whitman by liwenting


									                                                 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
                                                Photocopied page of Transcendental characteristics
                                                   (see handouts below)

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                       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
                    GOAL 3: Write to communicate for a variety of
                     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.
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                                              Illinois State University
   When teams are finished, ask each team to share a
    few answers so that all students have the correct
    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
   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.

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                           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.

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    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
                 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
                 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.
                 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
                                       Division (17),
                                       Library of

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                                                        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
#80                Biggs Harned
                   Walt Whitman

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

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

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                                   Illinois State University
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                              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
                                         (3-4 pts)         (5-6 pts)         (7-8 pts)
                     (1-2 pts)

                                          Some           Punctuation        enhances
                                       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

Poetry rubric adapted from: http://www.eop.mu.edu/greg/Sample_Poetry_Rubric.html

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                                                    NAME____________________________ BLOCK____


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:


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.





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_________

(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:


Do what is right for you. Don’t follow the crowd.

    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.


      All is good; evil is an illusion.


Each individual should set high goals to improve.

             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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