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Lesson Plan

Walt Whitman as a Model Poet: "I Hear My School Singing"

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Walt Whitman as a Model Poet: "I Hear My School Singing"

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

Patsy Hamby

Patsy Hamby

Dallas, Georgia


National Council of Teachers of English



From Theory to Practice



Students use Walt Whitman's list poem "I Hear America Singing" as the inspiration to critically reflect on key figures, memories, and events from their own educational community. They review their school Website and use a graphic organizer to analyze various aspects of their school environment. Using "I Hear America Singing" as a model, they then create list poems that reflect a representation of that community. Finally, they reflect upon those individuals or groups who might have been omitted from their poems.

This lesson plan was developed as part of a collaborative professional writing initiative sponsored by the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project (KMWP) at Kennesaw State University.

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In writing about a class on modernist poetry, Virginia Schauble notes that after being immersed in poetry every school day, her students now: "... habitually thinks about language and its effects. That is what Whitman was essentially doing... What rubs off on students is a sense of the richness of language: an ear and an eye for a rooted expression-rooted in culture, rooted in a tradition of risk and struggle for one clean expression." (52)

This lesson invites students to use the language of poetry as they reflect on school as community in a poem modeled after Whitman's "I Hear American Singing". The lesson ensures "that opportunities for the interplay between action and reflection are available in a balanced way for students... Essential to praxis is the opportunity to reflect on experience, so that formal study is informed by some appreciation of reality" (Brookfield 50).

Further Reading

Brookfield, S. (1990). The Skillful Teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Schauble, Virginia M. Reading American Modernist Poetry with High-School Seniors."  English Journal 81.1 (January 1992): 50-53.

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