207 Lesson Plan for Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself (Group Anthology Contribution 2019)

Joelle Del Signore; Emily LeBlanc; and Dylan Silcox

Anthology Contribution – Lesson Plan


  • Text (Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself)
  • Notebook
  • Pencil/pen/laptop


Opening Move:

Print out certain sections of the poem and randomly pass them out to the class. Have students look for themes. They get roughly five minutes to look for themes and write them down.

Main Lesson:

The students get into groups based on the passage that they received, and they pick the theme they liked the most. The instructor writes those themes on the board, then the instructor writes the themes that they themselves found on the board.

Have the students connect the passage to the theme that the instructor gives them (randomly assign everyone a theme from the class list of themes). If there is any time left over when a group is done, they pick a theme from the instructor’s list, and try to connect it to that theme.

  • Have each group share what themes they found.
  • Have class discuss overarching themes of the poem, allowing them to freely discuss as a class.

Through the discussion the instructor takes notes of important ideas and topics that were presented in the class’ discussions, connecting them to show what the students came up with and how it all connects together.

Extra Time?


If we have extra time at the end, pick sections of the poem to talk about, or have them write an English summary of the passage they read.




Section 2: Existence, romanticism, nature, personhood, identity


Section 3: Humanity, time, sexuality


Section 6: Life, birth, innocence, age, time, death


Section 13: Humanity, understanding, curiosity, sexuality


Section 14: Nature, love, purpose


Section 16: Growth, diversity, peace


Section 17: Uncanny, transcendentalism, purpose


Section 18: Juxtaposition, Death, Success, Failure


Section 19: Equality, humanity, utopia, uncanny


Section 20: Existence, identity


Overarching themes: Crescendo, Purpose, Self, Transcendentalism, Romanticism


Discussion Questions (for end of lesson):


  1. How does passage 10 relate to the previous texts and topics we have worked with?
  2. After so much discussion on themes, are there any major overarching themes throughout the entire poem?
  3. What is the point of the poem? What is Whitman trying to say/tell us?


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The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: A PSU-Based Project Copyright © 2016 by Joelle Del Signore; Emily LeBlanc; and Dylan Silcox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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