Teaching Thoreau
Resources for teachers on this and other web sites
Thoreau Reader: 
Life With Principle: The DVD
- Now available to schools from the Thoreau Society. The focus is on Thoreau’s penetrating, provocative questions on how to live ethically and responsibly as part of nature and part of society – questions which transcend regional and national boundaries, and lead us to confront the way we live our lives. Interviews with dozens of students and adults include Daniel Ellsberg, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.


Resources on this site...
  • The Walden Express encourages at least a partial reading of Walden by students who might otherwise never go beyond CliffsNotes, with a structural analysis that can help readers see how the various parts of Walden fit together, and what Henry was trying to accomplish.
  • Thoreau’s First Year at Walden in Fact & Fiction, by Richard Smith, clears up some common misconceptions about Thoreau's stay at Walden Pond.
  • Journal Writing - Three Thoreauvian educators show how Henry worked at his craft, and how his techniques can work for us today - with two papers on Thoreau's journals from Dr. Sandra Petrulionis, a detailed middle school lesson plan from Robin Vaupel, and specific suggestions for nature writers from Ron Harton.
  • Three connected essays of the late 1800's show how well known authors saw Thoreau in different lights, and illustrates the evolution of Henry's reputation. In 1896, George Willis Cooke observed similar discrepancies in "The Two Thoreaus."
  • Hypertext annotations in Walden, Cape Cod, The Maine Woods, Civil Disobedience, Life without Principle, A Plea for Captain John Brown, and Walking help with some of Thoreau's more obscure references. For example, Walden's ant war passage refers to a Greek legend, two battles of Napoleon, four participants in the Battle of Concord, and a soldier's home in Paris, which are all briefly explained in Walden's annotations.
  • Background information on this site includes a brief introduction to Thoreau's work, a biography, and images of Thoreau and the Walden Pond area.
  • The "Ask Jimmy" page is a collection of student questions on Walden, with answers from "Jimmy" and suggestions for writing about Walden.
  • Links to Thoreau information on other sites include pages that illustrate Henry's many sides.
  • A page of  links for specific works has links for the works on this site.

The Thoreau Reader has been selected for inclusion on EDSITEment,
of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as one of the
best online resources for education in the humanities.

Additional resources for Thoreau...
  • Teaching Thoreau - Resources for Educators - "Thoreau ... can be tough to teach. It's not easy to dispel his stereotype as a curmudgeon and hermit, or else a nature-gazing cloud-head, when you have only a few classes in which to present his works."
  • Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau is a two act, four character play about the last two days Thoreau spent in his cabin before leaving Walden. The script, lesson plans, posters, theater programs, directors notes and more are available to any teacher, college, high school, home school and community theater free of charge as an Earth Day 2008 project.
  • A lesson plan for Walden includes resources on the Thoreau Reader: "Despite being armed with Thoreau's list, those high-tech kids found the task of narrowing down their own lists of back-to-nature items to be a difficult one."
  • Teacher's Guides for four of D. B. Johnson's "Henry" books: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg - Henry Builds a Cabin - Henry Climbs a Mountain - Henry Works
  • Take a Hike with Henry Activity: - "Henry and his friend travel from Concord to Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Henry hikes the 30 miles while his friend works odd jobs for the train fare. Who arrives first? Read this delightful book, then choose your path to Fitchburg."
  • Lesson plans at Web English Teacher, including: Biography and Transcendentalism, "Civil Disobedience", The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail., and Walden
  • Heath Online Instructor's Guide - by Wendell P. Glick - "Many, upon first reading him, will conclude: that he was a churlish, negative, antisocial malcontent; or that he advocated that all of us should reject society and go live in the woods"
  • Affluenza and Thoreau - "Our study of Thoreau may help us to find treatments or even cures for a very strange ailment."
  • "Civil Disobedience" excerpt seminar - a lesson plan for grade 11 social studies and English language arts by Francis Bryant - "This lesson plan is to be used for a seminar on an excerpt of Henry David Thoreau's work, "Civil Disobedience."
  • Meet Mr. Thoreau - "Here, only a few miles from the school, one of the key battles of the King Phillips Indian war was fought. In this area, the American Revolution began, Paul Revere rode, and the Minutemen fought. Only slightly less well known is the fact this area was also the site of a second revolution, though of a more intellectual nature."
  • Kids Philosophy Slam - "Thoreau ... saw a connection between the universe and the individual. Fulfillment of human potential was achieved by observation and awareness of the beauty and truth of the surrounding natural world."
  • Walden - the Discovery Channel - "Acquisitiveness and simplicity can be opposing life philosophies. ... Both philosophies have had notable adherents."
  • Perspectives in American Literature - Thoreau - by Paul P. Reuben - "Thoreau was a man of ideas who struggled all his life to create a path that would refuse compromise. All his activities were grounded in his faith in a higher moral law that could be discovered and practiced through the unremitting discipline of living ever in the present moment."
  • The Victorian Web: Thoreau - Texts, and Reading and Discussion Questions

Comments or questions:
Richard Lenat - rlenat@yahoo.com

Thoreau Reader:  Home