Advice from a King

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Objective

SWBAT - write an argumentative analysis of Hrothgar's advice to Beowulf using textual evidence

Big Idea

A well-written thesis statement can enhance a paper, and textual evidence is essential to supporting a thesis statement.

Lesson Overview

This lesson will take approximately two-three 50 minute class periods depending on students’ experience with writing literary analysis.  Day one, we read the passage students planned to analyze and we put the passage in context.  Then, I gave students the assignment and instructions for writing a thesis statement.  Day two, students wrote introduction and body paragraphs, but without quotes.  Day three, students went back and added quotes and wrote conclusion.  Not all students worked at the same pace, and students who needed extra help were given extra time.

The next lesson will address the peer-editing and publication process. 

Reading to Analyze Step by Step

25 minutes

 We began this lesson by reading the lines directly after Beowulf’s defeat of Grendel’s mother (ll. 1683-1785). Usually we’ve read the whole fight with Grendel's mother, but we've fallen behind this year, so I summarize the fight with Grendel’s mother.  Those lines aren't essential for this writing project. We then read the lines (ll. 1724-1757) again and discuss Beowulf’s reception after he returns with Grendel’s head and the legendary sword.  We discuss Hrothgar’s further praise of Beowulf, and why he praises Beowulf more, after praising him already. The students usually respond that Hrothgar thinks of Beowulf as a son, he’s adopted him already, and that Beowulf has saved Hrothgar’s people, so Hrothgar feels indebted to Beowulf.   They mention that Hrothgar might be afraid of Beowulf, which I let them think.  We will cover loyalty and alliances when Beowulf returns to Geatland.

Hrothgar’s lines at this point of the poem foreshadow Beowulf’s kingship, but I don’t tell the kids this, instead I ask them if the king was a good king or not. They don’t think he is, because he was self-centered and stagnant. They think he’s short sighted not to think about his own death when so many people are dying around him, and when life expectancy was so short.  I then introduce the assignment.  I instruct the students to find a partner because and they are going to write an argumentative analysis answering the question: “Why does Hrothgar give Beowulf this advice at this time?” The students feel more comfortable writing their first paper of the year as partners, and it gives them a chance to discuss the topic, which leads to more sophisticated thesis statement and better textual evidence.

Adding Quotes for Support of Reasons

50 minutes

I start out the lesson by explaining how to incorporate quotes into a paragraph.

I explain that the topic sentence should be a reason sentence, giving more detail to your thesis, explaining why you think the way you do about the thesis.  Then, there is evidence from the text that relates directly to the reason, finally supporting sentences add credibility to the reason and help the reader understand the reason better.

I’m very busy during this class because students have lots of questions: specifically, does the quote we chose really support our reason, and does my support really support my reason. I go into Socratic mode here, because what students really want is validation, and they need confidence in themselves. “What are you trying to tell me?” “How did you come to that idea?” “Why did you pick this quote?”  The students quickly learn that I am not going to stop and read every word of their paper, but I will help them focus on specific parts.

The four students I helped the day before are going very slow.  One team has a paragraph of support, but the quotes are attributed wrong. I praise them for using quotes, and quickly help them attribute the quote correctly, and plan out the next paragraph before moving on.

Most of the students have quotes now, and will have a rough draft by the end of the period. As an incentive I agree to give them the following Monday as a half period if they can finish their peer review.  This spurs most of them to finish their rough drafts. I let the other students who need more time know that their drafts will not be considered late, but that they need to keep working the whole period.  They are fine with having the extra time. 

Organizing and Composing

50 minutes

The students walk in ready to work. As soon as they get started I move around the class room helping teams out. One team has a student who was absent the day before, so I help her get caught up in interpreting the passage. Another group is made up of four students who have struggled in school since they were freshmen.  I work with all four of them helping them get started by breaking down the first paragraph: 

                Sentence 1. Introduce the title of the poem and main character.

                Sentence 2. Summarize the story so far.

                Sentence 3. Put Hrothgar’s Advice into context: what’s going on when he give’s Beowulf advice

                Sentence 4.Thesis Statement – Answer the Question in one sentence

One team seems to respond to this outline really well, and writes an adequate introduction. The introduction warms them up, and they start writing the next paragraph.  The other team struggles to write an introduction, unsure how to even start the first sentence.  It’s tough for me to not write each sentence for them, so I ask them: What is this story about? What has Beowulf done up to this point. Then I leave them, walk around the room and check quickly on the other students who are working, and then come back to these students.  I check the students’ progress, it’s not perfect, but they have three sentences, one of which is the thesis.  The thesis is very broad so much so that it would be hard for the students to find one specific quote of support.

I write out the question on a separate piece of paper and then divide it into two parts:

                Why does Hrothgar give Beowulf advice?

                Why does Hrothgar choose this point to give advice?

The students recognize these kinds of questions from years of English packets, and immediately come up with short, specific responses.  They now have a thesis. With a thesis they feel much more motivated to look for support.

I walk around the room again to check progress. One team of three students appears to be finished. These are students who are usually very motivated, are talking about sports. I ask them how they are doing and they say they are done. A quick read of their paper, and I see that they have no thesis statement.   I redefine thesis for them, and explain that they have a good introduction, but there is no direct answer to the question, nor do the following pages have quotes to support their ideas.  With fifteen minutes to go, I move around checking different teams’ thesis statements. Most of them are workable, and have supporting paragraphs, and even conclusions, but few have quotes. 

Quotes, Quotes, Quotes!

50 minutes

I start out the lesson by explaining how to incorporate quotes into a paragraph.

I explain that the topic sentence should be a reason sentence, giving more detail to your thesis, explaining why you think the way you do about the thesis.  Then, there is evidence from the text that relates directly to the reason, finally supporting sentences add credibility to the reason and help the reader understand the reason better.

I’m very busy during this class because students have lots of questions: specifically, does the quote we chose really support our reason, and does my support really support my reason? I go into Socratic mode here, because what students really want is validation, and they need confidence in themselves. “What are you trying to tell me?” “How did you come to that idea?” “Why did you pick this quote?”  The students quickly learn that I am not going to stop and read every word of their paper, but I will help them focus on specific parts.

The four students I helped the day before are going very slow.  One team has a paragraph of support, but the quotes are attributed wrong. I praise them for using quotes, and quickly help them attribute the quote correctly, and plan out the next paragraph before moving on.

Most of the students have quotes now, and will have a rough draft by the end of the period. As an incentive I agree to give them the following Monday as a half period if they can finish their peer review.  This spurs most of them to finish their rough drafts. I let the other students who need more time know that their drafts will not be considered late, but that they need to keep working the whole period.  They are fine with having the extra time. 

Student Work

An example of student work, these students took a little longer than the main group of students.  I graded them on the rubric, but a little more lieniently because I understand that they needed extra time and help.

 

This example  demonstrates a much stronger analytical voice and strong textual evidence citations.