Carl Sandburg: Visionary Poet
Table of Contents
Title
Overview
Museum Collections, Similar Items and other Materials Used
National Educational Standards
Student Learning Objectives
Background and Historical Context
Vocabulary
Teacher Tips
Lesson Implementation Procedures
Evaluation/Assessment for Measurable Results
Extension and Enrichment Activities
Resources
Site Visit
Charts, Figures and other Teacher Materials
Print Version

A. Title: Carl Sandburg: Visionary Poet
  • Developers:
  • Bill White, Media Specialist, Hillandale School, East Flat Rock, NC
  • Grade Level: 11th, American Literature
  • Number of Sessions in the Lesson Unit Plan: This unit includes four sessions. The first three can be accomplished in a classroom period of 45 or 50 minutes. The last unit is independent work to be accomplished in classroom, media center, or home as appropriate for time and resources available.
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B. Overview of this Collection-Based Lesson Unit Plan
  • Park Name: Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site Flat Rock, North Carolina
  • Description: Students will read from some of the works of Carl Sandburg that reveal his visionary concerns about our society that are still relevant today.  Objects from the collection at Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site will be used to show how this vision pervaded his life, and related objects brought into the classroom will help bring the message home to students.

    This Language Arts unit may be used together with the Social Studies unit Sandburg’s Legacy by Jotwan Daniels also available on this website, perhaps team teaching with a social studies teacher if local scheduling makes that possible. The social studies unit provides context for the literature, and the literature sheds light on Carl Sandburg’s significance and celebrity.
    • Lesson One:   How to Read an Object
    • Lesson Two:   Poetry about Workers
    • Lesson Three: Value of Labor
    • Lesson Four:  Wrap Up Activity
  • Essential Question: Carl Sandburg is often described as a visionary writer. What relevance do Sandburg’s writings have in today’s times?
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C. Museum Collections, Similar Items and other Materials Used in this Lesson Unit Plan
MUSEUM OBJECT [photos of objects in the Carl Sandburg Home NHS museum collections] SIMILAR OBJECTS [local items similar to museum objects] & OTHER MATERIALS Length of time
Lesson One
 
Hard Hat Carl Sandburg with Workers
 
Chair Navajo Rugs
An object that represents teacher’s personal heritage (examples: family bible, grandfather’s walking stick, etc


Similar objects/items [similar to the museum objects in the Sandburg museum collection

  • Student and/or teacher supplied work hats and hard hats.

Other Materials
Forms and Charts:           

 

50 – 60 minutes
Lesson Two
 
Hard Hat Carl Sandburg with Workers
An object that represents teacher’s personal heritage (examples: family bible, grandfather’s walking stick, etc


Similar objects/items [similar to the museum objects in the Sandburg museum collection


Other Materials       
  • “Halsted Street Car” from Chicago Poems
  • Free Verse Poetry Rubric


 

50 – 60 minutes
Lesson Three
 
Chair Navajo Rug
 
Carl Sandburg's
Study
 
An object that represents teacher’s personal heritage (examples: family bible, grandfather’s walking stick, etc


Similar objects/items [similar to the museum objects in the Sandburg museum collection

  • Student and/or teacher supplied work hats and hard hats.

Other Materials
Forms and Charts:           

 

50 – 60 minutes
Wrap up Activity
An object that represents teacher’s personal heritage (examples: family bible, grandfather’s walking stick, etc


Similar objects/items [similar to the museum objects in the Sandburg museum collection]

  • None

Other Materials
Forms and Charts:           
  • None

 

50 – 60 minutes
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D. National Educational Standards
Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.2 Understanding the Human Experience
Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions of human experience.
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes
NL-ENG-12.5 Communication strategies
Students adjust their use of spoken, written and visual language to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills
Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
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E. Student Learning Objectives
Lesson One: How to Read an Object
  • Analyze a local object for its use and meaning
  • Orally present their analysis to the class
  • Compare their objects to the Carl Sandburg NHS museum object.

Lesson Two:  Poetry about Workers and Lesson Three:  Value or Labor
  • Read and analyze a poem and make a presentation of the poet’s viewpoint.
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F. Background and Historical Context

Although the fame and reputation of Carl Sandburg seems to have faded since his death in 1967, he remains a powerful writer and an important figure worthy of study today.  Aside from Walt Whitman, Sandburg may be the best poet for the study of free verse poetry, and the brevity and power of his poems make him more accessible for many students than Whitman.  As noted above, these literature lessons will work well when taught along with the social studies unit provided (Sandburg’s Legacy). Sandburg led a fascinating, varied life that immersed him in all levels of American society.
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G. Vocabulary

Artifact- a simple object showing human workmanship or modification.

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H. Teacher Tips
  • Teachers have the option of downloading museum objects for display by projector or printing out photographs for distribution.
  • Note that the first activity requires a prior assignment that students bring in used hard hats or other work headgear. As an alternative, the teacher might gather such items and have them available.
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I. Lesson Implementation Procedures

Lesson One: Introduction- How to Read an Object.

Objective(s):
The student will…
  • Analyze an object for its use and meaning
  • Orally present their analysis to the class
  • Compare similar/ item objects to the museum object.

Vocabulary:
Artifact

Museum Collections:
CARL 365 Silver hard hat with “CARL SANDBURG” printed in blue across front. (Sandburg wore the hat while touring Chicago work sites.)
CARL 17934 Photographic print of Carl Sandburg with workers, wearing the hardhat (above) or a similar one.

Materials Needed:
Similar objects/items
Student and/or teacher supplied work hats and hard hats.
Other materials
How to Read an Object worksheet

Background:
Bring in or have students bring hard hats or other work headgear that show signs of use.  Explain that students will look at their object as an artifact from a museum, analyze it for meaning, and will compare the item with a museum hard hat. Students will be relating the object to the poet and his work in the next activity.

Procedure:
  • Divide the class into groups and provide each with a work hat and the “How to Read an Object” worksheet.
  • Have the groups complete the “How to Read an Object” worksheet about their hat, with the emphasis on the second page of the worksheet. This activity introduces the concept of learning through museum objects.
  • Have each group present their headgear to the class and share what the group observed about the wearer and the nature of his/her work.
  • View with the entire class, the picture Carl Sandburg’s hard hat.  (Object CARL 365) Explain that he was photographed wearing this hat while visiting work places around the city of Chicago.

  • Discuss:
    • Did Carl Sandburg wear this hat as part of his work routine? [No, he wore this when touring work sites as a guest. However, he did have much experience as a common laborer as a young man.]
    • Why did he keep the hard hat? [He valued the memory of visiting workers and valued manual labor.
    • What attitude toward working people will we expect to find in the writings of Carl Sandburg?

    Lesson Two:  Poetry about Workers

    Note: Recall in the previous activity students began to see Carl Sandburg’s concern for workers. Refer again to the museum objects listed below.

    Objective: Students will…

    • Read and analyze a poem and make a presentation of the poet’s viewpoint.

    Museum Collections:
    CARL 365 Silver hard hat with “CARL SANDBURG” printed in blue across front. (Sandburg wore the hat while touring Chicago work sites.)
    CARL 17934 Photographic print of Carl Sandburg with workers, wearing the hardhat (above) or a similar one.

    Materials Needed:
    Poem
    “Halsted Street Car” from Chicago Poems
    Other Material
    Free Verse Poetry Rubric

    Vocabulary:
    Halsted [an industrial street in Chicago]
    Pig-sticker [slaughterhouse worker]

    Procedures:
    Provide copies of the poem “Halsted Street Car” from Chicago Poems or display for the class.
    • Read the poem aloud.
    • Define words
      • Halsted [an industrial street in Chicago]
      • Pig-sticker [slaughterhouse worker]
    • “What kind of cartoonists is the author referring to in this poem?” [cartoonists such as  newspaper political cartoonists who make their cartoons descriptive of a person’s character and life circumstances]
    • “Are the workers on the streetcar going home or going to work?” [going to work]
    • “What does the author infer from their faces in the last three lines of the poem (last 7 words).” [Varied responses – workers were deeply tired, despairing, hopeless of accomplishing their life’s dreams.]
    • “What problems of society is the author presenting in this poem?” [poverty, lack of education, long work hours, poor working conditions, etc.]
    • “What solutions would the author have favored to improve the lot of these workers?” [reasonable work hours in better conditions, breaks, shorter work week, vacations, educational opportunities, advancement opportunities, better pay]
    • “Are the workers’ problems implied in this poem still important issues today?” [In spite of progress in some areas, there are still issues in these areas.]

    Optional: Have a volunteer read the poem dramatically.

    Activity:
    Students write their own free-verse poem about their own negative work experiences, making clear how the job made them feel at the end of a day and/or as they went to face a new day.  Use free verse poetry rubric for possible guidelines.

    Lesson Three: Value of Labor

    Objective:
    Students will…
      • Read and analyze a poem and make a presentation of the poet’s viewpoint.

    Museum Collections:
    CARL 468. Mission Style Arm Chair. The maker’s mark with the maker’s name is located on the chair, indicating that it is hand crafted.
    CARL 1307, 1306, 1303: Traditional Navajo rugs from Sandburg’s study, collected on trips to the American Southwest.
    ROOM VIEW OF STUDY (photograph)

    Materials Needed:
    Poem
    “Machine” from Selected Poems
    Other Materials
    Persuasive Essay Rubric

    Procedures:
    • Question prior knowledge about automation and its positive and negative effects on workers.
    • Display or distribute copies of the poem “Machine”. Read the poem aloud.
    • “Whose point of view is presented in the poem, worker or management?”
    • “What is the inference of the ‘never’ statements? Who does waste time, watch the foreman, etc.?” [human workers]
    • “Does the author favor more automation and machines?” [no]
    • “What is the literary term for stating the opposite of one’s point of view?” [irony]
    • “What problems come to mind when the author mentions ‘kids,’ ‘women,’ and ‘hunger’ near the end of the poem?” [The workers’ families may suffer when automation takes their jobs.]
    • View the pictures of handcrafted items from Carl Sandburg’s office.
    • “Why did Carl Sandburg value these items?” [valuing hand crafted items, as well as beauty and utility]

    Student Writing Activity:
    Pre-writing- Discuss values and concerns that may contribute to students’ buying decisions if price is not a factor. These values and concerns may include labor, environmental, aesthetic, design, or other issues. 
    Persuasive essay- If money and cost were not an issue, what ideals and factors would control your buying decisions?  These values and concerns my include labor, environmental, aesthetic, design, or other issues.   
    Use persuasive essay rubric for possible guidelines.

    Lesson Four: Wrap Up Activity

    Independent Student Activity
        • Select another poem by Carl Sandburg that you believe also shows him to be a visionary. The work may also relate to labor issues, or to another social issue. Explain your impressions of the poem and its meaning in an essay. Prepare a dramatic presentation of the poem for the class similar to “poetry slam” presentations, or a re-enactment of Sandburg reading his own work.
        • Research and report on Sandburg’s activities and writings as a socialist in the early 20th century. Make your presentation in the form of a booklet or PowerPoint presentation.
        • In partnership with at least one other student, organize and present a debate on an issue relevant to one of the concerns of Carl Sandburg. Possibilities include current labor controversies, controversies related to automation of industry, or principles of socialism vs. capitalism.
        • Research the traditions and methods to produce some of the handcrafted items in the above lesson. Make a PowerPoint or other appropriate presentation of your findings.
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J. Evaluation/Assessment for Measurable Results
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K. Extension and Enrichment Activities
See Lesson Four: Wrap Up Activity.
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L. Resources

Bibliography
Sandburg, Carl. Chicago Poems. New York. Dover Publications. 1994
Sandburg, Carl. Selected Poems. Harcourt Brace & Company. 1996
Golden, Harry. Carl Sandburg. University of Illinois Press. 1961
Meltzer, Milton. Carl Sandburg; a Biography. Twenty First Century Books. 1999
Niven, Penelope. Carl Sandburg; a Biography. Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1991

Annotated related web sites: www.nps.gov/carl
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M. Site Visit
The site visit includes a visit to the:
    • Park or a similar site, such as a local museum, historic house museum, or historical society.  Provide instructions on how to organize an actual park or local museum or historical society. 
    • Virtual museum exhibit: www.nps.gov/history/museum/exhibits/carl/

    Pre-visit: Before the visit, have students visit the institution’s website for an overview or provide brochures and other written/visual materials about the site. Have each student come up with 2-3 questions to guide the visit.  Work with park interpretive and museum staff to arrange the visit with challenging activities.

    Site visit
    : At the site, have students select at least two objects on exhibit to analyze.  Provide “How to Read an Object” sheets.  It also includes an object sketch sheet (white space to make a detailed sketch of the objects).  For younger students, use the ‘How to Read an Object’ chart for elementary school students together with a “scavenger hunt” object list to encourage close observation skills
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N. Charts, figures and other Teacher Materials
Click here to download supplemental documents.