Activity Overview

Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi were both influenced by the process of nonviolent protests set forth by Henry David Thoreau in his letter “Resistance to Civil Government”. As one of the key leaders of the Transcendental movement, Thoreau reflected some of the key themes of the movement that carried over into our modern consciousness. Sometimes it is hard for students to visualize what these key themes mean and how they connect to the world around them.

As a lesson, have your students create a storyboard for the three key Transcendental ideas that appear in King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Have them choose a part from the letter where that theme appears, and quote it below the picture that they create.

  • Nonconformity: refusal to accept or conform to common rules, beliefs, laws, or conventions
  • Intuition: the belief that every person possesses an understanding of right and wrong, of moral and immoral things
  • Self-Reliance: the practice of depending on one’s own capabilities to make decisions and meet one’s own needs

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that illustrates three key Transcendental ideas in "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

  1. Use the template your teacher provided.
  2. Find a quote from the letter that describes the theme.
  3. Write the name of the theme in the Title box.
  4. Illustrate the theme in the cell with scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.

Lesson Plan Reference


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

5 Points
3 Points
1 Points
The descriptions are clear and at least two sentences.
The descriptions can be understood but it are somewhat unclear.
The descriptions are unclear and are not at least two sentences.
The illustrations represent the descriptions using appropriate scenes, characters and items.
The illustrations relate to the descriptions, but are difficult to understand.
The illustrations do not clearly relate to the descriptions.
Evidence of Effort
Work is well written and carefully thought out.
Work shows some evidence of effort.
Work shows little evidence of any effort.
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are mostly correct.
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are somewhat correct.
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are mostly incorrect.

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