Great Books: Walden: Teacher s Guide

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1 Great Books: Walden: Teacher s Guide Grade Level: 9-12 Curriculum Focus: Literature Lesson Duration: Two or three class periods Program Description Emphasizing the importance of spirituality over materialism, this classic work of American Transcendentalism urges people to free themselves from the quiet desperation of their lives. This video helps reveal the power Thoreau s thinking exerts in the American psych. I Introduction (12 min.) II. Protest (13 min.) III. Saving Walden Pond (12 min. ) IV. The New Age (14 min.) Lesson Plan Student Objectives Students will understand that acquisitiveness and simplicity can be opposing life philosophies. Students will understand that both philosophies have had notable adherents. Materials Great Books: Walden video and VCR, or DVD and DVD player Biographical reference works (primary and secondary sources) Paper (for audience evaluation charts) Pencils or pen Procedures 1. Open the lesson by explaining how creative works have been built around the following question: What would happen if people who could never have met in real life somehow convened? Tell students they are going to create a television show in which a panel of prominent people discuss their ideas and opinions about simplicity as a lifestyle.

2 Great Books: Walden: Teacher s Guide 2 2. Henry David Thoreau will be one of the panel experts. Students will select the others, creating a mix of people with similar and different life experiences. They will also choose a topic for the panel to discuss for example, the role materialism plays in each panelist s life. 3. Ask students: What do you think a moderator s role and responsibilities are? Explain that for the television show they re creating, the moderator will be responsible for the following: Setting up the room or auditorium to make discussion easy and to help the audience hear questions and responses Developing a list of questions for the panel Explaining why the panel has been brought together Introducing the panelists and creating a name tent for each to sit behind Clearly stating each question, directing it to either the entire panel or to a specific panelist Making sure all panelists have the chance to respond to questions and other panelists answers Calling on panelists who indicate they have questions for one another Pointing out to the audience the issues on which panelists seem to agree and those on which they seem to disagree Watching the time and eliminating planned questions, where necessary Opening the floor to questions from the audience after the moderator and panelists have asked their questions Closing the show by summing up the discussion and thanking participants and audience members 4. Then give students the panelists responsibilities: Becoming very familiar with the panelist they are playing, using primary and secondary sources to research his or her life Determining what the person might have thought about particular issues Thinking about the overarching topic and preparing opinions and responses that reflect those of the panelist they are playing Contributing to the panel discussion by actively listening to the other panelists and following up with questions or comments Giving fellow panelists time to respond and not monopolizing the discussion 5. You may want to divide the class into two or more panel groups. For each, select students to play the moderator and Thoreau. You can either have students suggest additional panelists or use the following list to assign roles to the remaining student. Mahatma Gandhi Cornelius Vanderbilt

3 Great Books: Walden: Teacher s Guide 3 Henry Ford Andrew Carnegie Bill Gates Mother Teresa 6. Give students an opportunity to research their characters in depth and to learn enough about the other characters so they can engage in a meaningful panel discussion. (The moderator should become reasonably familiar with all the characters.) 7. Have students meet for a practice panel discussion This will allow them to meet the other characters in their group and to learn what questions the moderator has planned before they appear in front of an audience. 8. As a class, develop an audience evaluation chart that can be used to rate each student s panel participation on a scale of one (poor) to three (good). Here are some of the qualities you may want to include: Assessment Familiarity with details of subject s life Clear, easy-to-hear speaking skills Level of participation Quality of questions asked Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students work during this lesson. Vocabulary 3 points: Students thoroughly researched their subject; actively participated in the panel discussion; demonstrated clear, easy-to-hear speaking skills; averaged a 3 on the majority of the audience evaluation sheets. 2 points: Students researched their subject; participated in the panel discussion; demonstrated somewhat clear, easy-to-hear speaking skills; averaged a 2 on the majority of the audience evaluation sheets. 1 point: Students didn t complete necessary research; did not participate in the panel discussion; averaged a 1 on the majority of the audience evaluation sheets. abolitionist Definition: In support of ending or abolishing slavery Context: Many of Concord s leading citizens were active in or supported the abolitionist movement.

4 Great Books: Walden: Teacher s Guide 4 imperialism Definition: The policy of extending a nation s authority by territorial acquisition Context: Thoreau had strong opinions about slavery and imperialism, both of which he considered moral issues. oversoul Definition: The absolute reality and basis of all existences; a spiritual being in which the ideal nature imperfectly manifested in human beings is perfectly realized Context: Transcendentalists believed in an oversoul that pervades all of creation. renaissance Definition: A revival of intellectual or artistic achievement and vigor Context: Concord earned the reputation as the home of the American literary renaissance thanks to the Transcendentalists. Trancendentalism Definition: A philosophy that asserts the primacy of the spiritual and transcendental over the material and empirical Context: Most of the people involved with Transcendentalism were also interested in social reform. Academic Standards Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) McREL s Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit link: This lesson plan addresses the following national standards: Language Arts Listening and Speaking: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes Life Skills Thinking and Reasoning: Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association have developed national standards to provide guidelines for teaching the English language arts. To view the standards online, go to This lesson plan addresses the following NCTE standards: Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g.,

5 Great Books: Walden: Teacher s Guide 5 print and non-print texts, artifacts, and people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics). Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information). Support Materials Develop custom worksheets, educational puzzles, online quizzes, and more with the free teaching tools offered on the Discoveryschool.com Web site. Create and print support materials, or save them to a Custom Classroom account for future use. To learn more, visit DVD Content This program is available in an interactive DVD format. The following information and activities are specific to the DVD version. How To Use the DVD The DVD starting screen has the following options: Play Video This plays the video from start to finish. There are no programmed stops, except by using a remote control. With a computer, depending on the particular software player, a pause button is included with the other video controls. Video Index Here the video is divided into four parts (see below), indicated by video thumbnail icons. Watching all parts in sequence is similar to watching the video from start to finish. Brief descriptions and total running times are noted for each part. To play a particular segment, press Enter on the remote for TV playback; on a computer, click once to highlight a thumbnail and read the accompanying text description and click again to start the video. Curriculum Units These are specially edited video segments pulled from different sections of the video (see below). These nonlinear segments align with key ideas in the unit of instruction. They include onscreen pre- and post-viewing questions, reproduced below in this Teacher s Guide. Total

6 Great Books: Walden: Teacher s Guide 6 running times for these segments are noted. To play a particular segment, press Enter on the TV remote or click once on the Curriculum Unit title on a computer. Standards Link Selecting this option displays a single screen that lists the national academic standards the video addresses. Teacher Resources This screen gives the technical support number and Web site address. Video Index I. Introduction (12 min.) An overview of Henry David Thoreau s Walden, its simple story and deeper messages. A look at the Transcendentalist movement and U.S. society at the time of Thoreau s sojourn to Walden Pond. II. Protest (13 min.) A discussion of the symbolism in Walden and Thoreau s life at Walden Pond. A look at Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights movement, and later protest movements that were influenced by Thoreau. III. Saving Walden Pond (12 min.) The critical twist in Thoreau s life that occurs when his brother dies; an exploration of the person behind Thoreau s writing. Activists work to preserve Walden Pond and Thoreau s inspirational teachings for later generations. IV. The New Age (14 min.) After spending two winters at Walden Pond, Thoreau leaves the woods. The spirituality and conservationist ideas found in Thoreau s writing live in organizations such as the Divine Unity Foundation and the voluntary simplicity movement. Curriculum Units 1. Overview: Walden Q: Why do you think Thoreau went to live in the woods? A: Answers will vary. Q: In what ways did the Industrial Revolution sometimes make life worse instead of better? A: People were forced to live in crowded, urban conditions. Individuals became mere numbers in the workforce, and materialism and greed grew. 2. Trancendentalists and Later Movements Q: Why do you think so many writers and creative thinkers were drawn to the anti-slavery movement? A: Answers will vary.

7 Great Books: Walden: Teacher s Guide 7 Q: What aspects of Thoreau s philosophy can be seen in the voluntary simplicity movement? A: The voluntary simplicity movement adopted Thoreau s notion that reform begins from within and then spreads to include community. The movement s principles include connecting to one s self and the universe and finding spiritual renewal in simplicity, both of which stem from Thoreau s philosophy. 3. Henry David Thoreau Q: Do you think that in our modern-day lives we are disconnected from the natural world around us? A: Answers will vary. Q: What are some of the criticisms about Thoreau and his writings expressed by his contemporaries and also by later critics? A: Some have said that Thoreau did not give answers in his rambling writing; he just posed more questions. Others have said that his journey into the woods was a self-centered quest and that his philosophies are selfish. 4. Walden Pond Q: What was the nature of Thoreau s relationship with Ralph Waldo Emerson? A: Emerson was Thoreau s dear friend and mentor. Walden was derived from thoughts Thoreau collected while living at Walden Pond, a piece of land that actually belonged to Emerson. Without Emerson s permission for Thoreau to use his property, Walden may not have come into being. Q: Do you think Thoreau found what he was looking for at Walden Pond? A: Answers will vary. 5. Civil Disobedience Q: What is civil disobedience? A: Protest against laws that are viewed as unjust. Q: Why do critics celebrate Thoreau s night in jail, even though we now know that a relative had paid his taxes and he was in jail only because the jailer had gone home for the day? A: Because his writing on civil disobedience was so powerful. 6. Rediscovery of Walden Pond Q: How did the coming of the railroad affect pristine locations like Walden Pond? A: The railroad made these locations easily accessible and brought more tourists to them. This, in turn, usually meant more development, pollution, and environmental destruction.

8 Great Books: Walden: Teacher s Guide 8 Q: Why is it ironic that Thoreau is now used for commercial purposes all over Concord? A: Thoreau was a champion of simplicity and frowned upon materialism.

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