Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

A Stone of Hope

The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Elizabeth Kuehn

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th
  • Subject Subject
  • Course Course U.S. History


Students explore the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through some of his most prominent words.

Essential Question(s)

How can words serve to bring about change in the world? How did Martin Luther King, Jr. use words to promote racial and social justice? Bold Italic Underline


Engage: Students reflect on a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. and create a Collaborative Word Cloud by identifying what they already know about him, his life, and his work.

Explore: Students explore the "Words that Inspire" inscribed within the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington D.C. and choose one quote that most resonates with them.

Explain: Students watch a brief video explaining Dr. King’s work, and then research the context of the quote that they chose in the Explore activity.

Extend: Students consider events taking place in the present day and craft statements about these events to inscribe on their own "stones of hope."

Evaluate: Students revisit the Collaborative Word Cloud and complete an Exit Ticket to reflect on what they have learned.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Bell Ringer/Exit Ticket handouts (attached, one per student)

  • Words that Inspire handouts (attached, one per pair of students)

  • My Stone of Hope handouts (attached, one per student)

  • Markers or colored pencils

  • Student devices with Internet access


20 Minute(s)

As students enter the classroom, display slide 5 and pass out copies of the Bell Ringer/Exit Ticket handout. Give students a few minutes to reflect on the quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. and write some notes in the top, Bell Ringer, section of their handouts.

Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

Give students a few minutes to compare responses with an Elbow Partner. As part of their discussion, ask pairs to identify and write down two or three key words or phrases that they might use to describe Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work.

Have pairs share out their lists of words or phrases with the whole class. Open a word cloud app to create a Collaborative Word Cloud to track their responses. When students are done sharing, take a moment to review the word cloud. Ask students if any themes stand out to them. Are there any words or phrases that received multiple mentions?


Display slide 7. Tell students that they'll now be exploring more of King's famous words by viewing the Words that Inspire engraved on the walls of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington D.C.

Have students continue to work with their Elbow Partners, and make sure that each pair has a device with Internet access. Direct students to the Words that Inspire page on the National Park Service's Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial website. Instruct students to take turns reading each quote, and then take a minute to discuss its potential meaning and think about what might have been happening in the country at the time.


After pairs have had several minutes to read through the discuss the quotes, ask them to select one that most resonates with them.

Pass out copies of the Words that Inspire handout. Have students write the quote they chose in the top section of the handout. Then, have them follow the instructions to star the words they

Have students visit the page

Display slide 10. Share the 60-Second Know-It-All video about Martin Luther King, Jr. with the class. Encourage students to pay close attention and consider the information shared in the video in light of the quotes that they just explored.

After students have watched the video, ask them whether the background information presented about Dr. King helps to explain any of his statements. Ask for volunteers to share their thoughts with the class.

Display slide 11. Have students return to their groups from the Magnetic Statements activity and tell them that they will now be digging deeper into the context of the quote that they selected. Using a variation of the Jigsaw strategy, students will research to find out more about where their individual quotes originated and then report back their findings to the whole class.

Pass out copies of the MLK Quote Jigsaw handout. Instruct students to first use the Quotations page from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial website to identify the date as well as the context (event, speech, or document) where their quote originated. Students should then use that information as the basis for an online search to find out more about what was happening during that time period and to help them understand the reasons why Dr. King might have responded the way he did.

Display slide 12. After groups have finished their research, have them take turns sharing their findings. Instruct students to listen closely to their peers' presentations and fill in the rows of their handout with the information presented. After all groups have presented, engage the class in a discussion about what similarities they might have noticed across the various groups' findings. Ask students what these similarities might tell us about Dr. King's methods and approach to addressing discrimination and injustice.


Ask students to take a moment to silently consider the challenges that are currently facing their neighborhood, their city, their state, their country, or the world. Of the challenges that they identified, which do they find most compelling or personally impactful?

Display slide 13 and pass out a copy of the My Stone of Hope handout to each student as well as markers or colored pencils. Tell students they will be creating their own "stones of hope" that include a message meant to respond to the challenging situation that they identified and inspire people during the present day. As they craft their messages, encourage them to consider the way in which Dr. King used words to respond to the events of his day.

If they would like, students can include a drawing to illustrate their message or otherwise decorate or personalize their stones.

After students are finished working, ask for volunteers to share their messages and the events that inspired them. As they share, ask students to consider what Dr. King might think of their messages. What impact do they think the messages might have on their friends, family, or neighbors?

Compile all of the stones to create a "mountain of hope" to display in your classroom or in the hallway. Point out to students how small contributions from many individuals can grow into something large.


Revisit the Collaborative Word Cloud that you created in the Engage portion of the lesson. Now that they know more about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work, are there phrases that students would add or remove? Are there phrases that they feel should be featured more prominently?

Display slide 14 and ask students to get out their Bell Ringer/Exit Ticket handouts. Give students the opportunity to revisit their Bell Ringer responses and make additions and revisions based on what they have learned. In the Exit Ticket portion of the handout, ask students to reflect on the essential question, What is the transformative power of words?" and summarize their thoughts about how a "stone of hope" can make a difference in the world.