National Endowment of the Arts - The Big Read
The Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Nationality is a good thing to a certain extent, but universality is better. All that is best in the great poets of all countries is not what is national in them, but what is universal.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1855 (Photo courtesy the Longfellow National Historic Site)

Welcome to The Big Read, a program from the National Endowment for the Arts. Designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American culture, The Big Read hopes to unite communities through great literature, as well as inspire students to become lifelong readers.

It is especially appropriate The Big Read includes poetry for the first time by honoring Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of America’s foremost and best-loved nineteenth-century poets. The National Endowment for the Arts joins the Poetry Foundation to create this new program to celebrate great American poets and the historic sites associated with their lives and works. By celebrating poets and their literary landmarks, the NEA and the Poetry Foundation not only bring poetry to a broader audience, but also help preserve and promote local heritage and history.

This Teacher’s Guide contains ten lessons to lead you through Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetry. Longfellow was not only a major American poet, but he was also one of the most influential figures in our national cultural history. In unforgettable poetic language that appealed to millions of readers across all classes, he helped create many of the songs, stories, characters, and images by which the young United States knew itself.

Each lesson has five components: a focus topic, discussion activities, writing exercises, vocabulary words, and homework assignments. In addition, we have suggested essay topics, as well as handouts with more background information about the poems, the historical period, and the author. All lessons dovetail with the state language arts standards required for poetry.

Finally, The Big Read Reader’s Guide deepens your exploration with biography, timelines, and historical information. We hope these educational materials allow you to have fun with your students while introducing them to the work of a great American poet.

From the NEA and the Poetry Foundation, we wish you an exciting and productive school year.

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