Literature, Secondary English Language Arts, History
Material Type:
Assessment, Homework/Assignment, Lesson Plan, Primary Source, Reading
High School, Community College / Lower Division
  • Lesson Plan
  • january22
  • january23
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    Education Standards

    Letter from Birmingham Annotation Lesson

    Letter from Birmingham Annotation Lesson


    This lesson is intended to teach students digital annotation skills and reinforce their knowledge of rhetorical devices using Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail. This resource can be modified to focus on annotating physical copies of a document and with other documents.

    Cover image: Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash


    This lesson is intended to teach students how to annotate digitally through the use of OneNote and to reinforce previous lessons on rhetorical devices used in documents from the Civil Rights Movement. 

    • This lesson is intended for an 86 minute class period, but can easily be modified to fit longer or shorter lesson times
    • This lesson was originally delivered as a face-to-face, synchronous lesson, but can easily be modified to fit virtual and asynchronous lesson formats

    Background for Teachers

    Before teaching this lesson, make sure you have already covered the basics of rhetorical devices with your students and already set up a protocol for using a digital notebook (OneNote) or modify the lesson expectations for completing work on paper.

    Step 1 - Goals and Outcomes


    Learning Objectives:

    • Identify the use of ethos, pathos, and logos in Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail
    • Practice annotating materials digitally through OneNote 

    Success Criteria:

    • Students will be able to show their annotations to others and explain those annotations
    • Students will be able to explain to others how to annotate through OneNote

    Step 2 - Planning Instruction


    Student Background Knowledge

    Prior to this lesson, you should make sure students have a basic grasp of rhetorical devices, such as ethos, pathos, and logos, and that students have learned what the SOAPSTone elements are. Students should also be familiar with procedures for how to tackle new vocabulary words and your expectations for their ability to access the materials (this is especially important if you are using OneNote's Classroom Notebook).

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    This lesson can be modified for diverse students in many ways. A few ways to support diverse learners are:

    • Allow students to work in groups to identify evidence and work separately to write their responses
    • Offer a verbal walkthrough of the annotations that students have made (this can be a recorded walkthrough if you are submitting materials digitally)
    • Provide sentence frames and examples of each rhetorical device
    • Simplify the steps involved (reduce the number of decisions needing to be made - develop a key for the students ahead of time, etc.)
    • Strategically assign paragraphs/sections based on student skill levels
    • Offer a simplified version of the assigned paragraph/section

    Step 3 - Instruction

    **This lesson is designed for an 86 minute class period but can be modified for longer or shorter class periods.**

    1. Give students 15 minutes at the beginning of the class period to conduct an initial reading of King's Letter from Birmingham
    2. Est. 3 minutes: After reviewing the letter, have students pull out their technology and navigate to their digital notebooks. (All further instructions are geared toward OneNote digital notebooks.)
      1. Once students have opened their digital notebooks have them navigate to the Letter from Birmingham "print out" in their class notebook.
      2. Model the process of accessing the material as your students are also accessing the materials for those who need additional assistance.
    3. Est. 2 minutes: Once all students have found the printout, have them scroll to paragraphs 1-9 for an annotation demonstration.
    4. Est. 64 minutes: Proceed with an I do, We do, Y'all do model.
      1. I do: Show students how to access the drawing and annotation tools on OneNote
      2. We do: Create a key for our annotations with one color per item listed below
        1. Speaker
        2. Occasion
        3. Audience
        4. Purpose
        5. Tone
        6. Claim/Supporting Claim
        7. Ethos
        8. Pathos
        9. Logos
      3. Y'all do: Identify and annotate the Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject, and Tone (SOAPSTone) in paragraph #2 as pairs.
      4. We Do: Check our identification of SOAPSTone elements together. Discuss our annotations and how they help us understand the context of the letter.
      5. Y'all do: Identify the main claim of the letter as found on the first page in pairs.
      6. We do: Check identification of the main claim and discuss.
      7. I do: Demonstrate annotating the assigned paragraphs for ethos, pathos, and logos. Remind students to circle words they don't know for vocabulary work. Narrate the process as you go. A sample annotation looks like this:Image of annotations for paragraph in letter
      8. You do: Instruct students to repeat the modeled process on the paragraphs that you assign to them. (This can be done randomly, by drawing numbers, or by having students choose paragraphs themselves.)

    **Walk around during the annotation process and provide assistance to students as necessary.**

    Step 4 - Assessments


    The main assessment for this assignment is the sharing and explanation of the annotations students made with a focus on the student's ability to go through the annotation process and their ability to explain why they annotated what they chose to annotate. Other options for assessment include:

    • Student self-reflection on the annotation process
    • Presentation of their annotations in small groups
    • Proximity observations of the students annotating 

    A sample rubric for student annotations and explanations is below:

    Score0 - No Evidence1 - Below Proficient2 - Approaching Proficient3 - Proficient4 - Above Proficient
    AnnotationThe student shows no evidence of annotation or declined to participate in the activityThe student completed some of the annotation work but did not annotate their whole sectionThe student completed their annotation of the assigned paragraphs but may have missed key details in their annotationThe student completed their annotations of the assigned materials and missed few if any key detailsThe student completed their annotation of the assigned paragraphs and identified extra elements such as figurative language.
    ExplanationThe student cannot or will not explain their annotations to a peer or teacherThe student can explain some of their annotations but needs assistance in formulating the explanation The student can explain most of their annotations, but the explanation may not be clear or may need occasional correctionThe student can explain their annotations to a peer of the same level clearly with few if any errors

    The student can explain their annotations to peers that are at, above, and below their own learning level with few if any errors

    Participation and CitizenshipThe student did not participate in the activity and may have been a distraction to other students in the room

    The student participated in part of the activity but stopped participating as soon as they were working individually

    This student might have also been a distraction to other students in the room

    The student participated in the activity and remained on task for most of the class period. This student might have stopped working when they encountered difficulties, but resumed with encouragement.The student participated in the activity and stayed on task for the whole class period. This student kept working when they encountered difficulties with the assignment.

    The student participated in the activity for the whole class period and persisted with the activity when they encountered difficulties.

    This student assisted other students experiencing difficulties with their assignment when possible.