Grendel Day 9 - Chapters 11 & 12 - A Final Discussion (and GW)

 "'Poor Grendel's had an accident,' I whisper. 'So may you all.'."

Grendel Day 9 - A Final Discussion - Chapters 11 & 12 :  For the longest time - I did this as a group work - with good reason.  There was something very exciting about having the students make the GIANT discoveries found in the end - in a small group.  Seeing the mouths drop open as they discover the truth - about Grendel - about John Gardner - about this book.  But - it is the final discussion, and I do think there are a myriad of reasons to do that as a "whole class".  Students will still discover and make critical thinking leaps - but it will be together, as one - a fitting way to end this novel about solitude.

Lesson Overview 

For most of the years that I taught this lesson (our final discussion on the novel) was done as Group Work.  For more on Group Work go here and for different class discussion methods, go to this page.  I will include that Group Work (the most recent version) below in case you want to do it that way.

However, I want to start with the Class Discussion method using a Vertext (for more on that method go here).   There is so much to cover in one period (and, no, I really don't you want to draw it out beyond one) - that a Vertext really helps the teacher make sure it all gets covered at the same time ensuring that the students get to make the big connections and discoveries themselves.

See below for more detailed directions - or previous Group Work or Vertext lessons.

Lesson Method #1  - A Vertext of Chapts 11 & 12

I say Chapter 10 - but really this Vertext begins at the end of Chapter 10.  "Scent of the Dragon" - this will be so important for what happens at the end of the book.  Grendel smells the Dragon whenever he finds himself in the position of fulfilling what the Dragon told him would happen - and the role that the dragon told him that he should play in Chapter 5.  

The Vertext then brings in quotes to take the class through Chapter 11 - Grendel watching Beowulf (who is never named) arrive and what happens in the court.  So many beautiful connections ("They were like trees" - referenced earlier in the book - Hrothgar's dream).  And the students love this chapter because so much of what they read during our unit on Beowulf  is now being directly scene through Grendel's eyes - rather than that of the Anglo-Saxons.

In Chapter 12 - they see the actual fight between The Stranger (Beowulf) and Grendel - and again, much of what we read and talked about now takes place through Grendel's point of view - and the students (most of them) find themselves feeling sympathetic towards the monster.

When we get to Grendel's death ("Poor Grendel's had an accident..."), we read aloud a portion of a handout that they've been given on the life of the author, John Gardner: "One warm April morning".

And then we learn the shocking truth: John Gardner killed his 4 year old brother, accidentally, when Gardener was 12 (the number of chapters)Using that information we ask - ok, let's postulate - which character is John Gardner from this book?  Grendel - why? Because Grendel believes there is no "cause and effect" in the world - it is all an accident.  How could you believe otherwise given what happened to him when he was still a child.

And then I ask the students - how do you feel about not knowing that until now?  Most of them are glad - how could you possibly read this book the same way - know that?  You'd miss the story.  It's a different book.  This idea of not caring (much) about the context or history of a text, will be major focal point of my class for the rest of the year.  

We then go over some lines from the poems we read before the beginning of Grendel that now, suddenly, have a different meaning - knowing what we know (about Gardner - but most importantly about the book itself).  We also revisit the mind stretching solo/group work from Chapter 5.  The Dragon's words and warnings also have a new and satisfying import.

We end the lesson with the picture of the road that John Gardner met his untimely demise on his motorcycle - the victim of an accident.  Any final thoughts belong to the students.

Lesson Method #2 - Group Work

Most Recent Group Work for Chapter 11 & 12 Denouement or Not...

Group Work Chapts 11-12 Denouement or not Docx   PDF   PLEASE NOTE THIS GROUP WORK INCLUDES THAT HANDOUT on the life of John Gardner - that can also be found below.  See above for much of what is covered in this group work - and of course the Group Work questions and directions.  One very important thing to note is you will want all of the students to begin Question #3 (the one about John Gardner) at the same time.  I always keep my eye on the class - but also announce that the first group to get to that question needs to let me know.

There is a short portion of this Group Work that is homework - I want to see their personal (as opposed to the group) reactions to knowing the tragic story of John Gardner and his brother.

When they do - tell the other groups to stop what they are doing - whereever they are in the work - and go to question 3.  They will send someone up to get copies of the handout from the teacher.  And then you will give them time to read.  As I said in the directions on doing this as a lesson - you will see a lot of shock - a lot of mouths open in disbelief.  You want them all to discover this (John Gardner accidentally killing his brother at a very young age) at the same time.   See the Group Work for more directions and my page on Group Work for more general information.


Handouts & Quizzes 

Most Recent Handout:

Living with Monsters - a biographical handout on John GardnerDocx  PDF  

This handout is key for both the class discussion and the Group Work (if you decide to go that way).  It is included in the Group Work so you only need this if you are going the Vertext - Class Discussion method.

Most Recent Quizzes  (note there are a variety here)

Reading Quiz Chapters 11-12  Docx  PDF  

Reading Quiz  Chapter 11  Docx  PDF

Reading Quiz  Chapter 12  Docx  PDF

Audio Visual Content

Remote Enhancements 


Handouts referenced

It is really helpful to have a class set of these two handouts in case the students didn't bring them with them.  They are both referenced in the Vertext or in the Group Work (see above)

Poems before Grendel     Docx   PDF

The Dragon - Ch 5 Solo Work     Docx   PDF

Class Recordings (for registered members)




Grendel Day 10  - Grendel and Ourselves - 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.


  Grendel Day 8 - Chapter 10 - 3 ways to discuss

Thoughts on the Lesson 

I do love that I changed this from Group Work to a discussion for a number of reasons - perhaps the biggest is the most selfish.  I love talking to them - hearing their comments, questions, answers ideas that tie this book together.