Sandburg Study

Author: Matthew Tidwell

Time: 2 class periods
Materials: Class copies of selected Carl Sandburg poems:
Population Drifts
They Will Say
Questions on poems

Students will be introduced to the poetry of Carl Sandburg, one of many poets that composed his work during the Industrial Revolution. Although his work spans many different topics and time periods, his “Chicago Poems” are a perfect example of poetry that captures the experiences of the ordinary person, including the American worker. The purpose of this lesson is for students to explore poetry that focuses on the experiences of the American worker.

1. The students will be able to examine and share their perceptions on a variety of poems by Carl Sandburg.

2. The students demonstrate their comprehension of the poems by answering questions about the poetry during a class discussion.

Strand 2
Concept 1
PO 3: Analyze the way in which the theme or meaning of a selection represents a view or comment on life, providing textural evidence for the identified theme.

Teacher Background

Resource Websites




1. Students should enter the classroom with a circular seating arrangement where every student can be seen. The teacher can have a seat with the students, or remain in the middle of the circle.

2. Pass out copies of each poem to students.

3. Have students read the titles to themselves without reading any of the actual poems. Clarify the meaning of any words that may be confusing, such as ‘mockers’.

4. Ask students what their initial responses to the titles are. What do you think these poems are about? What might be the connecting idea? Put responses up on the board.

5. Read each poem with the class. Have students volunteer to read to the class. The reading of the poems should take about 15 minutes.

6. Conduct a class discussion focused solely on initial responses to the poems. The discussion should allow the students to share their perceptions on images that stick out, lines that have a strong impact, and the feelings the poems leave the reader with. This should be a free flowing discussion, allowing the topic to change as ideas are shared. However, the teacher needs to ask questions that direct the students to basic comprehension of the poems. For example, who is the speaker of the poem? What happens in this poem? Time should also be made to make connections to modern day workers.

7. The discussion should last one class period. Collect copies back from students.

8. When the students return the next day, the seating arrangement should return to the norm.

9. Pass copies back to students. In addition to the poems, a list of questions should also be passed out.

10. Students will respond to the questions individually. The questions should be derived from the previous day’s discussion. In addition, questions should allow students to display their comprehension of the poems.

1. Discuss answers with students. Allow students to add ideas to their answers based on what is said during the discussion.
2. Students should keep the copy of the questions and their responses.

If applicable

Embedded Assessment

The students will be assessed based on their responses to the questions. The most important thing is that students are able to answer basic questions about the poems.




PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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