
  8. Place butcher paper on a wall in your classroom so students can write quiz questions and answers on it.
  9. Arrange for students to have computer access for at least one class period.
  10. Make dictionaries available for every student.
  11. Arrange for your class to have an audience at the end of this lesson. The “I Have a Dream” readers’ theater can be performed at an open house, for another class, or in front of the whole school.

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Instructional Plan


Students will:

  • identify unfamiliar words and phrases in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
  • define these unfamiliar words and phrases both denotatively and connotatively.
  • explain in their own words what the speech says.
  • write quiz questions about the speech for their peers and themselves.
  • read the speech orally.
  • demonstrate an understanding of the historical context of the speech and Nikki Giovanni's poem "The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr."
  • write reflectively about what they've learned about Martin Luther King, Jr., Nikki Giovanni, and/or Civil Rights in general.

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Session One

  1. Give students the text version of the speech, and ask them to read along silently as they listen to the audio version of the speech. Explain that they should focus on King’s voice and the way he accentuates certain words and phrases.
  2. Ask students to share what they noticed about how King used his voice to make certain words and phrases more powerful. Use the following questions to guide discussion: How did his voice change during moments of repetition in the speech? How did his tone of voice affect the way the speech sounded and felt to the listener?
  3. Model for students how to create a profile and use the Word Mover mobile app using King's "I Have a Dream" speech.  After reflecting on the questions above, have students experiment with different parts of his speech, using the tools within the app to show important parts and words, changes in his voice, etc. 
  4. Have students share their designed poems with a partner or small group, explaining why they made the style choices that they did.
  5. Return to the paper copy of the speech and ask students to underline words and phrases they may not know or ones that have to do with history such as “Emancipation Proclamation.”
  6. Give students the “I Have a Dream” Graphic Organizer, and explain that each student will be responsible for one section of the speech. Assign sections.
  7. Ask students to record their section of the speech at the top of their “I Have a Dream” Graphic Organizer, making sure to record it verbatim.
  8. Have students record the words and phrases from their section only in the middle of the organizer. It is important for them to choose words and phrases that will help them better understand the speech and its historical context. Share the example organizer if students need a model for their work.
  9. Explain to the class the difference between a word’s dictionary definition and what it means in context. For example, a manacle is something that confines or binds, but in the context of Dr. King’s speech, it refers to the effect that segregation has on African Americans.
  10. Using print dictionaries or an online dictionary, give students the rest of the class session to locate meanings of the words and phrases they have listed. They should record these meanings in the middle column of the organizer.
  11. Once students locate the dictionary definitions of the words and phrases, they can explain the meanings in the context of Dr. King’s speech in the right-hand column.
  12. Finally, students should complete the last section of the organizer by explaining what their segment of the speech is saying in their own words.
  13. Students should finish Steps 10, 11 and 12 for homework if they do not complete them in class.

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Session Two

  1. Begin class by asking students to make a line in the front of the room according to the part of the speech for which they are responsible.
  2. Ask each student to read his or her part so that the speech is read in its entirety.
  3. After students have returned to their seats, ask the class to discuss what they learned about the speech through their research. They might want to share what they wrote on their organizers about what the speech says.
  4. Explain to the class that each student is now going to write 3 to 5 quiz questions about his or her section of the speech. The goal is to see how well the class understands the speech. Quiz questions should include inquiries about vocabulary, historical references, and symbolic language.
  5. Share the Quiz Checklist with the students so that they know what kinds of questions to include.
  6. Ask students to fold a piece of notebook paper in half and tear it along the crease. They will write their questions on each of the pieces of paper, one to turn in and one to keep.
  7. Give each student a chance to share one of their quiz questions before the end of the class session. Explain that you will choose at least one question from each student for the quiz they will take at the end of the lesson.
  8. Pick up quiz questions and “I Have a Dream” graphic organizers. Check organizers for completion and accuracy. Copy students’ quiz questions on the left side of the butcher paper before the next class session.
  9. For homework, ask students to answer their own quiz questions making sure that their answers are thorough and correct.

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Session Three

  1. Begin class by showing students the left-hand side of the butcher paper where you have recorded the questions that will be on the quiz.
  2. Ask students to turn in the answers to their quiz questions so you can check and record them on the right-hand side of the butcher paper. Explain that the butcher paper display will give them a place to review for their quiz.
  3. Ask students to get out their speeches and explain that they need to decide how to perform their section of the speech.
    • Students will need to know that readers’ theater requires that they not use props and that they stand in one place to read the speech directly from the page.
    • They will need to decide which words and/or phrases to read with emphasis or with more than one person. For example, there is a section of the speech where Dr. King repeats “Let freedom ring” several times. This might be a good phrase to have boys and girls alternate until the last time when the whole class can read it together.
  4. After each student decides how the speech will be read, students will stand one at a time, starting with the person with the first section of the speech, to explain to the class when girls, boys, and the entire class will read. All other text will be read by the individual who is responsible for that section.
  5. Students who are not standing should be underlining the parts they will be reading. (It will be helpful for you to mark the speech on an overhead with G for girls, B for boys, and C for class according to which lines will be read by whom.)
  6. Ask students to stand up at the front of the room so they get used to performing that way. Spend the rest of the class time practicing the speech.

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Session Four

  1. Begin class by reviewing quiz questions and answers with students using the butcher paper as a visual.
  2. Practice the speech, making any changes to reading parts that may be necessary.
  3. Read Nikki Giovanni’s poem “The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
  4. Explain that King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, on August, 28, 1963, and he was assassinated at the age of 39 on April 4, 1968.
  5. Ask students to share their general reactions to Giovanni’s poem.
  6. Ask them what they think Giovanni meant in these lines of the poem: “But death is a slave’s freedom / We seek the freedom of free men / And the construction of a world / Where Martin Luther King could have lived / and preached non-violence.” Focus especially on the meaning of “freedom.”
  7. Give students the following three writing prompts and ask them to choose one to write about for homework:
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. in today’s world: Ask students to focus on the last four lines of Giovanni’s poem: “We seek the freedom of free men/ And the construction of a world/ Where Martin Luther King could have lived/ and preached non-violence.” Have students write about whether or not they believe Martin Luther King could live and preach non-violence in today’s world. They should support their opinions with evidence from what they’ve learned about the Civil Rights Movement, examples of current events, and their understanding of the word “freedom.”
    • Writing as Nikki Giovanni: Ask students to imagine that Nikki Giovanni was in Washington in 1963 to hear Dr. King’s speech. How would she have reacted to his speech? How would it have made her feel? What would she have written about it? Students must put themselves in the place of Nikki Giovanni and write a reflection about the experience of hearing King’s speech from her point of view. It can be in the form of a letter, journal entry or poem.
    • Agents of Change: Ask students to write a letter to a politician, modern-day civil rights activist, or a newspaper explaining what needs to change in your community or in America in order for Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to be realized. You may want to start by brainstorming a list of actions with the class that may promote positive change. Tell students that they should focus on one thing they think should be changed and explain why and how making that change will help your community or our country become more tolerant of differences.
  8. Share the Reflective Writing Rubric with the students so they know the expectations of their writing project.
  9. If time allows, return to the Word Mover mobile app and have students choose "My Own Words," where they can then enter the words to a section of Giovanni's poem and repeat the same exercise that they did for the MLK poem.

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Session Five

  1. Begin class by reviewing quiz questions and answers with students using the butcher paper as a visual. Remind students that this will be the last day of review and that the quiz will occur during the next class session.
  2. Spend some time practicing the speech and preparing for the final readers’ theater performance.
  3. Ask volunteers to share their reflections, choosing students who wrote about each of the three prompts.
  4. Discuss the personal reactions students may have about their peers’ reflections, Dr. King’s speech, Giovanni’s poem or the Civil Rights Movement in general.

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  • If you wish to focus on the writing element of this lesson, allow time for students to workshop and revise their reflections. Arrange the class in groups according to which prompt they chose and guide them through a workshop, asking them to focus on specific areas such as purpose, organization, fluidity, and so forth. These reflections can be posted on a class Web site, around the classroom, or collected and bound together.
  • Introduce students to other writing by Nikki Giovanni and Dr. King. Some recommendations include Giovanni’s “Poem (No Name No. 3)”, “Poem for Black Boys (With Special Love to James)”, and “The Great Pax Whitie.” “Promised Land” is the speech Dr. King delivered the day before he was assassinated, and the letter he wrote while in jail in Birmingham, Alabama, also provides a great deal of historical context for students who are interested in learning more about the Civil Rights Movement. Some poems by Giovanni, as well as records of her reading her poetry, can be found at her Website.
  • For more classroom resources on Nikki Giovanni and Martin Luther king, Jr., see the calendar entries for January 15: Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in 1929,  August 28: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, and June 7: Poet Nikki Giovanni was born in 1943.

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  • Student generated quizzes: While students will write the initial questions, you will decide which ones most thoroughly test students’ understanding of King’s speech. Students will answer their own questions before the final quiz is created. Grade the final quiz according to the answers that have been studied and reviewed.
  • “I Have a Dream” Organizer: This assignment can be assessed according to whether or not it was completed accurately following the directions.
  • Reflective writing: Assess students’ reflective writing based on the directions on the writing prompts using the rubric. How stringently these reflections are graded will depend on whether students are given time to workshop and revise them.
  • Readers’ theater performance can be evaluated for preparation and the appropriate use of emphasis, volume, eye contact, and so forth.

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Related Resources


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Analyzing Famous Speeches as Arguments

Students are often asked to perform speeches, but rarely do we require students to analyze speeches as carefully as we study works of literature. In this unit, students are required to identify the rhetorical strategies in a famous speech and the specific purpose for each chosen device. They will write an essay about its effectiveness and why it is still famous after all these years.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

I Have a Dream: Exploring Nonviolence in Young Adult Texts

Students will identify how Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of nonviolent conflict-resolution is reinterpreted in modern texts. Homework is differentiated to prompt discussion on how nonviolence is portrayed through characterization and conflict. Students will be formally assessed on a thesis essay that addresses the Six Kingian Principles of Nonviolence.


Grades   11 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Examining the Legacy of the American Civil Rights Era

As part of their study of Richard Wright's Black Boy, students research and reflect on the current black-white racial divide in America. By examining the work of literature in the context of contemporary events, students will deepen their understanding of the work and of what it means to be an American today.


Grades   4 – 7  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Boars and Baseball: Making Connections

In this lesson, students will make text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections after reading In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. After sharing and discussing connections, students choose and plan a project that makes a personal connection to the text.


Grades   5 – 9  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Exploring Perspectives on Desegregation Using Brown Girl Dreaming

Students read and discuss a selection of poems from Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming to explore varying views on the process of desegregation in America.


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Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Writing Poetry

Word Mover

Word Mover allows children and teens to create "found poetry" by choosing from word banks and existing famous works; additionally, users can add new words to create a piece of poetry by moving/manipulating the text.


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Grades   3 – 12  |  Mobile App  |  Writing Poetry

Word Mover

Word Mover allows children and teens to create "found poetry" by choosing from word banks and existing famous works; additionally, users can add new words to create a piece of poetry by moving/manipulating the text.


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Grades   1 – 12  |  Calendar Activity  |  June 7

Poet Nikki Giovanni was born in 1943.

Using the poem "My First Memory (of Librarians)," students connect memory, their senses, and the language of poetry.


Grades   7 – 12  |  Calendar Activity  |  August 28

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

Students explore the "I Have a Dream" Foundation's website and brainstorm ways they can help themselves or others at their school achieve their educational dreams.


Grades   7 – 12  |  Calendar Activity  |  January 15

In 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on this day.

Students study Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and work in groups to create a mural that depicts Dr. King's vision of peace.


Grades   K – 12  |  Calendar Activity  |  February 1

Take part in the African American Read-In!

Students come together with family and friends to take part in a read-in of books by African American authors and report their results.


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Grades   6 – 8  |  Professional Library  |  Book

Living Voices: Multicultural Poetry in the Middle School Classroom

Jaime Wood offers middle school English language arts teachers material for teaching poetry by Nikki Giovanni, Li-Young Lee, and Pat Mora; the text includes graphic organizers and other resources.


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Laura Zoumberis

October 15, 2014

I love the concept of this lesson, especially because it ties in with a standard that can be difficult to assess (RL.6.9.) One recommendation I have is to compare and contrast Langston Hughes' poem "Let America be America Again" with Dr. King's speech. In my opinion, this poem ties in much better and Langston even mentions his "dream" several times in the poem. It's also interesting to let the kids know that this poem was published before Martin Luther King's speech.


Susan Crooks

September 04, 2013

Wow! Thank you for sharing this wonderful unit! What if every teacher shared their best lesson! Why reinvent the wheel? We can't create these lessons everyday. It is too time consuming! THANKS AGAIN!


Chiquita Riley

January 23, 2013

Great lesson...my students loved it!


Shana Johnson

January 08, 2012

Wonderful lesson and materials!


Shania Johnson

December 15, 2011

Amazing thats all i have to say about this! lol



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