Special Education

Live Simply: Finding Thoreau in the American Teenagers World

Gregory Bruce, 2015
Belmont High School
Belmont, MA
Special Education: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Program, Grades 9-12

In today’s world many of our students (and sometimes the adults who teach them) go through their day-to-day activities without taking much time to think, reflect, or observe the world around them.  Rather, they rush from activity to activity, are plugged into electronics all day, and often lose sight of not only their role in the world, but also the world itself.  The aim of this unit is to use Thoreau’s words and writings, to help peel back the barriers that stand between my students and the wonders of the world around them.

Working in a program that supports students with social, emotional, behavioral and/or learning challenges I have a great opportunity to look for pathways to introduce my students to new ideas and concepts.  As an educator, I always work to show my students different ways to think, but strive to never tell them what to think.  In this vain, I aim to utilize our weekly group lessons to introduce them to different ideas that relate to Thoreau’s writings and beliefs as well as today’s world in order to make it relevant to their own lives. Additionally, the unit will also work to help them gain a ‘Sense of Place’ in their own community.  Among the concepts we will focus on include perspective taking, living simply, observing nature and following their own path.

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Transcendentalism: Your Place in the World
Teaching Decision-Making and Internal Locus of Control

Nancy Slator, 2014
Ware Junior-Senior High School
Ware, MA
Substantially Separate English class, Grades 10-12

I teach at-risk students with learning disabilities, behavior disorders, attention deficit disorder, and/or mild cognitive disabilities. The lesson many of them have learned from their disabilities is that effort does not pay off. If they work harder than everyone else, they will still have less success. They have learned to have an external locus of control, believing that their lives are controlled by outside forces. The purpose of these lessons is to use the philosophy of Transcendentalism to teach these students their own value and potential and to encourage them to thoughtfully make and take responsibility for their academic choices.

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Places, People and Poetry: Thoreau and Literature

Shannon Barker, 2013
Newton North High School
Newton, MA
English, Grades 11 and 12

Prior to reading any of the texts this year, students will partake in a two-week unit to introduce them to one of the themes of the year: sense of place. The unit will pull excerpts from Walden to help students understand the basis for understanding a literal place as well as figurative place (state of mind). Students will examine their own senses of place through various types of writing and expression, others’ senses of place through the reading of Thoreau, poetry and songs, and the actual place of Walden through a field trip during the unit. The purposes of the unit are to help students understand the major theme of the year, so that they can apply it to each novel they will read, to examine their own lives in order to better empathize with characters in the novels they will read, and to understand the basis of American Literature: transcendentalism.

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Place, Personhood, & Truth

Marshall Dury, 2013
Lexington High School
Lexington, MA
English/Language Arts, Grade 11

This mini-unit on transcendentalism focuses on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s and Henry David Thoreau’s core texts. Many of the reading are excerpts from an American Literature textbook published by Prentice Hall. Time is made every day for in-class prompts/writing, discussions, and questions about ideas that might be engaging, complex, or confusing. The end assessments focus on students applying many of the ideas and ideals associated with transcendentalism to their own lives—specifically deliberate living, communing with nature, and sense of place. This unit was conceived and executed with struggling learners* in mind. Many of the readings are excerpts—keeping in mind the difficulty associated with reading stamina. Lessons are designed to be easily augmented for the full reading of texts. Core ideas: sense of place, reverence for nature, individuality, nonconformity, and simplicity. (*=reading and writing levels are usually 1-4 years behind grade level expectations).

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Henry David Thoreau: What was he thinking?
Thinking and Writing about the Big Ideas of Transcendentalism and the Natural World

Heather Conroy, 2011
Framingham High School
Framingham, MA
American Literature, Grade 11,  CP2 Inclusion

The goal of this unit is to expose students to some of Thoreau’s most powerful ideas about nature and society, and have the students use reflective journaling as a way to increase their comfort with writing,  thinking deeply about Thoreau’s ideas and discussing his relevance today.

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This is My Place

Pat Bonnet, 2006
Lexington High School
Lexington, MA
Special Education, Grades 9-12

The three lessons plans submitted are a subsection of the unit on observation and reporting. The course is designed for primarily learning-disabled students. Lesson one is the inaugural activity of observation and reporting with the content focus being on observation of place – “my place.” Lesson two teaches the students to orally report on an observation using literature as an example. Lesson three involves an in-class analysis of the Thoreau excerpt, along with a short slide/lecture on Thoreau, leading to an independent reading and analysis assignment of a second example of Thoreau’s descriptive writing.

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The Flowering of New England

Frank Mandosa, 2006
Medfield High School
Medfield, MA
American Literature, Grade 11 students with IEPs

The four lessons of this unit focus on Thoreau’s transcendentalist approach to life and Walden, or Life in the Woods, as well as a modern-day practical approach to public speaking skills. The lessons will touch upon the art of paying close attention, choosing the ideal place, music appreciation, food choices awareness, and more. The unit is designed for students with learning disabilities.

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