Beowulf can be a challenging text for students simply because it seems so archaic. Students may simply fail to see the relevance, asking every teacher’s favorite question, “Why do we have to read this?”
This lesson attempts to bring Beowulf into the 21st century by connecting Beowulf’s traits to the modern superhero and modern super-villain. In the past decade or so, a seemingly endless number of superhero movies have hit the big screen, from The Avengers to Spiderman to The Incredible Hulk. Surely most of your students have seen one of these movies, and many students are probably fans of one of these superhero franchises.
This unit's approach to Beowulf is to label Beowulf as an Anglo-Saxon hero and the bad-guys (Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon) as villains. This might be over-simplifying the text a bit, but the goal is to give students a lens through which to perceive the poem. Ultimately, the discussion of heroes and villains in this unit will help students see the importance of understanding the cultural context of a work. This unit poses the essential question: what do hero stories show us about values of a society?
• Activity #1: Brainstorm: What is a hero?
• Activity #2: Gathering evidence in Beowulf using a dialectical journal
• Activity #3: Discussion of heroes/villains in Beowulf
• Activity #4: Modern movie viewing and analysis
• Activity #5: Culminating project (with several three options)