Whitman, a Transcendentalist Christy Loy Prairie Central High School Summer 2006 Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Thomas Biggs Harned Walt Whitman Collection. Walt Whitman was the father of modern poetry in that he wrote poetry about the common man and used free verse. He was also a devotee of the Transcendental movement brought to America by Ralph Waldo Emerson. This lesson will help students understand the poetry of Whitman and the poet’s convictions as they relate to Transcendentalism. (Note: This lesson assumes that students have already studied transcendentalism and some works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.) Overview/ Materials/LOC Resources/Standards/ Procedures/Evaluation/Rubric/Handouts/Extension Overview Back to Navigation Bar Objectives Students will: understand and apply literary terms (free verse, alliteration, repetition) to Walt Whitman’s poems “I Hear America Singing” and “What is the Grass” analyze and interpret the poems of Whitman to find the themes identify characteristics of transcendentalism in Whitman’s poems compose a poem using literary devices and transcendental characteristics Recommended time frame 2 (90-minute) blocks Grade level 11th Curriculum fit Language Arts Materials Copies of the poems “I Hear America Singing” and “What is the Grass” by Walt Whitman (Note: By clicking on the “I Hear America Singing” link, you will be able to not only see but hear the poem being read as well as find other links to Whitman materials at the Library of Congress.) Study guide over Whitman and “I Hear America Singing” Photocopied page of Transcendental characteristics (see handouts below) An Adventure of the American Mind Illinois State University Photocopied packets (one per team) of all primary resources (see resource map below) Photocopied “Clue Diagram” titled “Walt Whitman Writings and His Butterfly” (see handouts) Rubric for student-created poetry (see handouts) Teacher-created exemplar of poem (See handouts) PowerPoint on Transcendentalism Illinois State Learning Standards Back to Navigation Bar Language Arts: GOAL 2: Read and understand literature representative of various societies, eras and ideas. 2.A.4a Analyze and evaluate the effective use of literary techniques (e.g., figurative language, allusion, dialogue, description, symbolism, word choice, dialect) in classic and contemporary literature representing a variety of forms and media. 2.A.5d Evaluate the influence of historical context on form, style and point of view for a variety of literary works. 2.B.5a Analyze and express an interpretation of a literary work. 2.B.5b Apply knowledge gained from literature as a means of understanding contemporary and historical economic, social and political issues and perspectives. GOAL 3: Write to communicate for a variety of purposes. 3.A.5 Produce grammatically correct documents using standard manuscript specifications for a variety of purposes and audiences. Procedures Back to Navigation Bar Day One: Introduce the life of Walt Whitman with a brief lecture or have a student who has researched this author present his or her biography. Read or play an audiotape of “What is the Grass,” a poem by Walt Whitman, and model how to analyze a poem. Students should have a copy of this poem to view as well. Hand out the study guide for “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman and have students in teams work together to answer the questions. An Adventure of the American Mind Illinois State University When teams are finished, ask each team to share a few answers so that all students have the correct answers. At the end of the discussion, lead students through a series of oral questions to discover that Whitman was a transcendentalist like Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom they have already studied. (Suggested questions: Are all the workers happy? Are workers doing their “own thing”? Are they all connected as they sing “carols”? What philosophy does this remind you of that you have already studied?) Review the characteristics of transcendentalism that students have studied by showing the PowerPoint on Transcendentalism. Hand out a graphic organizer of the characteristics of transcendentalism, one packet of photocopied and enlarged primary resources (copy, enlarge, and paste items from the resource map below) to each team, and a “Clue Diagram” titled “Walt Whitman Writings and His Butterfly.” Teams will work together to the end of the period analyzing the primary resources, filling in the clue diagram, and completing a paragraph summarizing the findings. Day Two: Students will rejoin their teams and continue to analyze the primary resources and complete the analysis worksheets. Students will read their paragraphs they composed at the bottom of the clue diagram to the class as a review and as a lead in to the culminating exercise. Announce that students will now create a poem that reveals at least one characteristic of transcendentalism, includes the literary devices of alliteration and repetition, and is an example of free verse in the Whitman style. Hand out and discuss the rubric so that students will see how they will be scored. (See rubric below) Read a teacher-created exemplar. Write one yourself or feel free to use the poem in the handout section titled “A Mother’s Song.” Students will present their poems to the class and turn in to the teacher for grading. An Adventure of the American Mind Illinois State University Evaluation Back to Navigation Bar The teacher will informally evaluate student understanding of the poetry analysis process during a class discussion of the poem “What is the Grass” by Whitman. Students will informally evaluate their answers to a study guide over Whitman and the poem “I Hear America Singing” in a collaborative effort among team members and then as a class. Using a rubric, the teacher will formally evaluate the poem students composed in their teams. Extension Back to Navigation Bar Students may draw a picture or find clipart to accompany their poems. Students may write an individual poem that reflects their personal philosophy as opposed to transcendentalism but retains the style and literary device requirements. The original rubric found below may be used by removing the requirement for transcendental characteristics. An Adventure of the American Mind Illinois State University Primary Resources from the Library of Congress Back to Navigation Bar Image/Resource Description Citation URL LC #220 Library of http://memory.loc. Whitman's Congress, gov/ammem/colle Cardboard Manuscript ctions/whitman/bu Butterfly Division, Thomas tterfly.html Biggs Harned Walt Whitman Collection. Poet at Work: Library of http://memory.loc. Walt Whitman. ca. Congress, gov/ammem/colle 1877-1883. Manuscript ctions/whitman/in Division, Thomas dex.html Biggs Harned Walt Whitman Collection. Notebook LC #80 Library of http://memory.loc. "Earliest" Congress, gov/ammem/ndlpe Notebook Manuscript du/collections/ww (Holloway No.1), Division, Thomas /thinking.html 1847, page 25. Biggs Harned Walt Whitman Walt Whitman Notebooks, 1847- Collection. 1860s Ralph Waldo Ralph Waldo http://www.loc.go Emerson (1803- Emerson (1803- v/exhibits/treasure 1882) to Walt 1882) to Walt s/whitman- Whitman (1819- Whitman (1819- leavesofgrass.html 1892) 1892), #ww0017 Transcription July 21,1855 Page 2 Holograph letter Manuscript Division (17), Library of Congress. An Adventure of the American Mind Illinois State University Poet at Work: Front Cover, http://memory.loc. Walt Whitman Library of gov/cgi- Notebooks 1850s- Congress, bin/ampage?collId 1860s Home Page Manuscript =whitman&fileNa Notebook LC Division, Thomas me=wwhit080.dat a&recNum=0 #80 Biggs Harned Walt Whitman Collection. Poet at Work: Image 75, http://memory.loc. Walt Whitman Library of gov/cgi- Notebooks 1850s- Congress, bin/ampage?collId 1860s, Notebook Manuscript =whitman&fileNa LC #9P 75 Division, Thomas me=wwhit094.dat Biggs Harned a&recNum=96 Walt Whitman Collection. Poet at Work: Image 200, http://memory.loc. Walt Whitman Library of gov/cgi- Notebooks 1850s- Congress, bin/ampage?collId 1860s Manuscript =whitman&fileNa Notebook LC #94 Division, Thomas me=wwhit094.dat P 200 a&recNum=223 Biggs Harned Walt Whitman Collection. An Adventure of the American Mind Illinois State University Rubric Back to Navigation Bar Name________________________ Block______ Poetry Rubric for student-written “Whitmanesque” poem Poetry Novice Apprentice Veteran Master Score Unfocused; Well focused Some focus, Captivates Ability to author seems and interests but lacks and involves captivate the unsure of reader continuity reader deeply. reader direction throughout. (3-4 pts.) (7-8 pts) (1-2 pts.) (5-6 pts) Uses literary Vivid, strong Difficult to Some use of Clear use of devices use of several find use of literary some literary (must include literary any devices devices devices alliteration, devices (1-3 pts) (4-6 pts) (7-9 pts) repetition) 10-12 pts) Does not Incorporates Incorporates Incorporates Use of incorporate 1 2 3 transcendental characteristics characteristic characteristics characteristics characteristics (3-4 pts) (5-6 pts) (7-8 pts) (1-2 pts) Punctuation Some Punctuation enhances Arbitrary meaningful meaningful conveyance of Punctuation punctuation punctuation throughout thoughts and (1-2 pts) (3-4 pts) (4-5 pts) images (5-6 pts) Only one Form No rhyming Lines rhyme Some Rhyme accidental (free verse) lines rhyme Poetry rubric adapted from: http://www.eop.mu.edu/greg/Sample_Poetry_Rubric.html An Adventure of the American Mind Illinois State University Handouts Back to Navigation Bar NAME____________________________ BLOCK____ WALT WHITMAN “I HEAR AMERICA SINGING” STUDY GUIDE Define the following literary terms: 1. Define free verse 2. Define alliteration 3. Give an example of alliteration from the poem: 4. Define repetition 5. Give an example of repetition from the poem: “I HEAR AMERICA SINGING” 6. In general, most poetry written prior to Whitman’s day dealt with idealized characters or extraordinary heroes. What kinds of people did Whitman choose to portray? 7. - 10. List four workers and what they are doing as they sing. a. b. c. d. 11. What phrase does Whitman use to indicate these separate individuals are part of a united group? (think in terms of a musical group) 12. Define blithe 13. Define robust 14. What is the mood of this poem? 15. How is Whitman’s poetry different from traditional poetry? An Adventure of the American Mind Illinois State University Clue Diagram NAME(S)_____________________________________________________________________ BLOCK_________ WALT WHITMAN WRITINGS AND HIS BUTTERFLY (These original documents reside in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.) The following excerpts from Whitman’s notebooks plus his butterfly should give you clues that he was a follower of Emerson and the philosophy of transcendentalism. After viewing your packet of primary resources from the Library of Congress, explain how each piece provides a clue and enter your findings in the appropriate box below. Then write a paragraph summarizing your finding in the box at the bottom of the page. Emerson’s letter to Whitman Whitman’s Notebook #80, p. 25 Whitman’s Notebook #9, p. 75 Whitman’s Notebook #94, p.200 Whitman’s Cardboard Butterfly Write a paragraph summarizing your findings here: CHARACTERISTICS OF TRANSCENDENTALISM INDIVIDUALISM: Do what is right for you. Don’t follow the crowd. BELIEF IN YOURSELF: Be true to one’s own inner perception or intuition; hold on to your beliefs because they are right for you even if others disagree. MAN, UNIVERSE AND NATURE ARE ONE: Emerson called it the Oversoul. It can be a guide to higher understanding; nature is truth and symbolizes God or the inner life of human beings. OPTIMISM: All is good; evil is an illusion. UNLIMITED POTENTIAL: Each individual should set high goals to improve. TEACHER-CREATED EXEMPLAR The Mother’s Song Everyone knows that my life’s joys Are wrapped up in my good girl and shining son Little Angie and little Steven Fulfill my world’s whimsy and want I toil for long so that they can play I carry burdens so they may remain Children for a very long while Knowing little but the sun and their shine I want them to learn and discover But don’t want pain to surrender To these children, my dears Oh, how I want to hold them close always Thus, when my Angie does cry Or when my Steven does frown I am cut quickly to my soul Sad that they are learning the world While I want my children to laugh I hope they will soon begin To see that I sing my life only for them For my good girl and my shining son.
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