Walden "The Ponds" Themes Lesson Plan

  • 26 pages
  • Subject: Imagery, Literary Devices, Themes, Lesson Plans and Educational Resources
  • Common Core Standards: RL.9-10.1, RL.9-10.2, RL.9-10.4, SL.9-10.1
  • Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12

Additional Walden Resources

Product Description

Theme Revealed Through Imagery in “The Ponds” from Walden

This lesson plan focuses on Thoreau’s use of imagery in “The Ponds.” Students will identify examples of imagery and figurative language in passages from the text and will interpret the ideas they express. In studying Thoreau’s imagery, often created through figurative language, students will be better able to identify and explain themes of transcendentalism in “The Ponds.”

Skills: close reading, interpreting figurative language, drawing inferences from the text

Learning Objectives: By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the principles and attitudes of transcendentalism as a philosophical movement in 19th-century American thought
  • define and explain imagery as a literary device
  • locate examples of imagery in the text and identify their types
  • explain how imagery in the text is created through figurative language, including simile and metaphor
  • interpret ideas communicated through imagery and explain how they illustrate themes of transcendentalism

About This Document

Owl Eyes lesson plans have been developed to meet the demanding needs of today’s educational environment and bridge the gap between online learning and in-class instruction. The main components of each plan include the following:

  • An introduction to the text
  • A step-by-step guide to lesson procedure
  • Previous and following lesson synopses for preparation and extension ideas
  • A collection of handouts and worksheets complete with answer keys

Each of these comprehensive, 60-minute plans focus on promoting meaningful interaction, analytical skills, and student-centered activities, drawing from the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and the expertise of classroom teachers.

Introduction to the Lesson

In an 1837 address at Harvard University, Ralph Waldo Emerson famously declared that the United States had too long imitated the ideas and outlook of the old world. The time had come for American poets and intellectuals to speak and act more like themselves and less like Europeans. Emerson’s speech, now called “The American Scholar,” forcefully argued that authentic American expression would appear when writers turned away from the past for inspiration and looked instead at the wonder and beauty of the natural world around them.

With his 1850 book Walden, Emerson’s protégé Henry David Thoreau appears to take on Emerson’s challenge wholeheartedly. It is a detailed exploration of Emerson’s idea that the United States would find its own cultural and literary identity and escape the burden of European influence through an intimate and unfiltered study of nature. The book chronicles the two years Thoreau spent living in a simple one-room cabin next to Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. At Walden Pond, Thoreau endeavored to remove from his life all but the bare essentials, foregoing luxuries, eating mostly vegetables, and generally pinching pennies. Free to spend most of his hours observing and contemplating the natural world, he found he was rewarded with deep self-knowledge and spiritual riches that could not be found in books or the religions of the past.

In Walden Thoreau uses elaborate imagery to show how he immersed himself in the seasons, sounds, moods, and colors of Walden Pond. At times he explains the spiritual lessons he takes from his observations, but much of the time he leaves it to readers to glean deeper truths in his detailed natural imagery. The imagery in “The Ponds,” one section of the book, is rich in the optical effects and mysterious sounds of the pond, revealing Thoreau’s love of the reflections, echoes, shifting colors, and delicate surface patterns that transport him to spiritual realms and invite mystical interpretations. While drifting in his boat on a still day, for instance, the glassy surface of the pond reflecting the sky and clouds, he experiences a disorienting and elating sensation of floating in the sky. Such is the power of nature, Thoreau suggests—to transform our reality, once we learn to truly see and hear its splendor. Through imagery and figurative language in the text, Thoreau communicates other principles of transcendentalism as well, making Walden both a comprehensive study of the philosophy and an examination of Thoreau’s personal experiences.

Worksheet Excerpt

Analyzing Imagery in “The Ponds”: Passage 1

  1. Working with your group, review the passage, discuss the questions about it, and record your answers on the handout.
  2. Choose a recorder in your group to write an annotation on Owl Eyes that explains your group’s analysis of the passage.
  3. Monitor the annotation as it is being written to make sure it is thorough in expressing your groups’ analysis.
  4. Choose a reporter in your group to present your findings in a class discussion.

When, as was commonly the case, I had [no one] to commune with, I used to raise the echoes by striking with a paddle on the side of my boat, filling the surrounding woods with circling and dilating sound, stirring them up as the keeper of a menagerie his wild beasts, until I elicited a growl from every wooded vale and hillside.

  1. Which type of imagery does Thoreau employ in the passage? What specifically does it describe? What is a specific image in the passage?
  1. Identify some examples of figurative language in the passage. How do they contribute to Thoreau’s description of Walden Pond?
  1. What does the imagery in the passage suggest about Walden Pond?