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Lesson Plan

Varying Views of America

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Varying Views of America

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sharon Webster

Narragansett, Rhode Island


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



After reviewing the literary elements of tone and point of view, students work in small groups to read and summarize Walt Whitman's “I Hear America Singing,” Langston Hughes' “I, Too, Sing America,” and Maya Angelou's “On the Pulse of the Morning.” They identify the tone and point of view of each poem, citing specific text references. Finally, students compare the three poems using a Venn diagram, synthesize the similarities and differences they identified, and then discuss their findings with the class.

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Varying Views of America Student Interactive: Students can use this online Venn diagram tool to compare and contrast three poems.

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Using poetry to explore an issue more typically explored through prose can provide many advantages. Because poetry is typically short, students can easily be exposed to more than one perspective on the topic. Poetry can also help students to make connections between historical periods and events and the impacts those events have on individuals. In writing of using poetry in their classroom to explore World War II,  Elizabeth E. G. Friese and Jenna Nixon wrote that students "reached beyond the facts on the pages of a textbook, into deeper connections and the emotions of a difficult time in history." This lesson takes advantage of these positive aspects of using poetry to address social studies issues by exploring what America meant to three different poets at three different times in history.

Further Reading

Friese, Elizabeth E. G. and Jenna Nixon. "Poetry and World War II: Creating Community through Content-Area Writing." Voices from the Middle 16.3. (March 2009): 23-30.


Buehl, D. (2013). Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning, 4e. Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association.

Read more about this resource


Burke, Jim, Ron Klemp, and Wendell Schwartz. 2002. Reader's Handbook: A Student Guide for Reading and Learning. Wilmington, Massachusetts: Great Source Education Group.


Fisher, Douglas, Nancy Frey, and Douglas Williams. "Seven Literacy Strategies That Work." Educational Leadership 60.3 (November 2002): 70-3.

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