I Hear My Lesson Plan Book Singing: Walt Whitman Lesson Plans

I remember the first set of Walt Whitman Lesson Plans I used. They were given to me by Mr. DrillandKill. It was more like “I Hear America Yawning” in my classroom and “Beat! Beat! Drums” followed by me beating my head with a 3-hole punch and “There Was a Child Went Forth” from my classroom who never returned due to boredom.

The only electric body I was singing was my own after sticking a fork in a toaster to punish myself for using Mr. DrillandKill’s Walt Whitman Lesson Plans.

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Luckily the shock from the toaster knocked me out and I was visited by my teacher muse who left me these awesome Walt Whitman lesson plans instead.

Teaching “O’ Captain! My Captain!”

Since I first published this masterpiece, I created a chart to help students organize their findings. The lesson is briefly described in #3 below. I will provide the chart here: Figurative Language in “O Captain! My Captain!”

Poem: “O Captain! My Captain!” – Whitman pays tribute to President Lincoln.
Brief Analysis: “O Captain! My Captain!” is a lyric poem (a poem that attempts to express a strong feeling). Whitman uses the following poetic devices to express his grief at the death of Abraham Lincoln:

  1. apostrophe – the poem’s speaker addresses a dead captain (Lincoln) in the style of an ode.
  2. repetition – phrases such as “heart! heart! heart!” and the repeating of “fallen cold and dead” emphasize the poet’s grief.
  3. word choice – even in the lines that describe the victory celebration, the use of doleful phrases cast a gloomy shadow.
  4. extended metaphor – the poem is an extended metaphor with Lincoln as the captain and father, a term which deepens the reader’s sadness.

Lesson Idea

  1. Provide the definition of a lyric poem and discuss what feelings the poem’s speaker attempts to express
  2. Define apostrophe, repetition, metaphor, ode, or any other poetic device students may not understand.
  3. Discuss how the poet expresses these feelings by creating a chart: (1) in column 1, list the poetic devices Whitman uses to create an effect; (2) in column 2, provide specific examples from the poem.
  4. Use the chart to write a poem analysis.

Teaching “I Hear America Singing”

I Hear America Singing Lesson Plans

I wonder what Whitman would think of America today?

Poem: “I Hear America Singing” – Whitman pays tribute to the people who make America great–its workers.
Brief Analysis Singing is a metaphor for the goods and services produced by American workers. Whether you consider it a Marxist cry for the workers of the world to unite or a celebration of the Capitalistic notion that each man’s work is his own is open to interpretaion (I lean to the latter). America is an example of synechdoche, with the whole representing the parts.

Lesson Idea

  1. Discuss Whitman’s description of the different workers in the poem.
  2. Create a poster: (1) rewrite the poem, substituting symbols or pictures for particular words; or (2) rewrite the poem and adorn the poster with pictures and symbols of workers.
  3. Rewrite the poem, imitating Whitman’s style, but including different professions, professions that perhaps didn’t exist in the latter half of the 19th-century. This would also be a good opportunity for parody.

Other Walt Whitman Poems

  1. “Song of Myself” – As the name implies, Whitman celebrates himself. It is also a celebration of the human body, spirit, and achievement and a celebration of the individual.
  2. “Beat! Beat! Drums!” – The poem’s rhythm mirrors that of drums urging an army to battle.
  3. “Miracles” – Everything is a miracle, according to this lyric poem.
  4. “There was a Child Went Forth” – Whitman philosophizes on how the external world shapes what we become.
  5. “On the Beach at Night” – A father and child observe the cycles of nature on the beach at night.
  6. “I Sing the Body Electric” – Whitman truly enjoyed his body.


Last Updated on March 12, 2018 by Trenton Lorcher