Welcome to Ms. Ulrich’s class activity page for our unit study on Beowulf. As we begin our study of the epic hero and the Anglo-Saxon culture, the activities below will ask you to recall, analyze, and create a variety of materials to facilitate further understanding of the unit material and apply new skills and knowledge in a fun and innovative way. Please take a moment to review the activities and pay close attention in class for specific due dates!

Lesson 1: The Evolution of The English Language

The English language begins with the Anglo-Saxons.  The Romans, who had controlled England for centuries, had withdrawn their troops and most of their colonists by the early 400s.  Attacks from the Irish, the Picts from Scotland, the native Britons, and Anglo-Saxons from across the North Sea, plus the deteriorating situation in the rest of the Empire, made the retreat a strategic necessity.  As the Romans withdrew, the Britons re-established themselves in the western parts of England, and the Anglo-Saxons invaded and began to settle the eastern parts in the middle 400s.  The Britons are the ancestors of the modern day Welsh, as well as the people of Britanny across the English channel.  The Anglo-Saxons apparently displaced or absorbed the original Romanized Britons, and created the five kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, Kent, East Anglia, Essex, Sussex, and Wessex (see map below).  Notice that the last three are actually contractions of East Saxon, South Saxon, and West Saxon, and that the Welsh still refer to the English as Saxons (Saesneg).

The language we now call English is actually a blend of many languages. Even the original Anglo-Saxon was already a blend of the dialects of west Germanic tribes living along the North Sea coast:  The Saxons in Germany and eastern Holland, the Jutes, possibly from northern Denmark (the area now called Jutland), and the Angles, probably living along the coast and on islands between Denmark and Holland.  It is also likely that the invaders included Frisians from northern Holland and northern Franks from southern Holland (whose relatives gave their name to France).  The dialects were close enough for each to understand the other.

Later, in the 800s, the Northmen (Vikings) came to England, mostly from Denmark, and settled in with the Anglo-Saxons from Yorkshire to Norfolk, an area that became known as the Danelaw.  Others from Norway ruled over the people in the northwest, from Strathclyde to the north of Wales.  The Norse language they spoke resembled Anglo-Saxon in many ways, but was different enough for two things to happen:  One, there were many Old Norse words that entered into English, including even such basic ones as they and them;  And two, the complex conjugations and declensions began to wither away as people disagreed about which to use!

Last, William the Conqueror and his Norman supporters invaded England in 1066.  Although, as their name suggests, they were the descendents of the same Northmen that had invaded England earlier, they had been settled long enough in Normandy in the north of France to adopt a dialect of French.  They brought this Norman French with them to England and kept it as the language of their newly imposed aristocracy.  In the day-to-day need to communicate, the common language became English, but with a large number of French words, and still more withering of grammatical complexities.

English since then has been absorbing vocabulary from a huge number of sources.  French, the language of diplomacy for Europe for centuries, Latin, the language of the church, and Greek, the language of philosophy and science, contributed many words, especially the more "educated" ones.  Other European languages have left culturally specific words.  The American Indian languages, Australian Aborigine languages, and the languages of Africa and India gave us many hundreds of words, especially for the innumerable species of plants and animals of the world.  On top of all this, there is the steady creation of new words and new uses for old words by the many subcultures of the English speaking world.

Directions: After reading the above, please click on the following link and complete the activity: The Evolution of our Language

 

Lesson 2: The Anglo-Saxon Hero

The stories of Anglo-Saxon warriors were passed on through hundreds of years by Anglo-Saxon scops and scribes; through Oral Tradition and ancient Norse hieroglyphics. Prior to the conversion to Christianity, many Anglo-Saxon warriors believed in a variety of Pagan religions. With no belief in the afterlife, Oral Tradition was a strong defense against mortality. The great feats of Anglo-Saxon warriors were passed on for many generations through Oral Tradition. In order for an Anglo-Saxon warrior to gain fame and be remembered, they must possess a number of the following qualities:

To learn more about the culture of Anglo-Saxon Heroes, review the PowerPoint presentation below: Anglo-Saxon/Beowulf PowerPoint

Directions: After reviewing the PowerPoint, please click on the following link and complete the activity: The Anglo-Saxon Hero: Exclusively on Facebook! When your activity is complete, add the class sample page as your first friend. This can be found at the following link: Aefentid Ulrich.

 

Lesson 3: Making Predictions

Making predictions activates students' prior knowledge about the text and helps them make connections between new information and what they already know. By making predictions about the text before, during, and after reading, students use what they already know—as well as what they suppose might happen—to make connections to the text.

Snow (1998) has found that throughout the early grades, reading curricula should include explicit instruction on strategies used to comprehend text either read to the students or that students read themselves. These strategies include summarizing the main idea, predicting events or information to which the text is leading, drawing inferences, and monitoring for misunderstandings.

Directions: Making predictions is an important part of approaching any new fictional material. Log on to Beowulf: Making Predictions and complete the activity.

 

Lesson 4: Poem vs. Film

Grendel13th WarriorBeowulf 1999Although we will be reading the epic poem Beowulf in class, there will be outside reading assigned to complete the reading in a timely fashion. You may access the class reading here.

When reading is complete, you will be required to watch one of the following film adaptations. Review the links below and select your video rental:

  1. Beowulf (2007)
  2. The 13th Warrior (1999)
  3. Beowulf (1999)

Directions: When you have completed the reading and watched your selected film, please log onto the class wiki and complete the discussion questions.

 

References:

Activity 1: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/evolenglish.html

Activity 2:

  1. PowerPoint: http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/aSGuest6847-123940-anglo-saxon-enter-tags-anglosaxon-education-ppt-powerpoint/

Activity 3:

  1. Text: http://www.teachervision.fen.com/skill-builder/reading/48711.html
  2. Blog Images: http://www.enotes.com/beowulf/pictures