"Tis by earning honor a man must rise / In every state."

Why Beowulf?  Toni Morrison, in a wonderful essay - "Grendel and His Mother" answers that question much better than I ever could - However, I will simply say there are many reasons.  For the most part, in British Literature, we read things chronologically (with a modern twist thrown in).  Another reason - is that if you can convince students that this oldest of works in English (ok - Old English) still has something to say to them - than everything else we do this year can only be as or even more relevant.

Opening Lesson: Beowulf Begins (a text-based exercise)

Everything that I became as a teacher - can be traced back to the Folger Shakespeare Library.  This exercise - based on what I learned there - shows students how much they can understand and figure out on their own, by just closely examining the text.

If the Beowulf Circle (see above) was designed to give them tools and confidence - this lesson is designed to see exactly what they do with those things.

A lesson designed to help students make the connection between this ancient Anglo Saxon story and their own lives.  Things do not change as much as we think they do.  This group work and video helps students see how the Anglo-Saxon ideas of courage,  honor, and putting into deeds what you say you will do - still lives on.

To me it has always made inherent sense to alternate between Class Discussion and Group Work.  What they learn and articulate in small groups can be brought to the class as a whole - and in small groups, they are forced to be much more active then they are in at large class discussion.  Here we talk about Beowulf, Grendel, his mother - and the idea of earning your honor.

In this group work the students apply what they read to some very specific questions.  Beowulf is warned against pride - and when in need he is abandoned by all but his beloved Wiglaf.

The  first of a two-part class.  Students get into groups to begin planning a performance of the last part from Beowulf - using an original theme.

The  second of a two-part class.  Students watch Beowulf performed in Old English - first with - then shockingly without subtitles.