Introduction to Walden

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Students will be able to close read for details by sketching Thoreau's cabin based on his description.

Big Idea

A cabin in the woods--visualizing Walden.

Do Now: Preparation

5 minutes

Because students will want as much time as possible for today's challenge, I ask them to prepare as their Do Now. They should:

  1. Find a partner.
  2. Gather a fresh piece of paper and drawing utensils.
  3. Open Walden on their iPads.
  4. Find an isolated work space in the room.

Walden Visualization Challenge

40 minutes

In upcoming lessons, I will be asking students to analyze for text structure, a task which requires good attention to small details (single words can often serve as clues for text structure). To get students ready for this work and to get them to start noticing how ideas build or develop upon one another, I ask them to visualize the opening paragraphs of Walden, in which Thoreau describes his cabin and its location. The text features words unfamiliar to my students, so they will need to determine word meaning as used in the text, sometimes beyond the basic dictionary definition. They will also need to make note of how the description develops over time; each sentence adds detail to what what already discussed in the text. Charting those details adequately as they build will require focus.

Students will work with a partner to sketch the opening paragraphs to the best of their ability; their goal is to capture even the smallest details of the text on paper. The quality of the art work is irrelevant; the amount of detail is what matters. Students have only the class period to create their detailed sketches; we will vote on the most-detailed during our next class. While this may seem like a long time to work, the activity requires students to read the text for the first time AND multiple times more to gather all the detail as they sketch. Reading this in depth does, in fact, take time.

Students get right to work, motivated by the competition. I circulate to check their progress, cheerfully noting (and praising) students looking up unknown words and discussing the meaning of the text. By the end of the hour, my chalk board holds a nice collection of detailed Walden cabins and scenery.

Check out how partners work together to visualize the text, identifying missing details to be added: