Weekly writing prompt


January 17-23, 2010

With Respect to Dreams

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote speeches and letters to change people’s minds about the discrimination he faced because of his race. A strong dedication to nonviolent protest led his civil rights efforts, resulting in many major political, social, and psychological improvements over the last fifty years.

King’s social activism earned him a Nobel Peace Prize and Congressional Medal of Honor, both awards serving as inspirational models of what students can achieve. Use this week’s prompts to help students visualize one individual’s impact on social change.


Write or discuss it! Foundations for Life gives teachers an easy way to improve students' critical thinking and composition skills. Each of these weekly prompts comes with a maxim illuminating an ethical issue. Students can analyze it and apply it to current events and their own lives, through discussion or writing. Each prompt also references at least one of the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. As a result, students can easily tie the author�s words to community values. Suggestions for using the prompts:


Elementary level

"Everyone has an opportunity to be great because everyone has an opportunity to serve."
— Martin Luther King, Jr., minister and Nobel Prize-winning leader of the civil rights movement (1929-1968)

Focus Pillar: Respect
Imagine your principal declared that only students whose birthdays fall between January and June are allowed to play on the playground at recess, while students with birthdays between June and December must stay inside and study.

Prepare a speech to give to your peers explaining why you agree or disagree with this new rule. Depending on which group you are in, do you feel the rule is respectful of everyone? Write a short speech encouraging others to accept your opinion. Be sure to consider your audience as you write and restate your main point several times.

Extension Activity: To further visualize their speech scenarios, ask students to create a self-representation akin to the famous March on Washington photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with art materials.

Secondary level

"To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it."
—Martin Luther King, Jr., minister and leader of the civil rights movement (1929-1968)

Focus Pillar: Respect
Photographs capturing the Civil Rights Movement are among the most potent images in American history, as they trace the tribulations of the country’s fight for social justice. Select a photograph of a speech, march, sit-in, riot, or person that stands out from this historical period. Write a paragraph describing the photograph as it applies to the concept of social justice. Start with what you see in its subject, action, and tone, and then analyze the photographer’s role in capturing the emotions of that particular moment by commenting on the focal point and angle of the image.

Extension Activity: Direct students to conduct further research on the internet to find out more about the images they selected, including the photographer and political turmoil surrounding the incident.

Encourage the class to act as photojournalists for the week by taking pictures of events at school or around town with disposable or inexpensive digital cameras. Share pictures with the class for continued discussion.

Start with the work of Charles Moore at Kodak.com.

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