Stefanie McCain
English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • NE ELA
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    Downloadable docs, eBook

    Education Standards

    Introduction to Transcendentalism

    Introduction to Transcendentalism


    The attached lesson plan is designed for Grade 11 English Language Arts students. Students will analyze and evaluate the elements of literary text, build background knowledge to clarify text and deepen understanding, and use relevant evidence to assist in analysis and reflection of complex text. This lesson plan addresses the following NDE Standard: NE LA 12.1.6g, NE LA 12.1.6I, and NE LA 12.1.6L 

    It is expected that this lesson plan will take students 50 minutes to complete.

    Pre-Reading Response

    To begin the lesson students will be given the opportunity to think about and write a short journal response to a key topic of American Transcendentalism.

    Students can record their response in a journal/notebook, on sticky notes and then placed on an anchor chart, or collect responses using a digital tool such as linoit, padlet, slido, etc.

    Allow opportunity for students to share thier response

    Journal Prompt

    Directions: Read the prompt and write a short response using complete sentences in your journal.

    How do you demonstrate that you are an individual?

    What is Transcendentalism?

    The New England Renaissance Presentation provides background/historical context information from 1840-1850 and introduces the main authors that were writing during the time period. Students will take notes on the presentation and write a summary response and answer the question: How can you explain Transcendentalism?

    Procedure: Share the presentation with students discussing the information as you go along. Slide 11 has some brief instructor notes with an activity to break-up the lecture of the presentation. On this slide there is a definition of Transcendentalism that we read together in class. I have printed this off before and given it to students to read aloud and then we annotate it together. I highlight words and phrases on the slide that answer the 5Ws and H as they mark-up their own copy of the slide.

    I find it helpful to break-up this part of the lesson to discuss a definition of Transcendentalism and check for understanding at this point before we move on.

    I then present the rest of the presentation. At the end of the presentation I ask students to write  a 1-2 sentence summary of Transcedentalism and answer the question; How can you (student) explain Transcendentalism? You can have students turn and talk to a partner and share some of those responses out to the class as well.

    Take notes on the New England Renaissance time period that will explain who was involved and what ideas made up the movement known as Transcendentalism.

    After viewing the presentation.

    1. Write a 1-2 sentence summary of the ideas presented.

    2. How can you explain Transcendentalism?


    New England Renaissance Presentation

    Read "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Read Ch 1 from Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Most textbooks include this chapter in the classroom anthology. If you clssroom textbook does not include this essay, the selection that this lesson covers is from Ch 1 from Nature. The selection has 6 paragraphs. I like to read the excerpt aloud with students and discuss the main ideas as we go along.

    Paragraph 1- focuses on the ideas of reflection. 

    Vocabulary: chamber- room in a house

    sublime- awe-inspiring, here Emerson refers to the divine


    Paragraph 2- begins to focus on the relationship between man and nature

    Paragraph 3-Emerson shares his vision for how he intergrates what he sees with his philosphy, paragraph talks about ownership

    Vocabulary- indubitably- without a doubt

    Paragraph 4-This is the body of the essay and defines the philosophy toward nature

    Discuss the idea of the oversoul in this paragraph relating it to the transparent eyeball


    maugre (archaic)- in spite of; despite

    cordial- medicine, food, or drink that strengthens

    slough- outer layer of a snake's skin which is shed periodically

    decorum- orderliness

    connate- having the same nature

    Paragraph 5-discusses the realtionship between man and nature

    Paragraph 6-man and nature work together

    After reading the text students again complete a 5Ws and H chart and write a summary for the essay. There are additional comprehension check questions and a true/false section you can use for class discussion or have students answer for a graded assignment.



    Read Ch 1 from Nature  by Ralph Waldo Emerson

    1. Read Nature pause to discuss and interpret Emerson’s ideas while reading.

    2.  After reading, with a partner complete the 5W’s and H chart and write a summary sentence for the essay on the blanks provided.







    Comprehension Check for Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Answer the following questions in complete sentences.

    1. Under what circumstances, according to Emerson, does “mean egotism” vanish?

    2.What does Emerson say is “ the greatest delight” of being in contact with nature?

    3. Under what circumstances, according to Emerson, does nature appear to be melancholy.


    True/False  response

    1. In “Nature,” Emerson argues that God can be found only in the world of nature.

    2. Children are able to fully appreciate nature, Emerson says, but most adults seem to lose this ability.

    3. When he walks in the woods, Emerson feels himself to be part or parcel of God.

    4. Emerson uses the essay to explain a connection between people and nature.

    Exit Ticket

    Students complete the sentence starters as an exit ticket to reflect on their learning.

    Nature in the sentence refers to the world, the outdoors, the topic of the essay and not the title of the essay.

    Complete the following sentence starters as a reflection on what you have learned today. 

    Nature is important to transcendentalism because...

    Nature is important to transcendentalism but,

    Nature is important to transcendentalism so,