Letter from a birmingham jail
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Letter from a Birmingham Jail. King Lesson. Read and Annotate. Read, Recognize and React Read (follow along as I read out loud) only the first 4 paragraphs of “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.” Recognize by circling the use of the words “here,” “we” and “our”

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Letter from a Birmingham Jail

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Letter from a birmingham jail

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

King Lesson


Read and annotate

Read and Annotate

  • Read, Recognize and React

    • Read (follow along as I read out loud) only the first 4 paragraphs of “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.”

    • Recognize by circling the use of the words “here,” “we” and “our”

    • Recognize by underlining any key vocabulary or phrases that strike you as surprising or significant


Questioning the text

Questioning the Text

  • Having listened to me read the text, now reread (or react) the text and write questions you may have in the margins of the page.

  • We will be discussing these questions you generate.

  • Suggestion: After the students generate questions, prompt them to look through the text and answer some of those questions.


After the initial reading discussion

After the initial reading Discussion

  • How many times did King use the words “here” and “we”?

    • Why would King use “we” so frequently in the earlier parts of the text? What are his goals?

    • King admired Abraham Lincoln a great deal. Lincoln mentioned “here” in his famous Gettysburg Address 8 times in 3 paragraphs. King mentions “here” 6 times in 3 paragraphs.

    • The word “here” is a homophone (exacting location as well as prompting one to pay attention).

    • What is King doing with his “here?”


Initial question

Initial Question

  • Why has Dr. King now decided to answer those who criticize his work and ideas?

  • How has his justification in speaking out now led him to ultimately conclude “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere?”

  • Draw evidence from the informational texts given to support your analysis.


Rereading and annotating

Rereading – and Annotating

  • Reread the essay and annotate the specific portions of it that relate to the question given. Let’s do one together….

    • If it helps, label the specific parts of the questions in the margins next to the section of the passage it relates to.

      • For example, if King uses the phrase “speaking out” and his context aligns with that of the question’s, in the margins next to the phrase write: Part 1.


Step by step

Step-by-Step

  • The student must go into the text and identify where King addresses his critics’ concerns. (Text marking)

  • The student must then record Dr. King’s concerns. (2 or 3 sentences) (Directed Note Taking)

  • Go back through the text and answer this portion of the question. Then share your answers with your tablemates.


Model slide

Model Slide

  • King’s Concerns:

    • His actions were deemed “unwise” and “untimely”

    • The “men of genuine good” understood he was called there by the Christian Movement for Human Rights – he’s not a trouble-maker

    • Injustice is in Birmingham


Part 1 analysis

Part 1: Analysis

  • The first part of this question (why has Dr. King now decided to answer those who criticize his work and ideas) addresses Common Core Standards:

    • RI.9-10.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).

    • W.9-10.1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.


Initial question part 2

Initial Question Part 2

  • How has his justification in speaking out now led him to ultimately conclude “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere?”

  • Take about 12 minutes to answer the question and share with your tablemates.


Step by step1

Step-by-Step

  • The student must search for King’s justifications and/or explanations for speaking out.

  • The student must determine the meaning of “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (2 or 3 sentences)

  • Once the student is able to articulate the three aforementioned sections, then the student is able to conclude and synthesize Dr. King’s meaning, thus answering the question. (3 or 4 sentences)


Model slide1

Model Slide

  • King’s Justifications

    • “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny”

    • “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly”

    • “Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider”

    • Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere”

      • Meaning. . . .

      • Conclusions?


Example response

Example Response

  • Why has Dr. King now decided to answer those who criticize his work and ideas? How has his justification in speaking out now led him to ultimately conclude “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere?”

  • Dr. King posits that his decision to answer his critics stems from the criticism of a particular group of men – a group that he feels is “of genuine good will.” Additionally, King feels the need to defend his so-called, “unwise” and “untimely” action.

  • Dr. King’s justification of his visit to Birmingham parallels that of the Apostle Paul or any other eighth-century prophet; in that, they too left their village to carry forth the truth, while carrying “the gospel of freedom.” The “gospel of freedom” is not a regional ideology. Dr. King emphasizes an immediate urgency to respond to those in need. He feels compelled to respond to the “Macedonian call for aid.” If Dr. King’s affiliates calls for immediate direct action, and he promptly responds. Kingargues that he refuses to “sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham.” Furthermore, King’s assertions point to the potential dangers that all oppressed people face when injustice is overlooked and not directly addressed. All oppressed people “are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” Essentially, all oppressed people share a mutual destiny – injustice.


Part 2 analysis

Part 2: Analysis

  • The next part of the question (how has King’s justification in speaking out now led him to ultimately conclude, “injustice anywhere is a threat justice everywhere”) addresses the following Common Core Standards:

    • RI.9-10.2. Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

    • W.9-10.1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

      • Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.


Initial question 2

Initial Question 2:

  • Cite examples of King utilizing the rhetorical strategy pathos, within his letter.

  • Why would King use pathos in the example you’ve provided, as opposed to ethos or logos?

  • Draw specifics from the text to support your analysis.


Step by step2

Step-by-Step

  • 1.) The student must first provide a concise (non-dictionary yet accurate) definition of pathos. (1 to 2 sentences)

  • 2.) The student will identify and record King’s use of pathos within the letter. (2 or 3 sentences)

  • 3.) The student will then provide the purpose for King authoring the text using pathos. (2 or 3 sentences)


Part 1 analysis1

Part 1: Analysis

  • The first part of this question (Cite three examples where King uses pathos) addresses Common Core Standards:

    • RI.9-10.6. Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

    • W.9-10.9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Initial question part 21

Initial Question: Part 2

  • Why would King use the rhetorical strategy of pathos in the example you’ve provided, as opposed to ethos or logos?


Step by step3

Step-by-Step

  • 1.) The student must first provide operative frameworks for both ethos and logos. (4 or 5 sentences)

  • 2.) The student then examines and records the advantages of pathos versus the disadvantages of using ethos and logos. (4 or 5 sentences)


Part 2 analysis1

Part 2: Analysis

  • The next part of the question “why would King use the rhetorical strategy of pathos, as opposed to ethos or logos” addresses Common Core Standards:

    • RI.9-10.1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

    • RI.9-10.6. Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

    • W.9-10.2. 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.


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