Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Update on Beowulf

Every so often, I receive emails in my inbox notifying me that my Beowulf lesson plans have been downloaded. (For the unfamiliar, my Beowulf lesson plans from my first three years of teaching are available here.) I am somewhat flattered that anyone would be interested in any of my work, and also surprised that there would be any use in those particular Beowulf plans. I wrote them during my first three years of teaching. They are hardly the work of a master teacher. Rather (as I stated in the podcast on the previous post, as well), they show growth of someone becoming more comfortable with his profession. The year three plans are the best of the bunch, but even they could use some updating.

Thankfully, I have not simply sat back and allowed lesson plan rot to set in. I have made changes to the plans every year I have been working. I am not going to include my materials for year four of Beowulf, but I do think it right to attach links to my Beowulf plans (and perhaps materials) from this year.

For those of you downloading (or coming here looking for material you can use), there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, we here at Dumont High School do not attempt to teach Beowulf in its entirety to college prep juniors. Rather, we have the students read each of the three fights and then fill in some of the background information for the rest of the story. This practice predates my arrival at the school, but it is certainly not without merit (I have continued it, after all). It allows the students to understand the heroic aspects of the text without becoming bogged down in cultural references that escape them. It also brings a much faster pace to the reading and teaching of the text.

The second point to bear in mind is that the lesson plan format has changed. No longer do we compile daily lesson plans. Our school received several visits from NJ QSAC this year, therefore prompting a new standardized unit plan format. The unit plan format allows for greater teacher freedom and flexibility, while still covering at least all of the material used in previous year's lesson plans. The plans are no longer cut into exact day-by-day chunks, but this allows me as a teacher to give the students more or less time (as necessary) to grapple with and ultimately grasp the lesson (or in this case, unit) objectives.

Finally, I have added the first and last chapters of John Gardner's novel Grendel to my teaching of Beowulf. It makes for an excellent counterpoint, and the students seem to respond well to its liveliness and the lessons in perspective it creates.

Without further ado, I present the updated Beowulf plans and materials. May I continue to receive emails reminding me about how often they are downloaded.

Beowulf Year Five Unit Plan
(this is a living document, so all changes made to the document will automatically be updated on the web)

Beowulf Year Five Materials are Below