Walden and Text Structure Practice, Day Two

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Students will be able to analyze and evaluate text structure while reading Thoreau's Walden.

Big Idea

Problem: a meaningless life. Solution: find yourself [in the woods]. Analyzing and evaluating text structure in Walden.

Do Now: Cause and Effect Review

5 minutes

As in our previous lesson working with Walden, we will focus on text structure today. To get students in the text structure mindset (and address their lack of comment on key transition words on a previous practice), I ask students to list transition/signal words for cause and effect text structure.

Many students sit stumped until I remind them they have notes to use. Aha, success. Notes found, students are able to quickly list transition words.

At the very least, they will have their notes at the ready when we move into further practice.

Walden Read-Write-Share

30 minutes

Today, we start reading from the conclusion of Walden. As usual, we stop after each paragraph so students can form comprehension through writing a brief summary and comment (question, agreement, connection, quote analysis, etc.). We use these writings in discussion, first clarifying what the text said then discussing our comments.

As in past reading lessons, we only cover 3 paragraphs total today so students do not become overwhelmed by the challenging text. On this final day of reading, I ask students to consider, overall, if they agree with Thoreau's ideas about the importance of being one's self and following one's dreams. By and far, students agree, though one student does comment that Thoreau doesn't seem to address how hard one must work to achieve goals at times.

Text Structure Practice

10 minutes

We move into our second text structure practice. The challenge is increased from our first practice. Then, we looked at only a single sentence. Now, we look at a whole paragraph:

 I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.. (Thoreau, 1845)

Today, all but a few students are able to correctly identify the text structure, and most give adequate explanation to show they truly understand it. One group does a particularly nice job explaining a unique perspective:


Our evaluation of text structure still needs work. Only a few students successfully analyze the structure rather than the content of this paragraph (or of the text as a whole). No, students, the text structure itself isn't effective just because Thoreau learned what he wanted to learn. We'll need more practice on evaluation.