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Walden by Henry David Thoreau

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Peter Sabath

on 8 December 2014

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Transcript of Walden by Henry David Thoreau

by Henry David Thoreau

A Unit Exploring Transcendentalism
and Oneness with Nature


If you had to criticize one thing about modern life, what would it be and why? Think about it for a minute and be prepared to explain your reasoning!
Intro: Who was Thoreau?

Screen film and take notes on important info you learn about the author of the essay we're going to read today.
Key Points:

Henry moved to Walden Pond (land owned by Emerson) and lived there for two years (1845-1847)

In his book Walden, he lived in nature to oppose the materialism that was taking over life. He wanted simplicity away from society, industrialism, and the corruption caused by money.

Self made soul more important than self made man.

Believed divinity (God) could be found in nature, and that a person's soul could be free and fulfilled if it was allowed to express itself and live in nature.

Fought the government and slavery by refusing to pay taxes and wrote an essay called Civil Disobedience in which he argued that sometimes people have to challenge the powers that be. Gandhi and MLK were inspired by his words.

Believed individual conscience is paramount to civil law when in conflict with higher moral law. Individuals together are more important that the power of the state and government.
Background (Collections, p. 207):

Thoreau and Emerson = major Transcendentalist writers of 19th century

Transcendentalism was the belief that the strongest truths could be learned via people's five senses and intuition rather than logic.

In Walden, Thoreau expresses his Transcendentalist beliefs, advocating for a return to nature where humans can find life's deepest truths.

He moved into a small cabin on Emerson's land so he could live simply and become a "nature poet." Emerson was his mentor. In 1845 he began his two year experiment of living in a cabin in the woods by Walden Pond.

Walden is a collection of 18 essays based on his experiences in the woods. His most famous essay, "Civil Disobedience," defends the right of an individual to follow his conscience rather than obey unjust laws.
Guided Practice:

1. Read from Walden (pp. 207-216 in Collections textbook), focusing in on close reading task (see Word doc for annotations).
What to read for
(Collections, p. 217 and p. 220):

a.) Modern Life
- Note the observations and criticism Thoreau makes about modern life in the excerpts.
b.) Relevance to 21st Century
- Which of his descriptions or criticisms of life in the 1840s are most relevant to today's world in the 21st century? Why?
c.) Summary of Central Ideas
- What are his central ideas presented in Walden? Summarize his central ideas in your own words.
d.) Inferring Author's Purpose
- Using clues from the text, what can you infer Thoreau's purpose was for writing these essays in Walden?
e.) Author's Style
- Using examples form the text, take notes on Thoreau's style of writing (i.e. frequent use of figurative language, similes, metaphors, personification, etc.)
f.) Elements of Transcendentalism
- How does Walden reflect the key aspects of transcendentalism (i.e. living a simple life and celebrating the truth found in nature, emotions, and imagination)?

1. Re-read Walden
2. Analyzing the Text (questions 1-8, p. 218)
3 Critical Vocab (questions 1-6, p. 219)
g.) Use of Rhetorical Questions
- Take note on Thoreau's use of rhetorical questions. What's the purpose of all the questions he asks?
Independent Work: Day 2

After homework check, in teams of three (trios) you will now review the reading from day 1 of Walden, but focus your notes on one of the five sections from the essay. Your group will be responsible for leading the class discussion for the section you are assigned:

Groups 1-2: from Where I Lived, and What I Lived For (pp. 207-210)

Groups 3-4: from Solitude (p. 211)

Groups 5-6: from The Pond in Winter (pp. 211-212)

Groups 7-8: from Spring (pp. 212-213)

Groups 9-10: from Conclusion (pp. 213-216)

Task: Collaborative group discussion led by student teachers on topics from the notes from day one. See Word handout to review discussion points.
Collaborative Class Discussion:

Which of Thoreau's descriptions or criticisms of modern life seem most relevant to today's world? In what way? Cite specific evidence from the text during our discussion to support your ideas.
Independent Work/Closure/Assessment: Day 3

Weather permitting, today we will take a trip into the woods behind our school, Thoreau style. Bring out a writing journal (or your study packet), a pen, and a jacket if it's cold. We will stay close together as a group.

Task 1:
1. Find a spot in the woods. Sit or stand alone.
2. Be silent for 10-20 minutes observing what you see going on outside.
3. In your journal, write down any thoughts that drift across your mind, in the form of a poem or journal entry. What does it feel like being close to nature?
4. Be prepared to turn in and share your entry with the class upon our return to the classroom.

Task 2: Complete assessment on Walden, posted on Edmodo (take home assessment if we don't have time in class).
Alternative to Nature Writing Experience
(if there is heavy rain or snow keeping us from going into the woods):

Watch a clip from Rivers and Tides, a nature documentary about an artist named Andy Goldsworthy who uses nature to make art. As you screen the film, write a poem or journal entry similar to the one you would have written in the woods.
Full transcript