Letter from Birmingham Jail, by Martin L. King, Jr.--An ePals Project

This project is part of a larger one on Civil Disobedience. This part is built around the study of Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.  It is intended as a combined ELA/Social Studies unit, for students in grades 10 and up. I have used it with students from tenth grade up through college freshmen.  Prior to this unit, students usually have studied or reviewed the Declaration of Independence, basic rhetorical elements and appeals, deductive and inductive logic, and academic argument; however, those can be incorporated into this unit.  Strongly recommend that this unit be team-taught between social studies and English instructors.

 

http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/letter_birmingham_jail.pdf


Subjects: Social Studies



You must be signed in to submit a "Join Request"

 


You're almost there!

Parents/Teachers...
Before you can contact other members, use your email, or join/start projects, you need an approved profile. If you have submitted one and it has been more than 24 hours, please contact support@epals.com

If you haven't yet created a profile, start one now!

Students...
To contact a teacher or join a project, please have your teacher or parent put in the request for you.

Why do I need a profile?
Approved classroom and family profiles are part of our verification process at ePals. In order to maintain the safety of our site, we require approved profiles before we permit members to contact other community members. A profile also serves as your identity on ePals and allows you to introduce yourself to our community. It also helps other teachers and parents with similar interests and objectives, find you more easily.



You must be signed in to "Save Project".

 

Result

 

This project is part of a larger one on Civil Disobedience. This part is built around the study of Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.  It is intended as a combined ELA/Social Studies unit, for students in grades 10 and up. I have used it with students from tenth grade up through college freshmen.  Prior to this unit, students usually have studied or reviewed the Declaration of Independence, basic rhetorical elements and appeals, deductive and inductive logic, and academic argument; however, those can be incorporated into this unit.  Strongly recommend that this unit be team-taught between social studies and English instructors.

 

http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/letter_birmingham_jail.pdf

1) To have students deeply study this excellent example of persuasive writing, analyzing the author’s use of a variety of rhetorical and literary techniques, evaluating the effectiveness of those techniques, and then moving to imitate one or more of those techniques in their own writing.

 

2) To help students learn about this critical period in U.S. history; what it actually takes to accomplish significant social change in society; and to examine the personal convictions of one of America’s great leaders.

 

Common Core ELA Standards

 

RI-1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain

 

RI-3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the courses of the text

 

RI-4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative and technical meanings, analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text

 

RI-5 Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing and engaging

 

RI-6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text

 

RI-7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different

media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem

 

W-1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence

 

W-2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization and analysis of content

 

W-4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose and audience

 

W-5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting or trying a new approach, focusing on what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience

 

W-6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information

 

W-7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question, or solve a problem, narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate, synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation

 

W-8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches  effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation

 

W-10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter timeframes for a range of tasks, purposes and audiences.

 

WHST-1 Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

 

WHST – 2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.

 

WHST-4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

 

WHST-5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

 

WHST-6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.

 

WHST-7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation

 

WHST-8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the specific task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.

 

WHST-9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

 

SL-1  Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts and issues building on each others ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively

 

SL- 2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data

 

SL -3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premise, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis and tone used

 

SL – 4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance and style are appropriate to purpose, audience and a range of formal and informal tasks

 

SL – 5 Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning and evidence to add interest

 

L-1  Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking

 

L – 2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing

 

L-4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 11-12 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

 

L-5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings

 

L-6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Students will create a multi-genre, multi-media learning center that others could use to study the letter and its historical period.

 

Each student must:

A. Contribute an original, persuasive writing based on an I-Search related to LBJ.

B. Collaborate with your group on a second contribution. No duplications are allowed.

 

The collaborative contributions may include, but are not limited to: a unit glossary, extended researched writings on topics of interest from the unit, original poetry or music based on the types of music featured in the documentary (gospel, R&B, folk songs) or from the era, audio podcasts of interviews conducted with local civil rights activists; video of mock trials of protestors and civic leaders; slideshow (PowerPoint, SlideShare, Pinterest, etc) of images from the time period and since examining the cause and effects of the civil rights struggle.

 

Students may also be assigned or encouraged to study one or more of the additional readings/resources and make comparison and contrast to LBJ in some form that can be shared on the group site later.

 

Additional Readings / Resources

 

• Holy Bible, “Three Hebrew Boys” (Daniel, Chapter 3),  “Daniel in the Lions’ Den” (Daniel, Chapter 6), “Peter and John, Arrested” (Acts 3:1-4:22).

• Antigone, Sophocles

• Declaration of Independence,  Thomas Jefferson

• Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau

• “An Idea For Which I Am Prepared to Die,” (Parts 1 and 2) Nelson Mandela

• The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom

• Selected news articles on current examples of civil disobedience in various countries (can also use some of the Nobel Peace Prize speeches).

Opening:  To set the historical context for the study of the letter, students are questioned about racial segregation in the U.S., the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin L. King, and the Birmingham bus boycott.

 

Read-alouds of narratives from people who lived under segregation period in U.S. {Note: Start by looking at segregation in US to give context for the focus piece, LBJ, but can also tie in similar type narratives from other places in the world, e.g., narratives from the apartheid era in South Africa; conditions of Jews before and during World War II in Europe, etc.}

 

Use the discussion of these searches to generate pre-reading questions about the main text. This could take the form of a K-W-L chart

 

Overarching questions for this unit:

What was it like to live in the South during the segregation period?

Could the social problems of segregation and voting rights have been

dealt with in some other way than the direct action movement? If so, what? If not, why not?

 

 

What does the Letter from Birmingham Jail teach us about the people who were involved in the civil rights movement and their strategies?

 

Learning Activities

 

1. Review the background history of the letter: A persuasive essay written in response to a published letter criticizing Dr. King and the civil rights activists written by a group of religious leaders in the city of Birmingham, AL. King drafted the original letter while in solitary confinement in the city jail, as depicted in the documentary.  [Important to stress how well Dr. King understood his audience as he crafted his response and chose his rhetorical approaches. This is a key to effective persuasion].

 

2. Distribute a copy of the letter from the clergymen (which was published in the Birmingham newspaper at the time).

 

A. Have students work in small groups to analyze the letter contents and develop an outline of its main points.

 

B. Compare/contrast outlines developed by the groups to get a consensus on the content of the clergymen’s letter.

 

C. What things do you notice that the letter does not mention?

 

3. Using jigsaw read approach, designate the 10 sections of the LBJ to respective groups of students. Up to three students may work on one section together. Each member of the group should have specified role; someone needs to be the official recorder of the group’s work and someone must be responsible for putting the group’s work on the group section of the class website (ePals workspace).

 

A. Students should identify unfamiliar and key terms in their section. Student is responsible for maintaining a record of these, determining their meaning(s) and use in the text

 

B. Each individual must do a close reading; annotating the section as needed to identify areas of interest, question, or disagreement.

 

C. Bring the individual annotated readings to the first group discussion of the section; combine to create a master list of key terms, interesting parts, questions, and disagreements. Prepare for initial discussion with teacher.

 

D. Group shares results of its initial reading of section with the instructor [this could happen face-to-face or posted on work site with response from the teacher(s)].

 

4. Give each group the following questions. Each member is to do an individual read looking for answers to these questions:

 

A. To what charge or point is Dr. King responding in this section?

 

B. What evidence or persuasive technique does he use in this section?

 

C. Is his argument or technique effective for this audience and topic? Why or why not?

 

5. Each group should develop a written response to each of the questions and share their conclusions with the whole class:

 

A.  First, in informal essays on the class blog or online discussion forum

 

B. Then in presentation to the entire class. The in-class group presentations could be in the form of Socratic seminars with the presenting group in the center

 

6. Everyone in class should keep a record of the persuasive techniques used by Dr. King throughout the essay, and reflect on their effectiveness.

 

7. Whole-class discussion of the entire text. [Possibly a quiz or other assessment at this point on content presented by groups]. Based on the evidence presented by each section group, the whole class votes on whether the section represents effective persuasion for the target audience, and discusses the rhetorical effectiveness of the essay as a whole.

 

For the online collaboration, the teachers may decide to organize the students in one of these combinations.

 

A. Each of the student groups could be made up of students from each of the online classrooms involved.

 

B. Teachers could set up parallel groups within their respective classrooms; then have the groups compare notes and work together on their sections in the workspace.

"The Children’s March” (available free from Teaching Tolerance)

 

Possible video related activities:

A. Give the students some preliminary questions (and or combine with K-W-L questions from their pre-reading activity) about the Birmingham events (especially noting persons and events that are mentioned in LBJ) and have them watch for the answers.  This can be done in partners.

B. Let pairs or teams of students develop their own questions (like reporters) about what they see and hear in the documentary.  These questions can become the basis for I-Search projects at the end of the unit [RI.7; RH.7]

 

Outline of Sections in Letter From Birmingham Jail

This is a suggested division of LBJ for use in the jigsaw approach with groups. Also, some key discussion points are suggested for each section.

 

Section /Paragraphs General Topic Key Points

A / 1 – 4 Why Birmingham?  What is Dr. King’s tone at the opening of this letter? How does he attempt to establish his credibility with this audience? How and why does he cast the problems in Birmingham as more than just a local issue?

B / 5 – 9 Previous Attempts to End Segregation in Birmingham What prior attempts to end segregation have the local civil rights activists taken before resorting to demonstrations? What are the steps they took prior to the demonstrations themselves? Why does Dr. King take the time to outline these attempts and steps? How was the timing for the demonstrations determined? What image is Dr. King putting forward of the civil rights activists? 

C / 10 – 14 Why Direct Action and Why Now? According to Dr. King, what is the purpose of direct action? What historical precedence and evidence does he offer for their decision? What type of rhetorical appeal is he making in this section?

 Just vs. Unjust Laws How does King use classical logic in the form of a categorical syllogism to make his point in this section? What historical analogies does he use? Are they effective for his particular audience? Why or why not?

D / 20 – 22 Examples of Civil Disobedience [Could build on previous discussion in class of the concept civil disobedience. If not discussed previously, students should define it here in their group to share with whole class].  What examples of civil disobedience does Dr. King use in this section?  Are they effective for this particular audience? Why or why not?

E / 23-26 Lack of Support From White Moderates To whom is King referring when he uses the term “white moderates”? How might his audience have taken this? What powerful, and potentially offensive, Biblical allusion does Dr. King make in his comment about “lukewarm acceptance”?  How does he reverse or respond to several of the audience’s own arguments?

F / 27-32 Civil Rights Movement as a Moderate Position How does Dr. King re-define the terms the audience has used to describe the civil rights activists?  Who are the two groups he describes as the true extremists? Is the argument in this section valid in structure, or does it represent an either/or fallacy? Near the end of the section, he re-defines the term “extremist” again; is this effective? Do the examples and analogies he cites support the new definition? 

G / 33 – 37 Lack of Support from Churches Why does Dr. King express disappointment with only some of the churches in Alabama for their lack of support? How is this strategic to his argument? What specific charge does he make against this specific audience and how they could have helped avoid the mass actions they now deplore? [May want to point out some obvious parallels between this section persuasive techniques used by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence] .

H / 38 – 41 Role of the Church What historical and theological arguments does King use in this section to challenge his audience? Why does he feel he has the moral right to issue this challenge?

I / 42 – 44 Religion vs. True Spirituality What examples and arguments does King make to distinguish the practice of religion from spiritually motivated individual acts of integrity? What historical parallels does he make to the work of the civil rights workers in Birmingham?

J / 45 – 50 Police Handling of Protestors How does Dr. King respond to the clergymen’s view of the role of the police in Birmingham? What assumption does he appear to make about the clergymen? What specific analogies and word choices does Dr. King make in this closing section of his argument?  What is the tone of his conclusion?

D /  20 – 22 Examples of Civil Disobedience

Could build on previous discussion in class of the concept civil disobedience. If not discussed previously, students should define it here in their group to share with whole class].  What examples of civil disobedience does Dr. King use in this section?  Are they effective for this particular audience? Why or why not?"

E/ 23-26 Lack of Support From White Moderates

To whom is King referring when he uses the term “white moderates”? How might his audience have taken this? What powerful, and potentially offensive, Biblical allusion does Dr. King make in his comment about “lukewarm acceptance”?  How does he reverse or respond to several of the audience’s own arguments?

F / 27-32 Civil Rights Movement as a Moderate Position

How does Dr. King re-define the terms the audience has used to describe the civil rights activists?  Who are the two groups he describes as the true extremists? Is the argument in this section valid in structure, or does it represent an either/or fallacy? Near the end of the section, he re-defines the term “extremist” again; is this effective? Do the examples and analogies he cites support the new definition? 

G / 33 – 37 Lack of Support from Churches Why does Dr. King express disappointment with only some of the churches in Alabama for their lack of support? How is this strategic to his argument? What specific charge does he make against this specific audience and how they could have helped avoid the mass actions they now deplore? [May want to point out some obvious parallels between this section persuasive techniques  that were used by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independance.

H / 38 – 41 Role of the Church What historical and theological arguments does King use in this section to challenge his audience? Why does he feel he has the moral right to issue this challenge?

I / 42 – 44 Religion vs. True Spirituality What examples and arguments does King make to distinguish the practice of religion from spiritually motivated individual acts of integrity? What historical parallels does he make to the work of the civil rights workers in Birmingham?

J / 45 – 50 Police Handling of Protestors How does Dr. King respond to the clergymen’s view of the role of the police in Birmingham? What assumption does he appear to make about the clergymen? What specific analogies and word choices does Dr. King make in this closing section of his argument?  What is the tone of his conclusion?

 

Suggested Time Frame for Unit   (Total Length: 4 – 6 weeks. Usually takes up all or most of a grading period).

 

Preparation: preliminary teacher dialogues, material preparation

1-2 weeks

 

Opening activities: web searches, narratives

2-4 class periods

 

Video session and follow-up discussions

2 class periods

 

First round readings and individual responses to LBJ sections

2-4 class periods

 

Second  round reading activities and preparing group responses

3-5 class periods

 

Class presentations by groups of section responses

3-5 class periods

 

Whole class discussion of LBJ and results of groups’ work

1-2 class periods

 

Work on the culminating project assignments

1 – 3 weeks (should devote some class time to writing; progress checks; etc.). This time can overlap with some of the above; ie., students can be working towards the culminating project outside of class.

 

Presentation and formal assessment of the culminating project

1 day (Encourage making this a community or family event)

 

Teachers post-unit reflections* and summations (to be shared on forum with ePals community)

1 week

 

* See section below regarding the teacher interactions during the online collaboration

 

During an online or physical collaboration among multiple classrooms, the teachers must communicate early and often to ensure the success of the project. This unit is not only intellectually challenging, but it deals with some very sensitive issues around race and religion.

 

Teachers should correspond at least a couple of weeks (preferably much further) ahead of the unit start date to agree on expected outcomes, shared assignments, timetables, learning standards, and standards or expectations for online conduct. Teachers also need to test out the logistics prior to the students (make sure their computer access is working and scheduled; computer software is compatible with ePals platform, necessary school/district permissions secured for online work by students). Teachers may need to allow enough time to order the video or other supplemental materials for the unit.

 

Three critical aspects of a successful online collaboration are:

 

A. agree on who should be posting what and when (student work)

 

B. preview and approve all student posts and interactions as determined by the teachers in advance, or by the school/district policies

 

C. ensure that every student post receives a timely response; don’t leave anyone hanging in cyberspace.

 

The teachers will also need to be in regular communication throughout the unit, looking at student work, adjusting schedules, changing assignments, and most important reflecting on the student learning taking place during the unit.

Suggested Time Frame for Unit   (Total Length: 4 – 6 weeks. Usually takes up all or most of a grading period).

 

Preparation: preliminary teacher dialogues, material preparation

1-2 weeks

 

Opening activities: web searches, narratives

2-4 class periods

 

Video session and follow-up discussions

2 class periods

 

First round readings and individual responses to LBJ sections

2-4 class periods

 

Second  round reading activities and preparing group responses

3-5 class periods

 

Class presentations by groups of section responses

3-5 class periods

 

Whole class discussion of LBJ and results of groups’ work

1-2 class periods

 

Work on the culminating project assignments

1 – 3 weeks (should devote some class time to writing; progress checks; etc.). This time can overlap with some of the above; ie., students can be working towards the culminating project outside of class.

 

Presentation and formal assessment of the culminating project

1 day (Encourage making this a community or family event)

 

Teachers post-unit reflections* and summations (to be shared on forum with ePals community)

1 week

 

Project Leader:

Country:
Subjects: Social Studies

# of Students: 21-30
Age Range: 8-10
Collaboration: Email Exchange, Skype / Video Chat
Languages: English

About my classroom: BF Yancey is a small, rural elementary school of approximately 150 students in grades pre-Kindergarten through Fifth, located in central Virginia, USA. We are interested in communicating with other students from as many countries as possible regarding your school lunch experience. Do students eat in a cafeteria or common space? What foods are eaten for lunch at school where you live? Is the lunchtime meal prepared by the school or do students bring their own food from home? Are the meals sourced from local farmers and providers? What are the components of your favorite school lunch? We are especially interested in collecting photos of school lunches from around the world! Currently, we prefer to correspond by email and Skype, and to write at least 2x per month. We look forward to meeting you and learning about the food culture of your area.