Walt Whitman
Lesson plans and teaching ideas

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

Biography and Background

American Experience: Walt Whitman
Support for the PBS program, including a timeline and teacher guide.

The Classroom Electric: Dickinson, Whitman, and American Culture
"Users can explore images of original manuscripts, rare photographs, notebooks, scrapbooks, letters, and maps in sites informed by cutting-edge scholarship."

Incomparable Things Said Incomparably Well: Emerson's Extraordinary Letter of Appreciation to Young Walt Whitman
"I greet you at the beginning of a great career" Emerson wrote, and more. Background and text of the letter.

One Life: Walt Whitman, a kosmos
The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery offers a timeline of Whitman's life, commentary, and audio files of excerpts from "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" and "America."

Poet at Work: Recovered Notebooks from the Thomas Biggs Harned Walt Whitman Collection
The notebooks have been photographed and loaded onto this Web site at the Library of Congress American Memory section.

Revising Himself: Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass
This exhibit from the Library of Congress includes biographical information and photographs of Whitman and other artifacts.

Robert Hass: On Whitman's 'Song Of Myself'
Listen to the interview; read Hass's commentary on the poem.

Walt Whitman
Biography, images, links to several texts.

Walt Whitman
Online materials that serve as an introduction to Whitman's life and style.

Walt Whitman Archive
Manuscripts, criticism, teaching ideas, even an audio file of Whitman reading one of his poems.

Walt Whitman's Notebooks and Poetry: the Sweep of the Universe
To what extent does Whitman's own poetry fulfill his stated goal of combining universal themes with the closely rendered details of personal experience and feeling? In this lesson, students will attempt to answer that question by working with his words in a variety of media. To help them appreciate his artistic practice, students will also have an opportunity to compose poetry modeled on the poet's characteristic method of using the notebooks as a source of the personal experience and universal themes explored in his poems.

The Whitman Project Main Index
Biography, e-texts, manuscripts, notebooks and letters, reviews.

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.

"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"

"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.

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".

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