I teach Great Speeches, or small segments of the Great Books, at the beginning of the semester as a way to engage my students in Higher Order Thinking, Close Reading, and Textual Analysis.  I have taught Elie Wiesel, Hamlet, Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., Henry V (Saint Crispin’s Day Speech), Tocqueville, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Genesis, and more.  I usually keep the selection under 10 pages so that it may be read in a few days - this allows me to engage my students immediately.  When assigning a novel or longer text on day one of the semester it is impossible to expect them to read it by the next class, whereas a small selection is easily done.  I use Google Classroom and post a copy of the speech on the first day along with my Interpretive Note-Taking Guide.  See my schedule of the first four classes below.

Class One:
  • I post the course outline on Classroom and review the outline with the students.
  • I post the speech and Interpretive Note-Taking Guide. (For more information, see my blog post on Interpretive Note-Taking.)
  • I explain how to annotate a text using my own guide and ask students to read the speech and begin to mark it up for the next class.  I inform them that the marked up speech is to be turned in at the beginning of the third class.
Class Two:
  • I go over Interpretive Note-Taking again.
  • I show them examples of student mark ups.
  • I then give them an overview of the context of the speech or text.  For instance, if the text excerpt is from Nietzsche, I explain some key aspects of his philosophy, when he lived, and why he is famous.  If the excerpt is from Hamlet, I show them Part One of John Green’s Crash Course on Hamlet.  If the excerpt is from Henry V (Saint Crispin’s Day Speech), I show them Kenneth Branagh’s version.  
Class Three:
  • The students work in groups answering the questions in Google Slides.  
  • They use their speeches that are marked up to help them answer the questions.  I tell them that the class is not for completing this assignment but to use the text to answer the questions in Google Slides.  I walk around the classroom to see what students have done - rarely do they add much to the mark ups.  They submit their answers and hand in their mark up at the end of class. 
  • Here is an example of a student mark up from my Hamlet unit on TpT:    

Class Four:
  • I give a short reading test on the speech.
  • I review the answers in Google Slides.
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