BEOWULF: The Battle With Grendel's Mother

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SWBAT demonstrate applied comprehension through reader response, summaries, and collaborative discussion in Beowulf.

Big Idea

Life is a struggle and requires courage.

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions every other day.  Activities in this lesson take about 80 minutes to complete.  

In the lesson outlined below, students review "Grendel's Mother" then explore "The Battle With Grendel's Mother" through writing and collaborative discussion.


15 minutes

We review the action in "Grendel's Mother" by creating a class timeline of the action for each part:

Part One

  1. Grendel's Mother reaches Herot.
  2. The soldiers try to fight back.
  3. She kills Hrothgar's best friend and carries off Grendel's claw. 

 Part II

  1. Hrothgar describes the lair of Grendel and his mother.
  2. Hrothgar appeals to Beowulf for help and asks him to kill Grendel's Mother.
  3. Hrothgar offers Beowulf treasure.

Since I did not feel successful in my initial approach to teaching the section last class (I focused on the section as a whole at first rather than each part), I decide to refocus the students on the order of events in each part so that they could revisit their understanding and fill any comprehension gaps that remained.  Students state that reviewing the text in two parts helped them to understand it better by separating out Grendel's Mother's attack and Hrothgar's reaction to it.  

After this, I return to the beginning of "Grendel's Mother" to double-check students' understanding with four review questions (Discussion Questions: Review of "Grendel's Mother") that take them back to the text for evidence: "Why do you think Grendel's Mother takes Hrothgar's best friend? What has been taken from her? What sort of place is the underwater lair of Grendel's Mother? What does the imagery used to describe their lair make you think of?". This allows students to ensure their comprehension prior to exploring the next section.  They must understand why it is important for Beowulf to accept Hrothgar's offer to kill Grendel's Mother.


"The Battle With Grendel's Mother"

40 minutes

I ask students to preview "The Battle With Grendel's Mother" in their textbook by reading beige text preview notes about the plot, vocabulary, questions, and footnotes in the right margins and vocabulary in the beige boxes in their textbook The Language of Literature (McDougal Littell, 2003). Previewing the text in this way provides the opportunity for students to frontload the text prior to reading.  In addition, I talk to students about reviewing comprehension questions at the end of the section to preview key concepts in the text:

  • What heroic action does Beowulf perform in this part of the poem? 
  • Do you think you would have enjoyed living among the Danes in Beowulf's day? Why or why not? 
  • What qualities does Beowulf display in this second battle? 
  • Are Beowulf's words and deeds those of a traditional epic hero? Support your opinion with evidence from the text to support your answer.  
  • Does the behavior of Grendel's mother seem as wicked or unreasonable as Grendel's behavior? Explain your answer.

I explain that this allows their brains to pinpoint key concepts while reading. Next class I will use these questions to guide our review for comprehension purposes.

Before I begin reading the section aloud, I show students "The Battle With Grendel's Mother" in my teacher's edition, pointing out that over the last three years I have highlighted key sections, written notes and questions, and numbered the events in sequential order to help me understand the text. I point out that this section is complex because of the intricate details the author provides about his battle with Grendel's Mother.  Because of the lengthy battled described in the text, I tell students that I will read the entire section aloud, and then we will write individual reader responses to examine their interpretations in light of support from the text.  

After reading, I ask students to complete a quickwrite in response to the text: Take about 10 minutes to write your opinion of this section and why.  Provide at least three examples from the text to support your answer.  Please note page/line numbers for examples in parentheses at the end of your sentence (parenthetical citation) if you do not reference them in the sentence for your example. Highlight your parenthetical references/page & line numbers.

Next, they share their responses (Student Work: Quickwrite on The Battle With Grendel's Mother) in groups of three to discuss through their interpretations.  This helps them to identify possible gaps in their comprehension that will be addressed in a collaborative ticket out, where they write a summary of what they read.

Ticket Out

20 minutes

Students remain in their groups, and after choosing a recorder revisit "The Battle With Grendel's Mother" and write at least a 10 bullet summary on the text. Students choose the 10 chronological events they deem most significant in this section. In the Note-taking lesson I taught earlier this school year, students learned that a summary provides the main points of a selection. 

Students attach their quickwrite responses on "The Battle With Grendel's Mother" to their group summary. Next class, we will reexamine their summaries (Student Work: Ticket Out for The Battle With Grendel's Mother) and quickwrite responses for accuracy and insight, respectively, and discuss the evolution of (1) plot, (2) characterization, and (3) theme.