Logo: Civics Inquiry Lesson Plans
Illustration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s face with

Has Dr. Martin Luther King's Legacy Been Fulfilled?

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is arguably the most well-known figure of the civil rights movement, many do not fully comprehend his impact on the lives of Americans. Teaching about Dr. King is essential for students to understand the struggle for civil rights that continued even today. It honors diversity and explores the values of justice. Allowing students to read and listen to Dr. King’s words helps them understand the power of taking informed action.

Lesson Plan: Day 1

  1. Greet students upon entry into the classroom, and welcome them to social studies. 
  2. Display this question, “What is the American Dream?”
  3. Encourage students to brainstorm possible answers and examples of the American Dream.
  4. Teachers may create an anchor chart or encourage the class to create a word cloud together.
  5. Lead a brief discussion on what topics or items people would identify as part of the American Dream. Consider sharing the What Is the American Dream: Resource Bank to provide students with additional data points and examples. 
  6. Formulate a definition together, which may include Merriam-Webster’s definition that the American Dream is “a happy way of living that is thought of by many Americans as something that can be achieved by anyone in the U.S., especially by working hard and becoming successful.”
  7. Tell students that we are beginning a new inquiry lesson today covering topics on civil rights and our democracy.
  8. Display a few images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and ask students to identify the subject. Images are available from the National Portrait Gallery.
  9. Display and introduce the compelling question, “Has Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream been fulfilled?” Why or why not? 
  10. Encourage students to reflect upon our shared class definition of the American Dream and allow students to generate their own supporting questions.
  11. Ask students to declare their stance on this compelling question using a secret ballot. Responses could be collected via Google Forms, Survey Monkey, hand-written sticky notes, or other simple paper ballots.
  12. Allow time to share several responses, if desired.
  13. Tell students you will revisit this question at the end of the inquiry lesson.
  14. Save the student results on what percentage of students believed Dr. King’s dream has been fulfilled so that you may revisit it at the end of the inquiry.
Universal Design for Learning Guidelines (UDL)
  • Allow sufficient wait time for students to formulate answers.
  • Consider allowing students trio time to formulate answers.
  • A quick video could be shared with students unfamiliar with the American Dream: The American Dream: Is It Still Alive? | IN 60 SECONDS.
  • Consider asking student volunteers to rephrase the motivation and compelling questions, if needed.
  • Ballot options should include “Yes,” “No,” and “Not Sure” to allow students to demonstrate they need more information to decide.
Multilingual Learners (ML)
  • Long descriptions and alternative texts could be translated or provided as audio files for resource bank items, as needed.
  • The motivation and compelling questions could be translated or provided as an audio file, as needed.
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Social awareness
  • Self-awareness
Civic Dispositions & Skills
  • Collaboration
  • Incorporating evidence
  • Attentiveness to political matters
Extending Learning
  • If time allows, have students explore different poems about the American Dream.
  1. Tell students that to answer our larger compelling question, we will break it down into three subtopics with three supporting questions.
  2. Display today’s supporting question, “What was Dr. King’s dream?”
  3. Provide time for students to consider this question and allow students to generate their own supporting questions.
  4. Provide students with a brief biography about Dr. King, such as one from The King Center or the National Park Service.
  5. Using your routine strategy for setting up groups, divide the class into small groups of approximately 3–4 students each.
  6. Provide each group with either a paper or e-copy of MLK’s Dream Mind Map organizer.
  7. Students will work in groups to complete the MLK’s Dream Mind Map organizer by identifying ideas, topics, or items they think were a part of MLK’s dream. Inform students that it is okay if they are unsure or cannot complete all the bubbles, as we will be working today to discover more about Dr. King’s dream.
  • Desks arranged in tables/clusters are recommended to better facilitate student collaboration.
  • Prompt students to draw sketches to illustrate ideas, topics, or items as an alternative option.
  • Consider allowing students to utilize a speak-to-type feature to record their answers on the graphic organizer.
  • A video biography could be shared with students unfamiliar with Dr. King: Martin Luther King, Jr: Crash Course Black American History #36.
  • Supporting questions could be translated or provided as audio files, as needed.
  • Explore subtitle options to change the language if viewing the video cited above via YouTube.
  • Social awareness
  • Reflection
Civic Dispositions & Skills
  • Collaboration
  • Incorporating evidence
  • Attentiveness to political matters
  • Critical thinking
Extending Learning
  • Students may add additional bubbles to the mind map if time allows.
  1. Bring students back together as needed.
  2. Use your preferred strategy for students to share their ideas related to each supporting question.
  3. Allow students time to offer their own supporting questions.
  1. Tell students that we will now have a chance to investigate Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
  2. Provide students with “I Have A Dream” Speech Annotation Activity. Students will also need colored pencils or highlighters in yellow, green, and pink.
  3. Obtain a copy of the speech transcript. Provide students hard copies of the speech beginning at the line “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.”
  4. Review the directions to ensure students understand the annotation task.
  5. Teacher will cue the Freedom’s Ring King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech video, ready to start at 11:24.
  6. Encourage students to read along with the “I Have A Dream” Speech Annotation Activity as they listen to Dr. King deliver the speech. 
  7. Pause the video to allow students to conduct annotation as needed.
  8. Speech runs from 11:24 through 17:08. Replay as needed.
  9. Observe students’ progress with annotation activity; guide and redirect when appropriate.
  10. Allow students time to collaborate with their groups to share annotation results.
  11. Direct students to return to their MLK’s Dream Mind Map organizer to compare it to the annotation work they just completed. 
  12. Encourage students to make changes and additions to the organizer to reflect their new understanding of Dr. King’s dream.
  • Consider providing a translated copy of the speech in the students’ native languages.
  • Social awareness
  • Personalized learning
Civic Disposition & Skills
  • Collaboration
  • Listening
Extending Learning
  • Encourage students to identify the influences and promises from the Declaration of Independence found in this speech.
  • If time allows, consider allowing students to watch Freedom’s Ring King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech video in its entirety and make a note of additional components of MLK’s dream.
  1. Return the class to the full-group format.
  2. Congratulate the young scholars on conducting today’s investigation.
  3. Explain that students will answer today's supporting question (“What was Dr. King’s dream?”) by completing a slide with their response in the MLK’s Dream slide deck.
  • Alternatively, students could submit audio, video, or multimedia responses for the MLK’s Dream formative assessment.
  • Consider allowing students to utilize a speak-to-type feature to record their responses.
  • Social awareness
  • Critical thinking
Civic Dispositions & Skills
  • Incorporating evidence
  • Active learning
Extending Learning
  • Encourage students to take a deeper dive to understand the events that led to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the delivery of Dr. King’s speech via this video.

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