BEOWULF: Beowulf's Last Battle, The Death of Beowulf, Mourning Beowulf

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SWBAT demonstrate applied comprehension through writing and collaborative discussion.

Big Idea

"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles." -Christopher Reeve

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions. This lesson takes a 100-minute class period to complete. Through writing and collaborative discussion, students debrief on their interpretations of the text and evaluate the differences between the text and film clip interpretations of the last three sections of Beowulf.


10 minutes

In preparation for this lesson, students completed the activities in this section on their own during our last class.  During class time, students (1) answered text-dependent questions (Comprehension: Text-Dependent Questions) from The Language of Literature (McDougal Littell, 2003) and (2) wrote a two-page response explaining their opinions about the text and justifying those opinions with cited evidence from the text.  Teachers can use additional options for independent reading: 

  • Students read independently and complete the assignment at home: this provides time for students to process the text and conduct research online to help fill comprehension gaps; to avoid use of SparkNotes and plagiarism altogether,  I would advise requiring students to submit work through Turnitin is an effective tool for teaching students the value of original work through its plagiarism checker; it also provides resources for students and teachers to check grammar, usage, and mechanics through teacher and peer feedback features.
  • During class, students read independently, working with a partner to answer questions and write a common response: this provides an opportunity for students to discuss their interpretations; work together to clarify questions and observations; reach a consensus about their responses; and find evidence to substantiate them.
  • Students read independently at home or in class and share their text-dependent answers to questions and reader responses in small-groups, listing observations or questions about the text as a group and including matters the text leaves uncertain: this provides opportunities for students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate their interpretations while forming a consensus around them.


I provide time during the first 10 minutes of class for students to re-familiarize themselves with content for today's lesson through skimming the text; reviewing their answers to the text-dependent questions (Student Work: Text-Dependent Questions); and rereading their reader responses (Student Work: Reader Response to BEOWULF Ending) from last class.

At this point, instead of reviewing the text-dependent questions as a class and debriefing on responses in the small-group setting, I decide to take a risk and give students the choice to do our usual review OR to examine the film clips of Beowulf that depict the screenwriter's interpretation of the epic poem's end.

Students decide to go for the clips, sharing that they are eager to see the film's interpretation of the last three sections of the poem, and my lesson takes an interesting turn.

Two-Column Notes: The Clip

40 minutes


I decide to see how well students can distinguish between the different interpretations of the text. I engage them in two-column notetaking but give them the task in two parts. For the first section, I tell them to: Divide your papers in half lengthwise (like a hot dog).  Label the left side "TEXT"  and the right side "CLIP."  On the CLIP side, make a list of the events (Student Work: Notes on Clip) as they are happening in the clip.

As we watch the clip from "Beowulf" (Paramount, 2007; 1:08:37 to 1:45:38), students note the action, which is diametrically opposed to what happens in the text. Having them list the events as they happen allows them to focus on the events of the clip and not become confused by focusing on how they differ from the text just yet.  Their list provides content they can use when distinguishing the interpretations.



Two-Column Notes: The Text

30 minutes

Once the clip is over, I ask students to return to the three sections in their textbooks: Now, on the TEXT side of your paper, list five to seven events in chronological order for each section (Beowulf's Last Battle, Death of Beowulf, Mourning Beowulf) that (1) are significant to you and (2) provide a summary of the section.

I explain that I am allowing the students to choose the events because I want to see which events have most meaning to them. Furthermore, I notice that they are returning to the text for clarification as they create their summaries (Student Work: Two-Column Notes) about the last three sections of Beowulf.

Ticket Out: Compare and Evaluate

20 minutes

I ask students to read through and evaluate their two-column notes so that they may answer each ticket out question in a five-sentence paragraph: How are the text and the clip similar? How would you characterize the differences between the text and the clip?

This activity engages students in comparison and contrast of multiple interpretations as well as synthesis and evaluation of the similarities and differences (Student Work: Ticket Out).

Next class, we will sort out our interpretations and reflections on the text.