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“I Hear America Singing”

1. Heading
a. Bonnie MacAllister d. American Poetry and the Electoral College
b. November 20, 2007 e. “I Hear America Singing”
c. 10th Grade English f. 3 levels of differentiation (Advanced, On Level,
2. Introduction
a. Background information
i. Introduction to Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” is part of a larger work called “Leaves of Grass”
which is an enormous twelve volumes of poetry. Whitman is famous for his use of free verse in
long rhythmical lines with a natural, “organic” structure. This particular piece celebrates the
tradesmen who made America. Whitman gives them a voice through this short ten-line piece of
“Leaves of Grass.” Students will be asked to think about their American ancestors and their
occupations. Then students will consider their parents’ roles today in the economy. Who
contributes to America’s song today? What does America mean? Is the definition different than
in Whitman’s lifestyle? We will listen to Whitman from the Whitman Archive as he reads
“America” ( Whitman Reads America). Students will be asked to read pieces of the poem aloud.

ii. Introduction to Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance
The second author that we will consider is African-American poet, Langston Hughes who cited
some of his influences as the American poets Paul Laurence Dunbar (author of “Ode to Ethiopia”)
and Carl Sandburg (an incredibly famous Grammy award-winning poet known for “Chicago”.)
Hughes worked with esteemed contemporaries in the Harlem Renaissance, among them author
Zora Neale Hurston, novelist Wallace Thurman, writer Claude McKay, poet Countee Cullen,
painter and writer Richard Bruce Nugent, and abstract painter Aaron Douglas, civil rights activist
and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, the most prolific novelist of the Harlem Renaissance Jessie Redmon
Fauset, and educator and novelist Alain Locke. Surrounded by artists, musicians, other writers,
and statesmen, Hughes poetry follows a musicality associated often with jazz. His piece “Let
America be America Again” offers a voice to different pioneers: the sharecroppers, servants, and
slaves. How would Hughes depict the life of some of his cohorts? How about African-
Americans today? What does the Harlem Renaissance mean? How are its songs different? We
will watch Langston Hughes Speaks. Students will read pieces of the poem aloud.

iii. Introduction to Electoral College and American Government
The United States Electoral College is a term used to describe the 538 President Electors who
meet every 4 years to cast the electoral votes for President and Vice President of the United
States; their votes represent the most important component of the presidential election. The
Presidential Electors are elected by the popular vote on the day traditionally called Election
Day. Who the people decide to elect informs who the electoral college votes choose as their
candidate. In each state, all of the electoral votes go to elect one candidate. These votes are not
split between Democrat and Republican. The state goes to either Democrat or Republican. The
electoral college, like the national convention, is an important part of electing the President. We
will examine Electoral College Kids, and in groups students will take the short quiz.
b. Standards
i. List ISTE standard addressed in the lesson
1. Basic operations and concepts
• Students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology
• Students are proficient in the use of technology.
2. Social, ethical, and human issues
• Students understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues related to technology.
• Students practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software.
• Students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong
learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity.
3. Technology productivity tools
• Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote
4. Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced
models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works.
Technology research tools
5. Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of
6. Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools
• Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed
• Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving
problems in the real world.

ii. List national content standard
a.) 1.2 Reading Critically in All Content Areas (Detail, Inferences, Fact from Opinion,
Comparison, Analysis and Evaluation)
b.) 1.4 Types of Writing (Narrative, Informational, Persuasive)
c.) 1.6 Speaking and Listening (Listening skills, speaking skills, discussion, presentation)
d.) 1.8 Research (Selection, Location of Information, Organization
c. Objectives
i. List the skills and/or content students will learn or practice
Students will cultivate their critical thinking skills through this exercise. They will exercise
creativity through the creation of their own political parties. They will represent themselves
through speech and discussion. All speeds of learners can participate in the discussion. All
speeds of learners will be able to appreciate the content of the texts since they are both
approachable. The discussion will be rich with opinions on racism, classicism, and what America
means to each child. These particular poems challenge all learners to respond to their own
interpretation of the text. Students will synthesize information to create a reaction paper to the
activity. Student will post this paper on his/her blog.
ii. Write objectives that are measurable and age appropriate
This exercise is ideal for an interdisciplinary lesson between English and social studies. Students
will learn to relate poetry to real world applications. Students will understand elections and the
electoral college process. Students will learn about the politics of poetry. This exercise will be a
springboard into political poetry in other nations. Students will be asked to examine freedoms,
especially of speech. Students will be able to establish and defend an argument. Students will be
able to punctuate their argument with poetic terms.

3. Procedure
a. Materials and technology
i. List materials needed for the lesson: Computers in lab, Graphics
Organizer, Inspiration, Journals, Blogs, Internet, LiveJournal, and Tablet
PC (for IEP student), Websites: Electoral College Kids, Whitman Reads
America, and Langston Hughes Speaks.

Using Inspiration, we will use a map diagram of the United States that shows the red and blue
states from the 2004 election. The students will receive the diagram in color so that they are able
to distinguish the colors. There are three versions: Advanced, On Level, and Struggling**.
(Students will be grouped by the instructor. Instructor will tell groups that they each have
different assignments to present their findings to their peers. For the struggling group, several On
Level students will be placed with the IEP student (in this case, an Autistic Male) for peer
mentoring.) Modification #1 For the Advanced/Gifted/Honors organizer, surrounding the map
are twelve stars, six for Whitman and six for Hughes. I chose six each just to have an even
number. In pairs, students are asked to fill the stars with policies and viewpoints from the poems.
Then the students will reexamine the diagram and attribute states to Whitman and to Hughes. The
class will compare their election votes, and we will assess the results overall as a group. Each
pair will serve as an electoral vote. Each student will create a journal to be posted on his/her blog
(blogs are linked by a private group in LiveJournal.) The suggested topic is a manifesto for the
winner. Students will also take the quiz from Electoral College Kids

Modification #2 (On Level) The text on the graphic organizer reads, “In 2004, the United
States was divided into red and blue states. Red states were George W. Bush (Republican)
supporters, and blue states supported John Kerry (Democrat) for President. Imagine that the 2008
election is between Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes. The two candidates have issued their
statements on America. You will work in pairs to complete this exercise: 1) Read the two
poems. According to the text, place a policy or viewpoint in each of the candidates' stars. 2)
Create your own red and blue states, representing your idea for Whitman & Hughes' political
parties. Who is red? Who is blue? Why? 3)If the election votes are the same, red would win
according to this diagram. Why would that candidate win over the other? 4) How would you
reassign the states and change this diagram? Who would win in that case? Mark each state with a
WW or LH to illustrate your choices. Be prepared to present your reasoning. Use internet
resources to understand the different states.” Students will write a journal entry to be posted on
the class blog about their experiences on the project and their reasoning.

Modification #3 (Struggling): This graphic organizer reads, “In 2004, the United States was
divided into red and blue states. Please not the diagram. Red states were George W. Bush
(Republican) supporters, and blue states supported John Kerry (Democrat) for President. In 2004,
the majority of states voted for the Conservative candidate. Imagine that the 2008 election is
between Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes. “ Within this grouphese students will work
closely together as partners or triads on the Inspiration project, “Choose a partner. Together read
the two poems "I Sing America" and "Let America Be America Again." You may read them
aloud to each other if you like. Once you have read the poems, look at the diagram. In each of
the stars on this page, write the words and phrases that you think are important. Draw a line from
the star to the poet. In some cases, you may draw a line to both poets if you find the same idea in
both poems. Think of how the two poems. Consider how these words would make a better
United States. Count the number of stars for each poet. The poet who has received the most stars
wins.” Each student will write his or her own journal entry to be posted on the blog as a reaction.

b. Procedures
i. State your motivational activity – what gets the students interested in
the lesson
Students will be asked to read aloud poems by Whitman and Hughes. Students will employ
contrast-compare techniques as well as to ascertain the characteristics of each poet’s style. We
will revisit terminology we learned earlier in the unit such as the vocabulary of tropes: such as
metaphor, alliteration, assonance, consonance, personification, rhyme scheme, symbolism,
rhythm, and line breaks. In full class structure, we will go over the poems and the terminology.
Harlem Renaissance was one of our important vocabulary words. Before I assign the students the
task of writing poetry in the style of Whitman and Hughes, I must make sure that we understand it
as a class with read aloud and group work to analyze the two poems. I will monitor the students’

c. List the activities you will implement to help students build concepts
The lesson is a poetry and politics unit. After we complete the graphic organizer election, we will
examine the Whitman and Hughes poems for elements of style. The class will be asked to watch
a presidential (current or past) address and examine it for style. Then students will listen to audio
from Whitman and Hughes so that they may compare the poets with the presidents.

**IEP Modification: Jimmy, our IEP Autistic male, will have his aide present during the
group meeting. She may help him with Inspiration and with the Blog software if he has any
issues. Jimmy is high-functioning, and he is very good with the computer normally. His largest
issues are behavioral and social. The aide will be present to avert any inappropriate situations.
She will also hold Jimmy’s tablet learning computer for him to write his blog. Should Jimmy
choose to share, his partners may use this tablet for their Inspiration project since the drawing
tools are built in.
ii. State your closure activity – how you will draw the lesson to an end
wrapping it up to make sure they understood
We will do a gallery walk in the computer lab showing the completed Inspiration diagrams of the
electoral college. The class will share a brief reaction from each group. Each individual will also
share one sentence about the project, Hughes, Whitman, the electoral college. I will post on the
smart board.
4. Assessment
a. Describe your strategies to assess whether the students met your objectives
Students will be assessed in several categories: Production and execution of Inspiration Diagram,
Individual Journal Entries, and Group Participation. This is an activity which looks at literature in
a practical way and a very non-traditional fashion. Where the previous lesson examined poetry
for meaning and technique, this activity looks at poetry as if it is a political speech and the impact
that words can have on the United States and the world. There is no incorrect answer, but
students must back up their reasoning with evidence.
b. Describe how will you provide feedback to the students
I will comment on the blogs in LiveJournal. This way students will use technology even in
receipt of their grades. This lesson will be worth 10% of their grades. I will weight the journals
(60%) more than the graphic organizer (40%). I would happily praise students for thoughtfulness
and strength of argument. I would also favor a students’ creativity on the Inspiration task. We
would print out and post our Inspiration maps on a bulletin board in the classroom.
5. Attach materials created and to be used for this lesson
(Please see the following readings and samples of Inspiration worksheets.) The worksheets are
labeled by skill level, but these would be altered and not labeled when given to each group. Each
group would color and draw links for the Inspiration sheets.

Electoral College Kids
Whitman Reads America
Langston Hughes Speaks

Graphic Organizer: Whitman and Hughes

Reading Material:

Whitman, Walt. (1819–1892). “ 91. I Hear America Singing.” Leaves of Grass. 1900.

I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear;

Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;

The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;

The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon
intermission, or at sundown;

The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or
washing—Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;

The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

Hughes, Langston. (1902-1967). “Let America be America Again.”

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!