Walt Whitman, Lesson plans for Specific Poems

| Biography and Background | |Lesson Plans for Specific Poems|

1900 America: Historical Voices, Poetic Visions
Using Whitman's Song of Myself (1855) and Hart Crane's The Bridge , students examine the historical context of poetry, analyze American life at the turn of the 20th century, and explore poetic technique. Technology is integrated into this lesson.

"A child said, What is the grass?"
Text and analysis.

"A child said, What is the grass?"
Analysis. "Whitman invokes the well-known features of the rural cemetery and the scripted responses to the space in order to establish a common ground with his readers. However, this shared landscape is destabilized when Whitman redirects the audience’s perspective from the superficial natural environment to the complexity beneath the surface. In his imaginary cemetery, it is the dead who take center stage and whose post-mortem experiences prompt a revelation about the nature of existence itself." The first few pages of this article focus on cemeteries in literature and in life. Analysis of the poem begins on the 12th page (p. 99). 20 pages; Adobe Reader required.

"A child said, What is the grass?"
Text and analysis with reference to Whitman's Civil War experience.

"I Hear America Singing"
Scroll down to find the audio file of an introduction and writer Richard Rodriguez reading the poem.

"A Noiseless Patient Spider" vocabulary
10 words presented in context and with definitions. Click on each word for more information, including pronunciation and recent use.

"O Captain! My Captain!" vocabulary
16 words presented in context and with definitions. Click on a word for more information, including pronunciation, synonyms, and examples recent use.

"O Captain! My Captain!"
Students note details as they read. Includes text-dependent questions and suggested evidence-based answers, academic vocabulary, a culminating writing prompt and model essay, and additional learning activities. Word processor required for access.

"One Wicked Impulse!"
Text of a Whitman short story in PDF or Google Docs format.

"A Passage to India"
Video of the poem, analysis, and teaching tips.

from "A Passage to India"
Teaching tips, discussion questions, and writing ideas. Click on the "Poem Guide" tab for critical commentary.

"A Passage to India"
In this 2-minute video clip, playwright Tony Kushner reads an excerpt from the poem. Scroll down for links to background information and analysis, teaching tips.

"Patrolling Barnegat"
Background, analysis, and suggestions for responding to the poem.

"Patrolling Barnegat"
Among the resources at this site, don't miss the video. Pictures and audio help students visualize the poem.

Repeat After Us
Audio files and texts of some Whitman poems, including "A Noiseless Patient Spider," "I Hear America Singing," "O Captain! My Captain!" and others. A good site for LD students, ELL students, and for those who read well and might like to record and contribute. Files are in alphabetical order by poet; scroll down.

"Song of Myself"
Text of the 1892 ("Deathbed") edition.

Using Poetry to Teach the Importance of Word Choice, Part I and Part 2
Students analyze the ways that deliberate word choice affects meaning and effect. The first lesson asks students to compare translations of Beowulf . The second lesson uses Walt Whitman's "Trickle Drops" and Siegfried Sassoon's "Base Details."

Walt Whitman: "Time to Come"
Critical commentary, links to other poems.

Walt Whitman to Langston Hughes: Poems for a Democracy
Students explore Whitman's poetry, focusing on his views of democracy. Scroll to part 3 to compare and contrast with Langston Hughes.

Writing Poetry like Pros
This extensive set of lessons includes an activity using Whitman's "I Hear America Singing".