This activity involves the entire classroom, the class will be split up into a number of equally sized groups. Each person will be assigned a section of the novel. Please keep your section to yourself as telling other classmates will ruin the surprise later. Once you’ve received your section, you will work on your own to translate the text into something totally different. What I mean by that, is that your newly translated text should not contain any of the same words as the original text. Once you’ve created your translation, you will search the internet using only words from your translation for an image that represents the scene. You will need to explain how the image represents the original text but that doesn’t mean that the image needs to be obvious.
In class, each group will take turns presenting their projects. The Image will be presented first with no explanation. Each group will get a chance to guess what scene you have been assigned. To make things a little more fun, every correct guess gives the team a point. After each team has had a chance to guess, the translation will be shown followed by another round of guessing for a total possible 2 points per team per project. After you’ve presented, you will explain why you chose the image that you did with support from your translation.
Here’s an example of a translation and image done by me.
(The original text) “Hidden by fog, Grendel roved the moor, God-cursed, grudge worsening. He knew who he hunted: wine-drunk, mead-met men, and he pined for his prey. Under storm clouds, he stalked them, in his usual anguish, feeling a forbidden hearth, that gilded hall atop the hill, gleaming still, through years of bloodshed. This was not the first time he’d hunted in Hrothgar’s hall, but never before nor later had he such hard luck. No one worthy had historically lain in wait. The warrior worked his way toward the war, his head and heart hurting, and arrived at the iron-crossed door.”Headley 33
(My translation) “Undercover of night, the beast tread his barren land, damned, infuriated. Prepared for men in the worst of states, this foul beast drooled at the thought of the blood to come. Beneath terrible skies, following from a distance, violated, sworn to lost home, the greatest place born onto his mountain, shined on, though muddied by generations long war. The beast had come through and left the place with dead men in the past, however tonight’s sheep had a shepherd. Soul ablaze, he made unto that great threshold, anxious to begin.”Finney
Here’s a second example, this time formatted after dialogue.
(The original text) “I don’t know what you’ve heard about hand to hand, but my hands are better than good, man. I’m direr than any demon. I won’t slice Grendel with a sword, boys-too simple-I’d end him too quickly; it’d be unfair. He has no skill, only reptilian skin. His mind’s got no flair for strategy, though his strength is savant. Nope, I’ll go unarmed into this evening, and he’ll take it on the chin-if he’s got guts enough not to flee. May God referee this ring, and declare the winner whichever of us he wishes”Headley 32
(My translation) “I’ve got martial qualities better than any other man. Evil beings are but play things to me. Nay this beast shall not meet cold steel. For I can not find the entertainment in that quick spectacle? Besides, he’s nothing but a scaled lizard with no wit and no arms of his own to take up against me. I’ve heard of his great past brutalities but I do not fear him. In fact, I should fight him naked tonight. I only hope that he will stay and finish our brawl, rather than squirm away like the nuisance he is. No, tonight one of us will die. And only our mighty Father will choose the victor.”Finney
I want to teach high school. This is an assignment that I came up with to teach kids how to read. It’s kind of counter intuitive that you’d want to teach kids how to read at the high school level but the reality is that not every high schooler knows how to read. Reading is a combination of decoding and comprehension. Typically english classes focus on decoding, meaning that a student can look at a word and tell you what it says, but lack in comprehension studies. This assignment provides practice for both.
Decoding is important and in this assignment, the student will have to decode the section assigned to them. They have to take apart and keep track of the words on the page. I would assign this after completing a book with the class and so they would already have the background information needed to do so. However, for students who skimmed over the difficult words and didn’t read at all, this is going to be much more difficult for them and that’s kind of a good thing.
It’s relatively easy to tell when a student doesn’t know how to read. They’ll do anything to make it look like they are reading when told to do so but they won’t actually read. They run their eyes over the pages way too fast or way too many times per page and they wait for other people to answer questions before participating because they need the background knowledge first. But the one thing these kids won’t do, is admit that they can’t read very well.
Of course there are different levels to reading difficulty but if the student is struggling just to get through the words on the page, they aren’t actually reading, because they don’t want to and they aren’t getting anything out of it. Instead of giving the students more practice and hoping that will give them the skills to read, this assignment gives them practice with the skills that they may not realize they should be using regularly. They’ll have to actually comprehend the words to complete this.
I’ve also added the image and presentation game side to the assignment to keep it interesting for everyone, regardless of reading level. It also hides the grammar lesson pill inside of an interactive game that’s easier to swallow. That way no one feels insulted or targeted by a grammar based, how to read lesson, being taught to a high school classroom. The translation section also gives students a chance to write using wording and organization that they probably wouldn’t on their own, opening their minds to new voices. While the image gives them a chance to verbally explain their thinking and reflect on the assignment a little.
Originally I had set this up as a full on group assignment but I changed my mind about that. Group assignments can be important but work that was written by committee will only leave the members frustrated and with a worse final product. It also limits the involvement and learning that is required from each individual. Instead, I made this a team based game with individual work. That way, each student gets as much as they can from the assignment while still feeling like they have friends to share and enjoy the final product with.
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5 thoughts on “Beowulf Grammar Lesson (High School)”
This was a very cool take on the project! I really like the assignment idea, I think it’s interactive, utilizes different learning styles, and has students play with the text in their own ways. Learning to read is easy, but learning to *really* read takes a lot of practice. This lesson is a great tool to make reading accessible for students!
This is such a good idea for a project/ class activity! Its like the opposite of Pictionary which I really like! This activity/ class project could even last past a day or two if necessary in order for all the times to completely flesh out their ideas. I agree with what you say about group work, but I believe an awesome idea like this could work with individual students, or in a group. Really great work and very impressive!
I love this so much. I looked at the directions and was a bit confused at first but then realized what you meant after looking at the examples. I think this could be very challenging for some students but it would also help immensely in decoding as you said and for finding general synonyms of words. Personally, I might have a bit of trouble with this to be honest, but I think it is still worthwhile to do this kind of thing as an assignment. This is a really cool assignment. I like how you set it up as more of a game as well – I completely agree that this could encourage the students and perhaps hide the grammar aspects. Learning without feeling like learning.
wow I really enjoyed reading this. I love how you followed every step and the examples you gave. I think this would be great for high schoolers and it would be something different than what normal teachers do.