Holy Moly, it’s been a loooong time since I did a post about writing! It’s so difficult to be torn between my two great loves: science (especially STEM challenges) & writing! There’s only so much time in a day! So, without further ado…
Martin Luther King, Jr. put together some of the most beautiful, powerful words the world has ever known. When I revisit some of this writings and quotes, I am struck by the wisdom and, unfortunately in many cases, how much those words still ring true today.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to teach students to hook readers into persuasive and expository essays is to start with a quote. It’s kind of like sanctioned cheating: we get to benefit from someone else’s awesome writing. A little of that person’s genius rubs off on us — genius by association!
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s works are a treasure trove of quotations that can make your students’ writing sparkle and shine. Beyond that, they are fantastic to inspire writing prompts and discussions on their own.
I used to give my 7th students a big printed packet of MLK quotes in January along with an essay assignment related to a topic like peace, education, social justice, equality, poverty, etc. It was their job to go through and select 1 – 3 quotes that they wanted to use in the essay. As they would read through the quotes, many were shocked that the wisdom, brilliance, and beautiful words came from just one man. One student even told me she had known the facts and history, but after reading so many of his quotes, she felt like she understood who he actually was. It was one of those magical teacher moments I continue to cherish.
Quick Writes Inspired by Quotes
In order for students to use quotes effectively to hook readers, they’ll need practice reading and responding to quotes throughout the school year. January is a perfect time to start (or continue), using MLK quotes! A simple approach is to select one quote a day for a quick write prompt or class discussion. You can do a search for MLK quotes online, and you’ll get plenty of results! Here’s one site where you can find quotes.
I usually give students an optional prompt along with the quote in case they “can’t think of anything to write.” (Don’t you just hate that!) I also allow them to ignore the prompt (when the writing purpose is quick writes and/or practicing responding and connecting with quotes). Over time, many will choose to do a free, quick-write as they become more comfortable connecting authentically with the quotes. As long as their responses are related to, or inspired by, the quote, I’m happy.
Then, every 1 – 2 weeks, you can have students look at their quick writes over that period and turn one into a final draft for grading, if you like. This gives students choice, and it’s so much nicer to for you to grade essays that are on varied prompts!
For the last two years (at least), I have told myself I would put together a resource with writing prompts inspired by MLK quotes. Finally, in 2017, I made it happen! So, if you’re looking to save yourself a little time in the weeds, check it out:
Each prompt comes in 3 versions: lined paper (Print & Go), Writers’ Notebook Inserts, and Projection Slides. You can click on the image above if you’d like more details.