Walt Whitman Assignment



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Walt Whitman Assignment English 11 Honors

Today is the beginning of three different tasks you will be completing in the study of Walt Whitman.


Guiding Questions: How does Whitman’s poetry reflect his attempt to combine universal themes with individual experiences and feelings? How did Whitman use his experiences of the Civil War in his poetry? How has Whitman influenced American literature and thought?
Learning Objectives:

After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to:



  • Give examples to clarify what Whitman meant by “small in theme yet has the sweep of the universe.”

  • Discuss some of the different media in which Whitman wrote and compare his work in each.

  • Compose an original poem from a student notebook entry.

  • Examine the different poetry techniques in the American romantic period.

  • Discover, use, and document correctly the original source information.

  • Develop media expertise to communicate to an audience.


Introduction: Class reading of “A Noiseless, Patient Spider”

Question: Would it be accurate to say that “Noiseless, Patient Spider” is “small in theme”? Does it also have the “sweep of the universe” in it?

Reading of William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow”

Question: Is this poem also “small in theme:? What about it is universal?
Please take notes and answer the questions as they are discussed in class.
Group Assignments:

This project includes 1) analysis of different works, primary sources, and photos; 2) with the addition of original poems; 3) leading to a group presentation which will take the form of a multi-media presentation using one of the available programs of Photo-Story3, Prezio, Movie Maker, etc.



Purpose and Product: Each group will present its materials to the class in a way that incorporates reading of the student-created poems (each member will write one poem) while bringing in the assigned photos, prose pieces and Whitman poems to communicate the connections between them and the impact conveyed by the combined images and texts. Presentations can be mostly projected with music or skits can be included. Use other Civil War photographs from the Selected Civil War Photographs Collection and/or audio clips from the collection Band Music of the Civil War Era, both exhibits of the EDSITEment-reviewed website American Memory. These sites are linked on the group assignment pages on my web site.
Whitman and the Civil War Group Assignments

  • Hospital Group – 3 students

  • Washington During the War, Part 1 Group – 5 students

  • Washington During the War, Part II Group – 5 students

  • The Fighting Fifty-First, Part I Group – 6 students (longer prose piece)

  • The Fighting Fifty-First Part II Group – 5 students

  • A Hundred Day March group – 7 students (graphic prose piece)

ALL GROUPS WILL BE ACCESSING THE NEEDED INFORMATION BY LINKING THROUGH MY WEBSITE ASSIGNMENT SHEETS and some are linked below.

Instructions for Step I:

Each group will be looking up information for a comparison exercise. (Group Assignments) For this exercise each group will have 1) assigned photographs, 2) prose pieces, and 3) poems. You will complete the categories on the Media Comparison Chart. One completed chart per group is required. Divide the work evenly.

This analysis will help you prepare for presenting these materials to the class and will encourage you to make connections between the sights Whitman experienced during the Civil War, the prose pieces he wrote, and his poems. When creating the script for presentation, useful information will be found in your answers to this exercise.
Instruction for Step 2:

Each student in the group will tackle one page from Whitman’s notebook (see group pages) from which she/he will create a poem using Whitman’s words. As you decipher the words, take careful notes. From the words a poem will be “found.” You may add words, delete words, and/or create a mood from the circumstance involved keeping in mind the structure of free verse. There must be deliberate line lengths, rhythms, and rhyme only if you choose. The reading of these brief poems will be an important part of each group’s presentation to the class. The group is responsible for exactly as many notebook entries as there are group members.


Instructions for Step 3:

You are now ready to move to the final creative step. At home or in class if we have time, you will select a mundane object or event and then write about it freely, quickly, concretely, and in detail—the facts, just the facts. It is best to write while you are viewing or right after you have viewed the object or event. FILL A PAGE OR MORE. Will we have a class activity the next class day, be prepared!


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