OER Administrator
English Language Arts, Reading Informational Text
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Antigone
  • Civil Disobedience
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Jr.
  • Law
  • Martin Luther King
  • Thoreau
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Building A Convincing Argument

    Building A Convincing Argument


    In this lesson, students look at “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” again, focusing on Dr. King’s writing style. Then students will try to write a paragraph using his style of repeating passages or phrases to build a convincing argument.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.

    An Important and Well-Written Idea

    • Give students 5 minutes to look for an important and well-written passage from the letter.
    • Resist the impulse to define “well written.”
    • Give students 3 minutes to share and rehearse reading it aloud.
      • SWD: Before students participate in reading with the whole group, consider having a quick conference with them to make sure they are prepared. This will give them confidence to participate in the larger setting.
      • ELL: Be sure to provide ample opportunities for students to practice pronunciation, as their need to practice in this area is steeper than for native speakers.
    • Then use a popcorn reading strategy to have students share paragraphs from the letter. Explain the popcorn reading strategy:
      • ✓ Without raising hands, students take random turns reading aloud from the letter.
      • ✓ It is okay to repeat a passage that someone else has read.
      • ✓ Continue the strategy with all the students who want to share.


    Look at “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” again.

    • Go back through your annotations and the letter to find a sentence or idea that you found to be important and well written.
    • Share your passage with a partner. Take turns reading it aloud to each other. It’s important to hear well-written passages read aloud.
    • When it’s your turn, read aloud from the paragraph where your chosen passage appears so that all your classmates can hear the context it was written in.

    Dr. King's Writing Style: Repetition

    • Point out that repetition of words in a paragraph can often be the mark of someone who lacks imagination or vocabulary, but that when used purposefully, the repetition can have a powerful effect on the reader or listener.
    • Model highlighting examples of repetition in paragraph 12 as students follow along and highlight with you. Examples of repetition are highlighted in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Repetition.
    • Ask students to read the passage again and speculate on Dr. King’s purpose in repeating these highlighted words or phrases and the effect of doing so.
    • If you feel it’s necessary, model highlighting more examples of repetition in one or two other paragraphs. For each paragraph you model, ask students about Dr. King’s purpose in repeating these words or phrases and the effect of doing so.
    • Have students search through “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to find additional examples of repetition on their own.
    • Give students an opportunity to share their findings and markings with a partner.

    Work Time

    One feature Dr. King uses in his writing is the repetition of key words or phrases.

    • Work with your teacher to highlight examples of repetition in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Then highlight additional examples of repetition in the letter on your own.
    • Share your highlighted examples with a partner.

    Paragraph With Repetition

    • Give students some time to practice writing purposeful repetition.
    • If students have difficulty finding a phrase or words to repeat, offer the following:
      • ✓ “I remember when….” Repeat at least the word “when.”
      • ✓ “It was a place where….” Repeat “a place where.”
      • ✓ “When I was young,…”
    • When students have had some time to work, ask them to look at how Dr. King punctuated his lists. Does Dr. King’s punctuation help them with their own?
    • Ask several pairs to share their work with the whole class.
    • Point out that Dr. King’s letter is essentially an argument, and his repetitions help him in each case to make a point by piling up examples or evidence.

    Work Time

    Try using Dr. King’s style of repeating passages or phrases to build a convincing, unified argument or point.

    • Write a paragraph that uses repetition with a partner.

    Open Notebook

    Effect of Dr. King's Writing Style

    • Save time for students to write about one of the passages from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Use their writing as a gauge for how well they have understood Dr. King’s purpose.
      • SWD: Monitor the progress of students with their entries. If they need more support, consider providing prompts to help generate ideas.
      • ELL: Consider providing sentence frames such as the following:

    ✓ In this line, Dr. King means…

    ✓ This line connects with the meaning of the overall piece in that it…

    ✓ The purpose of the letter is…

    • If time, have some students briefly share their responses with the whole class. They will also share with a partner next Opening as a review.


    Choose one passage from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” where Dr. King uses repetition. Write about it and submit your response to your teacher.

    • What is the effect of Dr. King’s writing style (purposeful repetition) on you, the reader?

    Open Notebook

    Then discuss your response with your classmates.

    Independent Reading

    • Remind students to continue reading their Independent Reading Group Novel and to turn in journal entries.


    Continue your ongoing homework assignment.

    • Read your Independent Reading Group Novel.
    • Remember to submit two journal entries a week to your teacher and publish some of your journal entries so others can read your work.