Sunday, January 31, 2010

Read, Reflect & Respond

Dear friends,
Here is the newest audio version of my workshop "The Real 3R's of Literature: Read, Reflect & Respond." This is from my presentation at the Books & Beyond 2010 conference in Orlando.

Read, Reflect & Respond
  1. Life has a purpose! Reading has a purpose! Down with ignorance and apathy!
  2. The discipline of reading, reflecting and responding helps us learn to think more deeply and relate to others more wisely. We are less likely to be duped and more likely to engage in real life. We will have something worthwhile to say in a conversation. We will be prepared to meet life challenges.
  3. Reflecting and responding increases long-term retention of information, beyond the test.
  4. Our response often includes practical application and action to transform our lives and culture.
  5. Reading improves comprehension, logical thinking, creativity, writing skills, grammar, spelling, etc.
  6. Reflective reading feeds the spirit and inspires our souls. Readers become leaders!
  7. The reading, reflecting and responding stages overlap and can be simultaneous.
  8. Research the Charlotte Mason method of education for more inspiration. Read The Charlotte Mason Primer by Karen Andreola and check out
  9. Use the RR&R techniques for art, music, movies, nature study, sermons, and life experiences.
Mom Tip! You need this as much as your children do! Are you feeding your mind and your spirit so you can keep up with the many overwhelming demands of life? Are you going deep or just trying to get through the surface stuff? Take time to read, reflect, and respond -- and set the example for your kids!

A few little quotes to amuse and inspire…

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
Groucho Marx

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
Mark Twain

“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.”

“The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.” McCosh


♥ Choose carefully! Books can make a deep and lasting impression, so avoid exposure to much “twaddle” that dulls or pollutes the mind. Reading for amusement and relaxation is fine, but be careful.

♥ Create a literature-rich environment with a well-stocked home library.
  • Kinds of reading: academic, pleasure or personal interest, skills, devotional, etc.
  • Formats: books, newspapers, magazines, web sites, blogs, books on CD or DVD
  • Genres: Scripture, realistic modern fiction, historical fiction, fairy tale, sci-fi, romance, mystery, poetry, song lyrics, plays, art, biography, history, science, how to, self-improvement, essays, etc.
♥ A variety of genres enhances and balances. When studying a historical period, read novels, biographies, key documents, and poetry. Listen to music and speeches. Watch a movie or documentary.

♥ Help your children select books or do it for them.
  • Selecting good books takes a little research and a lot of discernment.
  • Check book lists and ask for recommendations from people you trust.
  • Click on “inside the book” at or to read a chapter.
  • Do a web search on the author’s name or the book’s title to see what others say about it.
  • Stock a special bookcase with parent-approved, interesting books for your kids to choose.
  • Share your favorites with your children! Introduce a book like a friend.
♥ Evaluate reading choices by pre-screening from front to back.
  • Is it wholesome, age-appropriate, and highly recommended? Newbery & Caldecott books are a good starting point, but check each title yourself to see if it is appropriate for your child.
  • Is it accurate and fair, without being too simplistic or overly biased?
  • Is it interesting, well written, and thought provoking? What is quality of the illustrations?
  • Is the author reliable? (Your children may want to read his/her other books later.)
  • Is this the right book for right now? Is it worth the time it will take to read, reflect and respond?
♥ Choose a mode of reading. You can alternate between these during a single book.
  • Parent reading aloud to child: allows instant interaction about content, models proper speech
  • Child reading aloud: same benefits as above, plus personal practice with pronunciation and inflection
  • Reading independently – in one sitting or over a period of time (check in to see if they need help)
  • Reading independently but with periodic parental discussion or group interaction
♥ Encourage pre-reading preparation. Before reading, encourage your child to browse quickly, ask questions and make predictions. Preview any study guide questions before you read.

♥ Give plenty of time to read, in a quiet and comfortable setting.

♥ Read with pencil and paper handy!

“Children well educated, who employ their minds on serious subjects, have, for the most part, but an ordinary share of curiosity; what they know gives them a sovereign contempt for many things they wish not to know. They see the emptiness and futility of the many things which the idle and the ignorant pursue with so much eagerness and passion. Children ill instructed, and not accustomed to application, have wandering imaginations. For the want of solid nourishment to the mind, their curiosity turns towards objects which are vain and dangerous. Those who have wit often become conceited, and read books which nourish their vanity; they become passionately fond of romances, comedies, and novels, which silently instill into their unguarded breasts the poison of profane love. These imaginary adventures render their minds visionary, in accustoming them to the strained sentiments of vain romantic heroes. Children filled with thoughts of their romantic heroes, become astonished when they look around in real life, and cannot discover a single person throughout the world bearing resemblance with their ideal hero. They would wish to live like those princes and princesses who are always charming, always adored, always above every care. What a disgust for them to descend from a hero and heroine, to the low detail and drudgery of taking care of a family. Children should be influenced by books that vividly portray life in all its trials and victories. Divine providence should echo throughout its pages. Characters who suffer wrongfully in a righteous manner, and display humble dispositions, will lay a secure foundation for the time when childhood may be stolen away; perhaps through the death of a loved one, sickness, or calamity. Children need informed instruction, and models of heroes and heroines of righteousness to fill their reserves for such a time. In literature as well as in history, God who doeth all things well, must be seen through the filter of His divine love and tender care for His children and as an avenger of all who harden their neck.” Francis Fenelon, 1685, in Education of a Child: The Wisdom of Fenelon, published by Lamplighter.

Mom Tip! What books are you reading now? What do you want to read soon? Write a list! You might choose a variety, including books about spiritual life, marriage, parenting, home education, homemaking, cooking, crafts, social justice issues, historical fiction, etc. Download free Christian classics on-line at


“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Francis Bacon

Study questions should require critical thinking, not just factual recall. More advanced questions will require a synthesis (combining) of information from different parts of the book. Go beyond the questions in a text book!


• What kind of book is this and why am I reading it right now?

• What is the significance of the title or cover art?

• What is the author’s life background and worldview? What did he or she want to communicate?
• What is the author’s tone in this book (upbeat, harsh, relaxed, urgently persuasive, funny, reverent, etc.)?

• When and where was the book written, and under what life circumstances, such as war?

Character, Setting, Plot & Style:
• What universal themes, such as courage, pride, justice, greed, honesty, or jealousy, are woven into this book? Which one is most prevalent? What can I learn that is applicable to my own life?

• What perspective can I gain about these themes from this time period, culture, and worldview?
• Which character reminds me most of myself? What would I have done if I were that character?
• Which characters are dynamic (developing & maturing) or static (unchanging)? How do main characters learn/grow from events in the story? How do their values, fears, motives, or conflicts change?

• Are the characters believable? What flaws do the “heroes” exhibit? What virtues do the “villains” exhibit? (In simplistic stories, good and evil are more clearly demarcated for young minds. Books for more mature readers show the realistic nuances of authentic human behavior and attitudes.)

• How would the story be different if written from a different character’s perspective or in another setting?

• Do the characters speak in the same manner as I do? Are any special accents, idioms or dialects used?

• What are the main events in this story? How does the plot rise, fall and twist? Do this a chapter at a time, and then for the whole book at the end.

• How is cause-and-effect used in this story, especially in consequences for actions?

• What symbolism is used? What does it mean? Is the symbolism effective, understandable & significant?

• What other Biblical, literary or historical references are made in this book?

• Are there any words that I don’t fully understand and need to look up in a dictionary?

• How does sensory detail (what I vicariously see, hear, smell, taste, and feel) put me “on the scene”?

• Does this book use flashbacks or drop hints about what might happen in the future?

• Can I follow the clues and make predictions? Is the outcome too predictable or contrived?
• Does the outcome give a sense of closure, or is it unsettling or confusing?

Discernment & Application:

• How does this information fit in with what I already know (or think I know)?

• Humility is needed! We don’t know everything about the topic just because we’ve read a book or two.

• Is what I am reading essentially true or in agreement with Scripture? (Obviously, no other book is perfect!)

• Does this information contain logical fallacies or propaganda? Does it represent opinions as being hard facts?

• Does this reading challenge my assumptions or stretch my perspective? Is this good or not?

• What should I accept or reject from it? What do I need to fully absorb or apply?
• Is this book what I expected? Did it answer any burning questions for me?

Aids in the reflection phase:
• References: Bible, dictionary, encyclopedia, map, timeline, history/science text, commentaries, Google

• Published study guides (Progeny, Five in a Row, or Glencoe) or parent-written study questions
• Personal conversations, interviews with experts, discussion groups, literature classes, on-line forums

• Journal to take notes, ask questions, and make comments as you read. I like a notebook or composition book.

• Field trip related to story: art or history museum, zoo, bird sanctuary, horse riding, ethnic restaurant
Mom Tip! Are you truly thinking about what you are reading or putting your brain on auto-pilot? Does your reading motivate and inspire you? Does it make you draw in your breath or furrow your brow?


Communication Responses (Oral, Written & Artistic)

• Talk about it! This could be as you read or after you finish. You can do this as a parent and child, as a whole family, or as a discussion group. Give a short “book talk” to introduce it to a friend or a group.
• Read it aloud to someone, with expression, different character voices and sound effects.
• Recite or write a passage from memory. This is especially good for poetry, Scripture, and famous speeches.

• Do an informal oral or written narration, telling it back in your own words.

• Prepare a short formal presentation to teach to your siblings or friends using a poster or Powerpoint.

• Copy key quotes into your journal, along with your reflective comments and questions. These journals can become lifetime treasures! Or make a quote book.

• Copy it in your best handwriting, illustrate it, and give it as a gift. This is especially appropriate for poetry, Scripture, and short quotes.

• Summarize the main events or points either in a paragraph or a list.

• Write a complete, unbiased pro/con list about an issue as if you are investigating a potential decision.

• Rebut an argument or stage a full debate on an issue.

• Do a character analysis or compare & contrast characters or events within the story.
• Write a journal entry for one of the characters telling an event or feelings from his/her perspective.

• Write a short fable with a moral. Or, if you are reading a Bible passage, write a short story about it.

• Pick a book that you think one of the characters might enjoy and tell why.
• Give the story a different ending and/or write a sequel to the story.
• Compare and contrast a theme in this book with the same one in another book.
• Write an essay about the themes as they relate to Scripture.

• Write a book review and design a book jacket.

• Write a blog post or a personal letter to a friend about it. Include digital art or your own pictures.

• Write an imaginary letter to a story character to share your advice or express admiration.

• Write a letter to the author with your comments.

• Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine about how the issues in it relate to current events.

• Give a speech about the themes in it.

• Attempt to emulate the style of writing by writing a similar story or essay.

• Write a poem, song, or creative story about the key themes.

• Turn the story into a play. You can produce it, film it, and then edit it using Windows Moviemaker.

• Write questions and answers for a trivia game (like Jeopardy) or design a board game.
• Draw a picture, diagram, map, or illustrated timeline.

• Make a 3D sculpture, diorama, mobile, or collage.

• Make a costume or doll clothes that one of the characters may have worn.

Mom Tip! Practice your own speaking and writing skills! Start responding to what you read and then sharing it with your family and your friends. This is also an effective way to share your faith. What kind of person are you becoming in response to your reading? Start a reading journal today!

Application Responses

Decide on an appropriate action in response to a character’s example or an author’s persuasion – and then do it!

• Reach out to someone who is lonely or give help to someone who is needy.

• Make your voice heard about an important cause.

• Ask forgiveness of someone you have offended or forgive someone who has offended you.

• Break a bad habit and start new wholesome ones to replace it.

• Work harder at doing what you already know to attain a personal goal.

• Learn a new skill mentioned in the book, such as cooking, sewing, wood carving, nature collecting, camping. Find project instructions in library books or on Google. Many book series have their own cookbooks.

“Committing a great truth to memory is admirable;
committing it to life is wisdom.”
William A. Ward

The Bible as Literature

Dear friends,

In the 7th-8th grade home school co-op English class that I teach, I try to incorporate Biblical themes as often as possible. We have done literature studies on the lives of Joseph, Daniel, and Esther. We learned about Psalms and Proverbs for a week or two each. We usually do integrated literature/art/music/Scripture units for Christmas and Easter. And we often study books that highlight Biblical themes, such as The Bronze Bow, which is set in Bible times, or The Witch of Blackbird Pond, which is set in Puritan America.

Here is the audio version of the workshop I presented a week ago at the Books & Beyond literature conference in Orlando. I am pasting in my workshop handout text below. I spoke about some things in the workshop (especially letting the Bible launch our children into life rather than holding them into a mold) that aren't in the handout, and visa versa. I know the handouts are pretty sparse. Below the handouts are a whole bunch of web links, not only to articles and resources on my web site and blogs, but many others, too. I'll try to write a more complete article later with examples, but you will at least find some of them in the audio, which is about 45 minutes long.



  1. Purposefully keep Bible central: spiritual nurture, worldview, practical wisdom, academic, thinking skills
  2. Instill a sense of wonder and mystery: Experience with the Bible should not be just do and don’t lists; let the stories and poetry grab your hearts! We are made creative in the image of our Creator.
  3. Ask: What are my goals? What have I been doing? What do I need to change? How can I be creative?
  4. Integrate, don’t isolate: Give overview of Bible and themes. Let Scripture interpret Scripture. Read in historical context, not with 21st century assumptions.
  5. Biblical literacy: Sequence/abbreviation of books, vocabulary (sanctification, iniquity, cubit, etc.), use of cross-referencing, concordance, Bible dictionary, commentaries
  6. Literary features: irony, metaphor, alliteration, doxology, flashback, diatribe, epiphany, epithet, fantasy, hyperbole, ode, parable, rhetorical question, satire, tragedy, etc.
  7. Read, Reflect & Respond:
    READ: carefully, not just skim – this takes time!
    REFLECT: by meditating on meaning and deeper themes, not just obvious lessons
    RESPOND: talk about it, copy it, write about it, pray it, apply it – use a journal!


  1. Evaluate plots & themes, Biblical allusions
  2. Study guides such as Total Language Plus and Progeny Press incorporate Scripture
  3. Classics at, ex. Milton’s“Paradise Lost”
  4. Notable authors (C.S. Lewis, Esther Forbes, Patricia St. John, Elizabeth George Speare)
  5. Creative writing: Write profile of Biblical character, psalm, poem, modern short story based on proverb, parable illustrating Biblical truth, research report, persuasive essay, etc.
  6. Science, history & cultural geography: God’s providence & sovereignty in human affairs, exploring creation (plants, animals, stars, ocean) while being aware of what Scripture says
  7. Art, music and drama: appreciate Bible-themed art ( & music (, create songs, illustrate stories, calligraphy verses, puppets, skits


Historical Narratives (found in Old Testament historical books, Gospels, Acts, etc.)

  • Learn from triumphs and tragedies, a mix of good and bad character qualities
  • Look for how the plot rises and falls, twists and turns
  • Profiles: Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Ruth, David, Esther, Daniel, Jonah, Mary, Saul/Paul
  • How do they change: mistakes, growth, consequences, lessons, victories?

Poetry (found in Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, plus sprinkled elsewhere)

  • Imagery, symbolism and metaphor (the Lord is my shepherd, hearts refined as gold)
  • Designed to evoke feeling, inspire awe, and praise to God for his creation & kindness
  • Some has specific literary structure such as acrostics not evident in English translation

Prophecy (found in OT prophetic books Isaiah through Malachi, Revelation, other places)

  • Foretells or foreshadows what will happen in the future
  • Full of imagery and symbolism, some not literal
  • Hundreds of specific prophecies about Messiah made hundreds of years before birth
  • Some things in the Old Testament foreshadow things in New Testament (tabernacle, temple, feasts)

Proverbs and Parables (found primarily in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Gospels)

  • Moral teachings in literary language, with meanings not always immediately apparent
  • Proverbs are pithy, while parables are allegorical stories; both draw vital life lessons
  • Proverbs and parables often use imagery and symbolism

Doctrine and Practical Instruction (found primarily in the Gospels and Epistles)

  • Prose teaching on what to believe and how to act
  • Doctrine requires logic, abstract thinking skills, and careful study
  • Instruction requires obedience – literature becomes life -- not just academics but application

The Bible as Literature

Free study guides and resources for Biblically themed literature and/or writing

Art and Study Questions for the Book of Daniel by Virginia Knowles
Art and Study Questions for the Book of Esther by Virginia Knowles
Psalms Study Guide by Virginia Knowles

The Bronze Bow book by Elizabeth George Speare, set in Bible times with Jesus as a character
The Bronze Bow Literature Study by Virginia Knowles

Johhny Tremain book by Esther Forbes, Revolutionary War era
Johnny Tremain Literature Study by Virginia Knowles

Christmas assignments 2009 by Virginia Knowles
Christmas assignments 2008 (much more complete) by Virginia Knowles
Easter assignments 2009 by Virginia Knowles

Great Commandment & Great Commission
essay assignment by Virginia Knowles

The Witch of Blackbird Pond Literature Study by Virginia Knowles Puritans

Read, Reflect & Respond Bible Note Page designed by Virginia Knowles

The Art of Albrecht Dürer to accompany The Hawk that Dare Not Hunt by Day novel about Bible smuggling during the Reformation -- blog post by Virginia Knowles

Biblically themed poetry by Virginia Knowles

Corpus Christi poem by Virginia Knowles

Bible Gateway - read the major Bible versions on-line

English Standard Version - on-line Bible

Life of Christ - look for Bible Harmony chart with story references for Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

Songs and Hymns - lyrics, music, background, more

Christian Classics Ethereal Library - tons of good books on-line for free

Biblical Art - wonderful web site with lots of masterpieces based on the Bible, but please prescreen to make sure each picture is appropriate

Literary Forms in the Bible PDF file

Leo Tolstoy's short story “Where Love Is, God Is”

Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Total Language Plus - literature studies from Christian perspective

Progeny Press - literature studies from Christian perspective

The Book of Virtues edited by Bill Bennett

Treasures of the Snow book by Patricia St. John, Switzerland
Star of Light book by Patricia St. John, Morocco
Rainbow Garden book by Patricia St. John, Wales

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"I Have a Dream" Video, Text, Study Questions and Writing Assignment

Dear friends,

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, my home school co-op English class is listening to his "I Have a Dream" speech and answering study questions on it.  I thought you might like to join us.  I have split the speech text into three sections to make it more manageable.   You will find a persuasive paragraph writing assignment at the end of this post.

For peace and justice,

Virginia Knowles

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"I Have a Dream" Speech
August 28, 1963

(Section 1)

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

(Section 2)

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only."* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Caontinue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the Istate of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

(Section 3)

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Study Questions

Section 1

  1. Who is the “great American”? Related to that, where does this speech take place?
  2. What does “five score years” mean? What one word is a synonym for this?
  3. What metaphors are used to describe the problems that Negro Americans faced?
  4. What three national documents are mentioned on this page, and why are they capitalized?
  5. What is a promissory note, and what does it symbolize here?
  6. What phrase (four words) is repeated in the paragraph which starts “We have also come...” What one word in the first line of that paragraph sums up this sentiment?
Section 2

  1. That first section ended with a stern warning to those in power that they can’t put off change any longer. This next section starts with an admonition to those who have been oppressed. List at least 3 positive words to show what kind of protest King is encouraging, and at least 3 negative words to show what he wants to avoid.
  2. “They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.” What to does “inextricably” mean?
  3. List at least four specific injustices, listed in this speech, that Negroes faced then.
  4. Copy the sentence on this page which refers to Amos 5:24.Copy the sentence in this section which is from the Declaration of Independence.
  5. This is the section where the phrase “I have a dream” is repeated. How many times? Summarize what it is that King dreams.
  6. What does King want his children to be judged for?
  7. Copy the sentence in this section page which refers to Isaiah 40:4.
Section 3

  1. What are two key words in the first paragraph of this section? Hint: Each one is repeated several times, and each one gives a clue to how King’s goals will come about.
  2. Copy the sentence that refers to music. Why does King use this word picture?
  3. King refers to geological features several times. List the proper nouns that refer to this, and then list the common nouns.
  4. The phrase “Let freedom ring” is repeated for emphasis. What word, found in the quoted verse of the song “America”, is a synonym for freedom?
  5. In the last lines of his speech, King quotes a Negro spiritual song, "Free at Last."

Free at last, free at last
I thank God I'm free at last
Free at last, free at last
I thank God I'm free at last

Way down yonder in the graveyard walk
I thank God I'm free at last
Me and my Jesus going to meet and talk
I thank God I'm free at last

On my knees when the light pass'd by
I thank God I'm free at last
Tho't my soul would rise and fly
I thank God I'm free at last

Some of these mornings, bright and fair
I thank God I'm free at last
Goin' meet King Jesus in the air
I thank God I'm free at last


As you read the speech and write your own paragraph, think about the life behind the words. Dr. King made such a difference because he had passion for what he was saying, and his life backed it up. This man was willing to face hardship and opposition, going to jail, and eventually being assassinated because of the courage of his convictions.  What are you passionate about? What is the life behind your words?  

Your paragraph will be about one of the following topics:

  1. What is your dream (life goal or cause) and why do you think people should join or support you in it?
  2. Why do you think Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to make an impact on history and culture? (Look at the character qualities of the man behind the speech.)
  3. Do you think Dr. King's dream has come true? Why or why not? (Look for evidences that history and culture have changed because of his legacy.)
  4. What is something that you think people in this country should do to make sure everyone has equal rights?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Web Links for the Bible as Literature

The Bible as Literature

Next weekend (January 23) I am presenting a workshop on "The Bible as Literature" at the Books & Beyond conference here in Orlando.

I am finalizing my handouts right now, and wanted to make some of my Bible/literature related blog posts and web pages easier to find.

In the 7th-8th grade home school co-op English class that I teach, I try to incorporate Biblical themes as often as possible.  We have done literature studies on the lives of Joseph, Daniel, and Esther.  We learned about Psalms and Proverbs for a week or two each.  We usually do integrated literature/art/music/Scripture units for Christmas and Easter.  And we often study books that highlight Biblical themes, such as The Bronze Bow, which is set in Bible times, or The Witch of Blackbird Pond, which is set in Puritan America.

I don't have all of this on the web yet, but here are links to some of our studies and other resources. 

Free study guides and resources for Biblically themed literature and/or writing

Art and Study Questions for the Book of Daniel
Art and Study Questions for the Book of Esther
Psalms Study Guide

Read, Reflect & Respond Bible Note Page

The Art of Albrecht Dürer to accompany The Hawk that Dare Not Hunt by Day novel about Bible smuggling during the Reformation

Biblically themed poetry by Virginia Knowles

Corpus Christi poem by Virginia Knowles

Bible Gateway - read the major Bible versions on-line

English Standard Version - on-line Bible

Life of Christ - look for Bible Harmony chart with story references for Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

Songs and Hymns - lyrics, music, background, more

Christian Classics Ethereal Library - tons of good books on-line for free

Biblical Art - wonderful web site with lots of masterpieces based on the Bible, but please prescreen to make sure each picture is appropriate

Literary Forms in the Bible PDF file
Leo Tolstoy's short story “Where Love Is, God Is”

Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Total Language Plus - literature studies from Christian perspective

Progeny Press - literature studies from Christian perspective

The Book of Virtues edited by Bill Bennett

Treasures of the Snow  book by Patricia St. John, Switzerland
Star of Light  book by Patricia St. John, Morocco
Rainbow Garden  book by Patricia St. John, Wales

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Art of Albrecht Dürer

In my home school co-op English class, I try to incorporate fine art. This week, we are continuing a literature study on Scott O'Dell's novel The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt by Day, a tale featuring Bible translator William Tyndale during the Reformation era. To correspond with that, we are doing a Charlotte Mason style picture study of one of Albrecht Dürer's self portraits, followed by two homework assignments on descriptive paragraph writing using the paintings in this blog post. Next week in class, we will continue talking about Dürer, specifically about the theological impact that his contemporary Martin Luther had on him. We will be writing a persuasive paragraph for the writing assignment then.

In case you are wondering how I am going manage doing picture study with a class of 18 students, I actually have four decent sized copies of the "Self-Portrait in Fur Coat." One is in a book on Renaissance art that I've had for several years. Then, on the Books-a-Million $1 clearance cart, I found three copies of a beautiful hardback book of artwork by Grant Wood (think "American Gothic" -- dour farmer husband and wife with the pitchfork). This book coincidentally happened to have the Dürer portrait because Wood had studied it when he was in Europe. Next year when I teach American literature, we will do picture studies on Grant Wood's paintings. But I digress! Back to Dürer!

I'll try to post more about him in the near future, but wanted to mention the book Artist of the Reformation: The Story of Albrecht Dürer by Joyce McPherson, published by Greenleaf Press. It is written at a 5th-6th grade level, but is appropriate for older students as well. The book tells the story of his life, and includes some of his art work (only in black and white) as well as wonderful quotes.

I guess the point of this post is, don't neglect fine art, and try to integrate your history and English whenever you can! Great lives and great art will serve to inspire you and your children! There is a lovely home school art blog that will help you in this pursuit! Check it out here!

Now, on to the art work!

Albrecht Dürer
1471 - 1528

Self-Portrait in Fur Coat
Oil on panel, 67 x 49 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Self Portrait at 26
Oil on panel, 52 x 41 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Christ Among the Doctors
Oil on panel, 65 x 80 cm
Fundacion Coleccion Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

St Peter And St John Healing The Cripple
Engraving, 118 x 74 mm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Hands of the Apostle

1508, Sketch

A Young Hare
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 25 x 23 cm
Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna

The Last Supper
1523; Wood Block: 21 x 30 cm
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

Writing Assignment #1: Choose one of these pictures (other than the two self portraits) and write a descriptive paragraph. Include a topic sentence, at least three sentences containing supporting details, and a conclusion sentence. The topic sentence may contain the information supplied above each painting, such as when it was created, what kind of art it is, or what museum now owns it. The supporting detail sentences need to be your own observations about what is in the painting. The conclusion should include your opinion about the piece.

Writing Assignment #2: Write a paragraph that compares the two self portraits. The topic sentence will identify both paintings and make a statement of your opinion or observation about them. The supporting detail sentences will explain your topic sentence with specific examples. The conclusion will restate your opinion in different words.
Related Posts with Thumbnails