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Student News Learning Activity: MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech

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  • Examine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech
  • Compare King's vision of racial equality in the U.S. to the reality of present-day life
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(CNN Student News) -- Students will examine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Also, they will compose written responses to Dr. King in which they compare his historic vision of racial equality in the United States to the reality of present-day life.


On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his vision of racial equality in America in his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. Now, efforts are under way to build on that dream by constructing a monument to Dr. King on the banks of the National Mall's Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

In class discussion, have students define the following terms: racism, prejudice and discrimination. Have them give examples of each. Then, point out that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of being judged not by the color of one's skin, but by the content of his or her character. Direct your students to read Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech and discuss its content in class. Then, challenge each student to compare Dr. King's dream to the reality of life in the U.S. in the year 2008. Direct each student to compose a written response to Dr. King, explaining what life is like in the U.S. today and to what extent his dream has been realized. (Encourage students to be creative in their responses. For example, students could write a letter, a speech, a song or a poem.) After students share their responses to Dr. King, pose the following questions for class discussion:

Do you think that in today's society individuals are judged by the content of their character and not by their race? Give examples to support your opinion.

  1. Do prejudice and discrimination exist today? Explain.
  2. What is being done to realize Dr. King's dream in 2008?
  3. Do you think that Dr. King's dream has become a reality? Why or why not?

Correlated Standards

United States History

Standard 29. Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties

Level II [Grade: 5-6]

Benchmark 1. Understands the development of the civil rights movement (e.g., the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education and its significance in advancing civil rights; the resistance to civil rights in the South between 1954 and 1965; how the "freedom ride," "civil disobedience," and "non-violent resistance" were important to the civil rights movement; Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in the context of major events)

Level III [Grade: 7-8]

Benchmark 1. Understands individual and institutional influences on the civil rights movement (e.g., the origins of the postwar civil rights movement; the role of the NAACP in the legal assault on the leadership and ideologies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X; the effects of the constitutional steps taken in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government; the shift from de jure to de facto segregation; important milestones in the civil rights movement between 1954 and 1965; Eisenhower's reasons for dispatching federal troops to Little Rock in 1957)

McREL: Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education (Copyright 2000 McREL) is published online by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) (, 2550 S. Parker Road, Suite 500, Aurora, CO 80014


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "I Have a Dream" speech, racial equality, discrimination, prejudice, racism

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