Classroom Activities: 

Home      Elementary      Middle School      High School

The Whitman in Everyone

Lesson Overview 

Overview: This lesson will introduce the students to Walt Whitman and his ability to convey the feelings of powerful images through his journaling.
Grade Range: 9-12
Objective:  Students should be able to:
  • Make a connection between Civil War journal writing and their own memories.
  • Analyze and evaluate Whitman's journal writing and their own memories.
  • Communicate their ideas in a journal entry.
  • Construct well-written journal entries that focus on ideas, feelings, and connections to the material presented in class.
Time Required: One class period of 45 minutes.
Language Arts
Topic/Subject: Literature
Era:  Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877 



Analysis Tools:  Photo Analysis Worksheet (page 6-7 of PDF) 
Books:  Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin 
PowerPoint Slides: Available on PDF 
Library of Congress Primary Sources:  Title: Whitman with butterfly, 1877 
  Title: Reverse Side of Butterfly 
  Title: Cardboard Butterfly
  Title: "The Sunken Road" at Antietam 
  Title: Wounded soldiers from the battles in the "Wilderness" at Fredericksburg, Virginia, May 1864
  Title: Hospital Notebook "At Antietam"
Online Resources:  Title: Walt Whitman-Picture of Whitman later in life.
  Title: Ashton Kutcher-Picture of Ashton Kutcher 
  Title: Revising Himself: Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass Exhibit-Library of Congress Exhbit


1. Show PowerPoint slide #2. Ask who the individuals are and what they have in common. 
2. Brainstorm ideas with class as for the answers in the previous step.
3. Explain that both men are both known as self-promoters. They are/were common people with the knack for reaching many people through writing-show slide #3 and discuss.
4. Explain Whitman further by providing background information on the man.
5. Explain the story of Whitman's butterfly (show slides #4 and #5).
6. Analyze the picture on slide #6 "The Sunken Road" using the Photo Analysis Form (page 6 & 7 on PDF) Students will complete and then discuss as a group.
7. Complete the same activity for the picture on slide #7. 
8. Point out that Whitman was not only known as a promoter and poet, but also a real person who helped those in need by writing about events so that others could learn from them.
9. Show slide #8
10. Show slide #9 Why Journal? Ask for suggestions, then show slide #10.
11. Show slide #11-Read it through to the class and then give them ten minutes to complete the activity.
12. Show slide #12-Read it through and make sure the class understands the journal.
13. The homework will be to give the class a copy of Kate Chopin's short story, The Story of an Hour. They will need to read it and journal about the following topics: "What theme or themes are present?" and "You are allowed to change the ending, what would be your alternate ending?" Show slide #13.


Teacher will evaluate student learning by question-answer techniques in the beginning of the lesson. The first few times journals are assigned, it will be important for the teacher to review the goals with the students and read the journal entries to make sure that each student is understanding the journaling process.


The students are expected to maintain their journals for the entire year. They will continue to record and reflect on what they are reading and make connections to their own lives and their world.


Author Credits:

K. Taylor
Charleston High School