Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hearing Echoes of the Past

This site has the top 100 American speeches on mp3, so students can hear the speeches they learn about. For example, I Have A Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is available. It means so much more to hear the words in the voice and rhythm that is so famous along with the cheers from the crowd. I would suggest having the text available also but to listen to it one time and just close your eyes and imagine being there the first time you hear it. (The text is available on the site by the way.)

You could even go through the speeches and use them for literary feature examples and look for metaphors, similes, imagery, and so on. Talk about bringing history to life, this would also bring language arts to life while integrating history. Add a timeline of the different speeches as you use them and what other events were happening in history at the same time. What issues were we facing when each speech was given?

Some examples of other speeches include JFK's inaugural address, the Pearl Harbor address to the nation by FDR, the shuttle Challenger address, Lou Gehrig's Farewell to Baseball, and even Clarence Darrow's plea for mercy for Leopold and Loeb.

Students might be surprised to find quotes they have heard before but didn't know where they came from in these speeches. They may also give them a context for time periods, people, and speeches that they will hear more about many times in their life. Too often, we think these speeches will be over the heads of students, but how do we know unless we try? It won't hurt to hear it, talk about it, look at elements and imagery, and put them in context of the historical era. Give it a try!

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