I begin by reviewing the material from the prior class--the main characters in Beowulf (Hrothgar: the king, Beowulf: Geat warrior and protagonist, Grendel: monster who attacks Herot for 12 winters, Grendel's Mother). We revisit the central conflict in the text: Absolute Good represented by Beowulf vs. Absolute Evil represented by Grendel (Whiteboard: Absolute Good vs. Absolute Evil). We discuss Beowulf's belief that God decides fate and Grendel's inability to know God's love because is he a descendent of Cain, who killed his brother Abel out of jealousy over God's favor. We also address why Grendel may attack only in winter. We discuss winter as a symbol of death since it is a time of cold, snow, and lack of vegetation. In addition, we talk about how since the Danes seek entertainment and merriment indoors during winter, Grendel is drawn to their mead hall, Herot.
In pairs, students answer review questions (Review Questions: Grendel, Beowulf, The Battle With Grendel) from their textbook Language of Literature (McDougal Littell, 2003) on Grendel, Beowulf, and The Battle With Grendel sections. I like for the students to collaborate so that they can discuss their answers to the questions and go back to the text to fill their comprehension gaps. In the discussion, students discuss Grendel's size, fierce nature, and his animal-like behavior in attacking humans when their merriment in Herot attracts him; how Beowulf exhibits courage by fighting Grendel without weapons; and Beowulf's sense of duty to Hrothgar's people to rid evil from their midst. Students also return to the text to substantiate their claims, citing line and page numbers in their discussion. Talking about their answers allows them to confirm their interpretations with one another and support their claims with evidence from the text.
Next, I ask students to pair with another pair, forming a group of four to (1) review answers to their comprehension questions, and (2) after choosing a recorder, to write down three questions or observations they have about the text so far. I have students form the group of four so that they can discuss any revisions to their answers and their interpretation of the text, revisiting their understanding and identifying any comprehension gaps. I find that students attempt to address their questions about the text as a group, and they talk with one another about the validity of their observations and question each other, "Where does the text specifically show you this about the character?" or "How did you come up with that observation?".
I collect student papers, and in an all-class setting, we address each observation and question by going back to the text for clarification and rereading when necessary. A sample of observations and questions by one group are as follows:
- Beowulf is a strong, loyal man.
- What leads Beowulf to only believe in fate?
- Will Grendel continue to attack humans? There are some questions students are able to answer from memory.
Then there are other questions and observations we need to revisit the text to find or figure out the answer, stated or implied. I model this process in a think-aloud, revealing my logic out loud, how I find or arrive at an answer. I allow students to volunteer to clarify interpretations about the text, using this same process. I offer feedback on their performance by confirming their explanation of the evidence to support their observations and answers to questions or engaging them in think-alouds by asking prompting questions as they return to the text to clarify with evidence. I believe that teaching critical reading strategies, such as monitoring and evaluating comprehension through instructional scaffolding (modeling, guided practice, independent practice, and feedback) is an effective way to help students acquire these strategies for college and career readiness.
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Important Places and People: Danes; Geats; Hrothgar; Herot; Grendel; Beowulf; Higlac; Wiglaf;
The Wrath of Grendel
1. What angered Grendel?
2. What do the scops (minstrels) in Herot sing about?
3. Who were Grendel’s parents?
4. What did Grendel find when he entered Herot? What did he do?
5. How did Hrothgar and his people react?
6. Who were the only survivors?
7. How long was Herot empty?
8. What object did Grendel never touch? Why?
9. How did the Danes sometimes try to solve their problems with Grendel? What advice does the author give about this?
The Coming of Beowulf
1. Who was Beowulf?
2. What does Beowulf do when he hears of Grendel’s attacks?
3. What did Beowulf and his men do when they landed safely?
4. Who met Beowulf and his men when they came ashore? What did he ask?
5. What were some of Beowulf’s accomplishments?
6. What does Beowulf request of Hrothgar?
7. How will Beowulf fight Grendel?
8. What does Beowulf request Hrothgar do if he (Beowulf) is defeated?
9. How does Beowulf say the battle will be decided?
The Battle with Grendel
1. What is different about Herot on this night when Grendel arrives?
2. What did Grendel find in the hall? What was his reaction?
3. Who was watching Grendel as he attacked the first warrior?
4. When Grendel grabbed Beowulf, what happened?
5. Why were the Geats’ swords useless against Grendel?
6. What did Beowulf do to Grendel’s arm? What did Grendel do then?
7. What did Beowulf do with Grendel’s arm?
The Monster’s Lair
1. Who tries to revenge Grendel’s death?
2. Where does Grendel’s mother live?
3. What will Hrothgar’s reward with if he defeats Grendel’s mother?
The Battle with Grendel’s Mother
1. What did Beowulf ask Hrothgar to do if he was defeated?
2. How long did it take Beowulf to find the bottom of the lake?
3. How long had Grendel’s mother ruled the lake?
4. Where did Grendel’s mother take Beowulf?
5. What does Beowulf soon realize about Grendel’s mother?
6. What protected Beowulf from Grendel’s mother’s dagger?
7. What did Beowulf find to help him in the battle?
8. What did Beowulf do to Grendel’s mother? To Grendel?
9. What did Beowulf take with him after the battle?
10. How many men did it take to carry Grendel’s head?
The Last Battle
1. How long does Beowulf rule Geatland?
2. What new monster threatens Geatland?
3. What happened to Beowulf’s shield? His sword?
4. What did Beowulf’s warriors do when Beowulf began to lose the battle? Who stayed?
5. As he was dying, what did Beowulf ask Wiglaf to bring him?
1. What had killed the dragon?
2. Who does Beowulf thank for his treasure?
3. What does he give Wiglaf?
4. What does Beowulf ask for?
1. How long did it take to build Beowulf’s tower?
2. What was left at Beowulf’s tomb?
Author: Allan Leider
Grendel’s Mother and Beowulf Reading Questions
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