Reflection: Conferences An Introduction to Viking Culture - Section 2: An Introduction to Viking Culture 1000 A.D.

 

Montana has a unique amendment in its constitution that states: 

“The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of American
Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their
cultural integrity.”

 

Practically this means that K-12 educators in all disciplines must include Native American culture in their curriculum.  I've chosen many ways to do this, from directly teaching Native American literature like Two Old Women, Code Talkers, Fools Crow, Reservation Blues and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. These are wonderful texts that students relate to and enjoy reading.  However, I like the idea of texts that “speak” to each other, and Beowulf and certain Native American stories seem to do just that.

I started developing this lesson when, in my first year of teaching, one of my students went down to the Native American Studies teacher, an Assiniboine tribal member, and pulled him into my classroom to tell a story “just as good as Beowulf and from our own people”. I stood there starry eyed as Roger told the story of Jumping Bull, Sitting Bull’s adopted son.  This story is not written down anywhere (that I’ve found) and in subsequent years I’ve found placeholders for that original epic tale of heroism.

The lesson I learned from Roger and my student was that every culture has it’s heroic traditions and stories, and quite often we can learn something valuable and unique by paying attention to these stories. I hope my unit on Beowulf confirms this, and I hope other teachers, Montana and elsewhere can see the richness that comes from adding a different perspective to a seminal work of literature.

Montana’s Essential Understandings for Montana Indians might be unique among the 50 states, but there is an awareness there that is important for all educators to remember as they teach in their classrooms. We are teaching more than sentence structure and geometric proofs, battle dates and photosynthesis; everything we teach comes through the lens of culture, and all too often, the dominant culture is privileged. By allowing texts to speak to one another students will often discover “something rich and strange” within their own cultural experience.

  Conferences: Beowulf and Montana's Essential Understandings
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An Introduction to Viking Culture

Unit 5: Beowulf
Lesson 1 of 12

Objective: SWBAT connect culture with text to better understand audience and purpose.

Big Idea: How does audience determine purpose in a text?

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Subject(s):
English / Language Arts, epic poem, Vikings, Beowulf, purpose, audience
  50 minutes
viking ship
 
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