reading a quote from Thoreau’s Walden and “Thoreau’s
Nightmare,” a poem written by Allison Rittershaus, a 7th grade
student from New Hampshire, students are introduced to the ideas of
deliberate choices and living within the means of nature. Students are
given background information on Thoreau to help them understand his
philosophy. They begin to examine the ideas of the quote and the poem
with the goal of thinking about how our world has changed since the
time of Thoreau, and how each of them can be a catalyst for change by
making responsible choices.
of class periods: 2
Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts
RL. 7.6 Analyze how an author develops and contrast the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text. Analyze interpretations of a story, drama, or poem by authors who represent diverse world cultures.
RI.7.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others
W.7.10 Write routinely over extended time frames and short time frames for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
L. 7.6 Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expressions.
for Sustainability Core Content
Cultural Preservation and Transformation A4
Natural Laws and Ecological Principles F5, F6
Multiple Perspectives H11, H12
Inventing and Affecting the Future G1, G3
How are we all going to live well within the means of nature?
How can we learn to live responsibly within nature to ensure a sustainable
What does one need to survive? How is that different from what wants
• How is one motivated to change?
• Can we continue to go the way that we are (in order to thrive)?
#3 (Thoreau quote) and read the quote to the class. Note to teacher:
decide if you want to distribute this journal assignment a day in advance
so students complete the response for homework or complete this as they
enter the classroom.
2. Students share responses to the Journal prompt.
3. Distribute “Thoreau’s
Nightmare.” An option is to give the students a sampling of
Thoreau's poetry so they will have a better perspective on Thoreau’s
4. Read the poem aloud to students, asking them to listen the first
5. Clarify unfamiliar words or terms.
6. Instruct students to listen to the poem a second time, with a pen
in hand to annotate.
7. Students and teacher will participate in a Socratic Seminar. (class
Note to teacher: Use the suggested
Socratic Seminar questions (included) or create your own questions
according to needs of the class.
do we feel we control?
are the consequences of being oblivious?
would the author of this poem blame for the “noise”
do we get rid of the “noise?”
image is conveyed from a “tight fist of chaos, of hurried crosswalks/
and spilled coffee/ of stifling poison air”?
would Thoreau think about the world today?
would Thoreau think about ways to help our future?
would Thoreau think about our future?
Rittershaus agree with Thoreau? How do you know?
why you think Rittershaus feels this way?
can one be oblivious to one’s surroundings?
the symbolism of Starbucks.
does the author choose to italicize certain words?
this poem support sustainability? Explain your response.
would Thoreau find nightmarish about the description the poet uses?
is more like the real world, Thoreau’s ideas or Rittershaus’s?
world would you prefer to live in? Why? (Journal entry)
history do you think the speaker sees as distorted?
don’t “they” or “we” hear the noise
(look at the last 4 lines of the poem)?
are the sorts of pollution Rittershaus refers to (ex: noise, emotional,
would Al Gore think about the Thoreau’s
would Al Gore think about the Rittershaus’ poem? ideas?
Students complete Journal
Note to teacher: In Journal #4, Part B, students are given the opportunity
to write in IM language. Teacher may decide to take this part of the
assignment out and ask students to write a more formal dialogue.