Grendel by John Gardner

 "And if the Babe is born a Boy / He's given to a Woman old, / Who nails him down upon a rock, / Catches his shrieks in cups of gold." William Blake, qtd in Grendel

Why Grendel? Last unit, I asked why Beowulf?  The answer is actually pretty close to being the same.  For one thing, they are both (Beowulf and Grendel) great pieces of Literature.  For another, it takes this story over a thousand years old - and John Gardner turns it into a contemporary novel (though keeping the setting the same) about a rebellious "teenager" that feels lost and out of place in the world.  I taught this book for 30 years - and there was never a time when a significant number of my students didn't identify with the titular character.

Docx   PDF On the back of the bookmarks are some instructions on how to take notes on a book - and some specific things to look for while reading the novel.

This lesson was late coming - maybe the last 7 years of my teaching career.  It is based on my practice of beginning novels in World Literature with a collection of poems that are thematically linked to the book we are about to read.  A great way to plants seeds and to go over some wonderful poems.

Is there anything as exciting as beginning a first novel with a new class?  I look forward to this every year and the lesson we do here sets the  pace for the rest of the book as well as the rest of the year.

Now that we've gone over the book - it's time for the students to get into their groups and try to put things together from new reading on their own (with the help of some very focused questions).

One of the most important classes of the year.  Gardner's idea of the "Shaper" is introduced & demonstrated - an idea we will come back to again and again this year.  Lots of movement, music, fun and deep thought.

The hardest group work of the year - students will first work by themselves trying to take notes and connecting different themed quotes - and then get together in a group to put it all together.  Definitely a "Big Picture" class.

After they go over Chapt 5 in groups - time for a discussion, along with Chapter 6 (most of the period) where they get to meet a hero that the Dragon told Grendel he was so important in creating.

After our big discussion on Day 5, on the Shaper - Heroes, and the point of Art - students will do a deep dive themselves into those ideas (and more) including Free Will in this Group Work.  There is also some notes for doing this as a discussion as well.

A Vertext (series of quotes) on the very complex - very beautiful Chapter 9.  The chapter is about the encounter between Ork (the high priest) and Grendel (the Destroyer).  Much from earlier in the book, especially Chapter 5 (the Dragon) comes back into play.

This lesson will show three different ways that I had the class discussion for Chapter 10: 1) Group Work  2) Dividing the Reading - Discussion     3) Ring-Master Teacher  Discussion

There is a choice here of doing this as a class (preferred) or as a Group Work.  It is our final discussion of our first novel - and there is a big twist that gets revealed - and we are all left in awe and wonder.

 A student essay response to Toni Morrison's "Grendel and his Mother".  A Chance for the students to write about the novel they've just finished.  There are 3 essay prompts - 2 of them based on Toni Morrison's incredible essay that explicates the value of reading beyond our time and our culture.


The students will now put everything we've done since the beginning of the year - and synthesise it with a film that echoes the story of Beowulf - and is one of the great American movies of all time; "High Noon".