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Anglo Saxon Poetry Assignments

Lesson plans and teaching resources

| Background: The Anglo-Saxons | | Kennings and Riddles | | The text | | Lesson plans and learning activities |

Background: The Anglo-Saxons

Click here : background information about the Anglo-Saxons has been moved to a separate page.

Kennings and Riddles

Click here : definitions, examples, and learning activities have been moved to a separate page.

The text

Click here : information and activities about the original Anglo-Saxon text have been moved to a separate page.

Lesson plans and learning activities

The Beauty of Anglo-Saxon Poetry: A Prelude to Beowulf
Students study the literature and literary techniques of the early Middle Ages, preparing to read Beowulf with an appreciation for its artistry and beauty. Students will learn the conventions of Anglo-Saxon poetry, solve online riddles, write riddles, and reflect on what they have learned.

This music video can serve as an introduction to the unit, presenting a synopsis of the epic. Downloadable, it runs 3:47 and is captioned.

Using a theme of good vs. evil, this site includes theme openers, crosscurricular activities, research assignments, and suggestions for related reading.

How might students use storyboards to demonstrate and to extend their learning? Check the resources here. Students work with the Hero's journey, elements of an epic, vocabulary, more. Note: Storyboard That helps sponsor this site.

Beowulf : A Terrifying Tale of Good vs Evil
This study guide provides a great deal of background information.

Beowulf : Twenty Questions for Discussion
These questions would work best with advanced students.

Beowulf Lesson Plans
A teacher's chapter-by-chapter notes, including summary, teaching approaches, and discussion questions.

Beowulf Mock Trial
Click on the title link for thorough instructions on how to put Beowulf on trial. From Outta Ray's Head.

Beowulf: Still a Hero
Journal assignments, seminar topics, creative topics, links to a variety of versions of the epic, and study questions for John Gardner's Grendel .

Beowulf Structure
A chronology of the epic. Be sure to note the table of parallels at the top of the page.

Beowulf Study Questions
Thirteen questions for writing or discussion.

Based upon John Gardner's Grendel , this site offers questions to explore character, point of view, setting, and theme. Follow the links to find related works, vocabulary words, projects, even bulletin boards.

The Hero Connection: From Beowulf to Batman
After reading Beowulf , students will identify Beowulf's heroic traits, generalize from these traits a list of typical traits for heroes, and then use these traits to compare Beowulf with contemporary heroes. As a culminating activity, students will define their concept of hero and then create a booklet of personal heroes from various areas.

A Host of Heroes
This TED-ED video (4:54) uses examples from Beowulf , Oedipus , Romeo and Juliet , Star Wars , Zorro , and King Arthur to explore the differences between the epic, tragic, and romantic hero. Captioned, includes follow-up questions.

An Introduction to Beowulf : Language and Poetics
"Although this lesson assumes students will read Beowulf in translation, it introduces students to the poem's original Old English and explains the relationship between Old, Middle, and Modern English. The lesson then goes on to introduce students to alliteration, alliterative verse, and kennings and their importance to Beowulf ."

Modern Beowulf
In this writing assignment, students bring Beowulf into modern times. The prompt includes background and some guidelines.

This lesson is intended to have students investigate the idea of "monsters" in society. They will begin by defining the idea of what a monster is. They will then read Beowulf . The reading of Grendel by John Gardner will follow. Students will design and present their own conceptions of a monster.

Multi-Media Hero Analysis
Students will recognize the positive character traits of heroes as depicted in music, art and literature. The class will break into groups and write a working definition of a hero which they will present to the class. Students will discuss multi-media representations of heroes as well as cultural differences among who is considered a hero. The teacher will provide various works of art depicting heroes, and the students will choose one hero to research for an essay.

A Teacher's Guide to Beowulf
This 13-page document includes an introduction and prereading activities, journal topics, vocabulary, questions for discussion, supporting activities, quotations, and a bibliography. Requires Adobe Reader or compatible application for access.

Suggestions for Pairing Contemporary Music and Canonical Literature
A list of songs that were inspired by reading literature. Organized by the last name of the author (e.g. Chinua Achebe, William Butler Yeats), the list includes song title, performer, year of release, and more. The list includes 9 titles inspired by Beowulf .

Using Poetry to Teach the Importance of Word Choice
This lesson uses the same passage from five different translations of Beowulf . It encourages students to consider the impact of word choice on tone, sound, and meaning.

What good is Beowulf ?
This article emphasizes the development of language as part of the study of the epic. It includes a link to a Webquest on language.

Title – Heroes of the Anglo-Saxons
By – Carol Beth McBride
Secondary Subjects – Language Arts
Grade Level – 12


    The idea of this lesson is for students to realize that heroes have been important characters throughout history. Even as far back as 449 BC, heroes and their epic adventures have been a mainstay in stories and in literature in British history.

Standards addressed and General Goals:

      NCSCoS (North Carolina Standard Course of Study Competency) Goal #1 – The learner will express reflections and reactions to print and non-print text as well as to personal experience.


        1.03 – Demonstrate the ability to read, listen to and view a variety of increasingly complex print and non-print critical texts appropriate to grade level and course literary focus by: selecting, monitoring, and modifying as necessary reading strategies appropriate to readers’ purpose.
        Identify and analyze text components (organizational structures, story elements, organizational features) and evaluating their impact on the text.
        Demonstrating comprehension of main idea and supporting details.
        Identifying and analyzing personal, social, historical, or cultural influences, contexts or biases.


      NCSCoS Goal #5 – The learner will deepen understanding of British literature through exploration and extended engagement.


        5.01 – Explore British literature by: recognizing common themes that run through works, using evidence from the texts to substantiate ideas.
        Relating the cultural and historical contexts to the literature and identifying perceived ambiguities, prejudices, and complexities.
        5.02 – Extend engagement with selected works of British Literature by:
      Relating style, meaning, and genre (including fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry).

Specific Objectives:

      Students should be able to identify the idea of a hero on a quest in the genres of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. These examples will be provided in the epic poem

Beowulf, Secrets from Ancient Graves

      by Daniel Cohen, and poetry from the Anglo-Saxon time period including

The Wanderer, The Seafarer,

The Wife’s Lament

      Literary terms that should be identified and defined are as follows:





stock epithets

    . The characteristics of an epic should also be identified along with the characteristics of a hero.

Required Materials:

      A copy of NC edition of McDougal Littell’s

The Language of Literature British Literature


The Seafarer

The Wanderer

The Wife’s Lament

      . A copy of Daniel Cohen’s

Secrets from Ancient Graves

      , and an audio version of the

Lord’s Prayer


Unferth’s Challenge

    . This particular section can be found in earlier NC British Literature Texts.

Anticipatory Set (lead in):

      Instructor shall play the audio sound byte from the website noted above from the University at Potsdam. Students will be given a visual printout of

The Lord’s Prayer


      . They will be asked to follow along while listening to the audio two times. Ask the students to identify words that could be used in Modern English. Explain to them they have just listened to the earliest form of the English language and the language used in the telling of the

Epic of Beowulf

      . After listening to the audio and discussing the language, ask the students to conclude why this story of Beowulf has been passed down by word of mouth (define


      ) and also through the written work of monks and scribes. Explain how the story recounts the deeds of a larger than life hero who participated in several life threatening quests and how this hero embodied the ideals of bravery and strength during the Anglo-Saxon time period.

Epic poetry

Step by Step Procedures:

      After the students have been hooked into the idea of reading and comprehending Old English and have an understanding of an epic hero, read from the text, the selections from


      . Make sure to define for the students the following terms and identify them in the text:





stock epithets

      After reading the first selection, ask students to draw a Venn Diagram and incorporate society’s ideas of a hero and compare them with the Anglo-Saxon Society’s ideas of a hero, which is clearly seen in the character of Beowulf. After completing the diagram, have students set aside for a writing assignment to be done post reading.
      Have students also work independently in an effort to locate and recognize literary elements listed above. Also have students identify characteristics of epic poetry and heroism.
      After reading the first two sections of


Unferth’s Challenge

      . This section, not included in the text, truly shows the idea of the Anglo-Saxon Boast. After reading this selection, assign students their own boast. They need to make sure they use the literary elements of alliteration, hyperbole, kenning and stock epithets. They might even be so bold as to incorporate a caesura. This particular lesson should take up the entirety of a 90-minute block schedule. For homework, students should be asked to read the three poems. The theme of loneliness and isolation should be identified. Because Anglo-Saxons were a seafaring people, loved ones were often left behind and oftentimes, deserted. This homework assignment, along with boast, to be started in class, will fulfill the task of

Independent Practice

    . Students should be prepared at the next class meeting to perform their boasts as well as discuss the theme of solitude found in the poetry.


      Before presentations of the boast are assigned. The teacher is to perform her own personal boast. She is to stop to discuss examples of





stock epithets

Grunting is required.

    This sound of acceptance was used by the Anglo-Saxon warriors to show their approval for one’s boast.

Assessment Based on Objectives:

      Students’ boasts will be graded according to creativity and the use of the heroic characteristics and the use of literary elements found throughout Anglo-Saxon literature. Their oral presentations will also be evaluated on the level of creativity and theme of self-aggrandizement (this idea will be made very clear throughout the whole of the


Unferth’s Challenge

      ). Students will also be given an assessment of discussing the theme of the Anglo-Saxon literary time period and the socialization that the warriors participated in while at war or in the

mead hall

    (also needs to be defined). This assessment could be given in the form of a seminar or as a short mini-test.

Adaptations and Extensions:

      For students with learning disabilities, there is offered in the curriculum, an audio/visual presentation of an actor presenting an Anglo-Saxon boast. As long as the special needs student understands the idea of a hero (Superman, for example), he/she should be able to grasp the ideals of heroism. Discussion and identification of modern day heroes will enable the student with disabilities to understand the need for society to have someone to look up to.
      For the exceptional students, an outside reading assignment and written exercise comparing the Anglo-Saxon hero to the modern day hero can be assigned. Explain to students that the ideals of a hero span the distance of time as well as boarders. Have students investigate other heroes from other cultures around the world and compare the qualities and characteristics of these men and women. Have students come up with their idea of a global hero and creatively write a boast about this hero. This assignment will also fall under the category of

Possible Connections to other Subjects

    . Students may also be interested in looking at the Classical Hero on a Quest. The ideals found in Homer’s classics would make a great connection if time allows. At the end of the lesson, students should be able to identify and compare heroes across the literary board. The faces may change, but the characteristics and qualities remain forever the same.

E-Mail Carol Beth McBride !

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