What Do We Owe To
How it works:
What Do We Owe To
Thoreau? is designed as an electronic reading and writing guide to
Henry David Thoreau's famous essay, "On Civil Disobedience." This
curriculum unit includes a cooperative learning activity to familiarize
students with the political issues of Thoreau's time. Comprehension
questions are geared to the appreciation of his philosophy while at the
same time challenging certain of his ideas. A range of Internet activities
allows for a variety of learning styles and levels. On-task time is thus
For instance, in lesson two, there is a polling and graphing
extension activity. In addition to providing another learning opportunity
to those students who finish early, it can be used to create a choice of
activities. The teacher then can offer it as a motivation to students with
a stronger, logical reasoning learning style as an alternative. The last
lesson directs the students to pair in a mini-digital-debate using an
Instant Message chat screen. Most teenagers enjoy using IM screens, so
again the Web creates a unique motivational device to get the students
involved in learning. Finally, there is no better, quicker, easier way
than the Web to introduce the class to the topics that surround Thoreau's
to non-fiction using interpretive, critical, and evaluative processes;
recognize a range of literary elements and techniques; articulate
perspectives to summarize arguments on different sides of issues; develop
an understanding of the diverse social, historical, and cultural
dimensions of texts; produce work in at least one literary genre that
follows the conventions of the genre; read and write for critical analysis
and evaluation; speak to share information and ideas in small or large
group discussions; use strategies to assist in comprehension; and use
correct grammatical construction.
They understand the importance of
such personal rights as freedom of conscience, expression and association,
freedom of movement and residence, and privacy; analyze the values held by
people who influenced history and the role their values played; and
understand how the past affects our private lives and society in general.
They use technology to collaboratively locate information, publish the
results of their research, organize writing, and survey the opinions of
peers; communicate effectively to a variety of audiences using multiple
methods of delivery; and interact with peers.
Required materials include a computer with Internet
connection; a projector; and books, maps, and pictures about Henry David
Thoreau and associated topics.
This unit is suitable for a general
education population of students with a moderate level of Internet and
What Do We Owe To
Thoreau? presents a series of lessons for "On Civil Disobedience"
as well as associated themes such as transcendentalism. The essay is a
seminal work in American culture, but its 19th century style distances it
from more easily appreciated reading material. With the Internet
components of research, e-mail, online quizzes and dictionaries, and
graphic materials, the teacher can incorporate a wide variety of
activities to increase the students' motivation. There are many "academic"
websites on Thoreau and his writing; however, this unit makes the
experience interactive, which is the core benefit of computer-assisted
It is recommended that the teacher do the
exercises before presentation. The reading selections are short and may
need to be lengthened. A collection of books, pictures, maps, etc. should
be brought into the classroom. Consider encouraging the students to create
things, like an ad for an apartment for Thoreau, a rap poem, a goodie bag
from his aunt, and so on, to lighten up the topic. Extension
activities may integrate different software applications (eg PowerPoint
presentation) if desired.
About the teacher:
Julie Vitulano is a
project director of a 21st Century Community Learning grant in Manhattan.
Before that, she was a high school English and ESL teacher. Throughout her
teaching career, she had been involved with computer-assisted instruction.
Her ELA classes were all successfully conducted in computer labs. During
those ten years, her career paralleled the development of Internet
technology in education. She is the recipient of a variety of awards
associated with technology in education including two Impact II awards.
Since becoming an educational administrator, she has continued to act as a
proponent for infusing technology across the curricula.