Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Could You Repeat That?

Colleen Starr


Students gain an understanding of the Oral Language Tradition of Anglo Saxon Poetry and identify how existing lines were affected by this tradition.


The student selects and uses prereading strategies that are appropriate to the text (such as discussion, making predictions, brainstorming, generating questions, and previewing) to anticipate content, purpose, and organization of a reading selection.

The student selects and uses strategies to understand words and text, and to make and confirm inferences from what is read, including interpreting diagrams, graphs, and statistical illustrations.

The student determines the author's purpose and point of view and their effects on the text.

The student synthesizes information from multiple sources to draw conclusions.

The student drafts and revises writing that: is focused, purposeful, and reflects insight into the writing situation; has an organizational pattern that provides for a logical progression of ideas; has effective use of transitional devices that contribute to a sense of completeness; has support that is substantial, specific, relevant, and concrete; demonstrates a commitment to and involvement with the subject; uses creative writing strategies as appropriate to the purpose of the paper; demonstrates a mature command of language with precision of expression; has varied sentence structure; and has few, if any, convention errors in mechanics, usage, punctuation, and spelling.

The student selects and uses appropriate listening strategies according to the intended purpose (such as solving problems, interpreting and evaluating the techniques and intent of a presentation, and taking action in career-related situations).

The student applies an understanding that language and literature are primary means by which culture is transmitted.

The student understands the different stylistic, thematic, and technical qualities present in the literature of different cultures and historical periods.

The student understands the relationships between and among elements of literature, including characters, plot, setting, tone, point of view, and theme.


-BEOWULF excerpts as printed in McDougal-Littell textbook, THE LANGUAGE OF LITERATURE
-FCAT writing rubric
-Oral Language Simulation Activity based on folk tale of unknown origin. Any story will do, but I find this tale has high student interest.
-Essay question as assessment


1. Familiarize yourself with the Oral Language simulation.
2. Be prepared to carry through simulation smoothly.
3. Understand characteristics of Anglo-Saxon poetry.
4. Read BEOWULF and examine for incongruities.
5. Be prepared to lead class in discussion of study aids. Relate to personal experience.
6. Familiarize yourself with FCAT scoring rubric.
7. Collect essays and grade promptly according to announced rubric.
8. Return graded essays and encourage students to evaluate personal writing progress.


INTRODUCTION-Oral Language Simulation, one class period of 63 minutes for introduction and assignment of reading to be completed at home.
1.To show how easily language was embellished during the Anglo-Saxon era in England, use this simulation. Explain that the story students are about to read, BEOWULF, is in large part the equivalent of a modern-day fish story. Explain further that Anglo-Saxon England was quite a melting pot in an era before written communication was established as a common means of communicating. Most people, except clergymen trained by the Catholic church, could not read nor could they write. Therefore, cultural traditions as well as historical information had to be passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. Explain to students that this method of communication opened the door for many embellishments if not outright changes in the passage of cultural basics.

2.Ask for three volunteers to step outside.
3.Say to the rest of the class-We are going to conduct a research experiment. You are observers only. You may not prompt in any way; you may only observe.
4.Call in first volunteer. Say to volunteer-I am going to tell you a story, and I want you to listen very carefully so you can pass the story on later.
5.Tell this story.
Once upon a time, there was a little baby bird on the side of the road in Russia. The weather was so cold that the baby was freezing to death. Along came a peasant who, seeing the baby bird, felt tremendous sympathy. He wished there were something he could do to help warm the bird, but alas, he had only a few pitiful rags with which to keep himself warm.
Looking across the road, the peasant saw a fresh, hot, steaming pile of cow dung. He scooped up the cow dung and carefully covered up the baby bird hoping the cow dung would generate enough heat to warm the bird and help it survive. The peasant then went on his way feeling as if he had saved the life of the baby bird.
In just a little while, the baby began to feel warmer, and he felt he might like to sing a bit. But in his weakened condition, all he could do was make a few pitiful little chirps.
About this same time, another peasant came walking along the road. He heard a terrible sound and looked around to find the baby bird covered in cow dung. He said to himself, THAT BABY BIRD IS SUFFOCATING. So he picked up the baby bird, brushed him off, and set him back down on the side of the road.
In a very short time the baby bird froze to death.
The moral of the story is this-
It is not always your enemy who puts you in a mess.
It is not always your friend who gets you out of a mess.
But if you are in it up to your neck, for goodness sake, do not sing.
6. Go immediately to the door and call in the second volunteer without answering any questions from the first volunteer. Say these words I want you to listen very carefully as the first volunteer tells you a story because your responsibility will be to pass it along after he is gone.
7.Have the first student then repeat the story. Of course there will be variations if not outright changes in the plot.
8.After the story is told, tell volunteer number one he may sit down as you bring in volunteer number three.
9.Repeat instructions given to volunteer number two.
10.When the story has been retold, allow volunteer number two to sit down and ask number three to tell the story to the class. By this time, things should be out of control to some degree. Observers will be able to clearly see how variations occur in language transmission. Each teller adds his own personality, embellishes, leaves detail out, etc.
11.Now retell the original story to the entire class so that the three volunteers may also see the variations.
12.Emphasize that the oral tradition in literature means that all history and legends are suspect. The stories grow and change with each telling. This accounts for the great incongruities evident in BEOWULF.

1.Ask students to read the excerpts from BEOWULF in their texts, watching for possible incongruities of all kinds. Warn them that they must infer from their reading of BEOWULF what is believable and what is not. They should also see that the story is not seamless. The current story that we have was written down by at least one monk sometime around the 7th century. He/They clearly put in their own personalities and religious beliefs, thereby changing the focus of the story entirely.

2.Explain that one of the most dominant incongruities found is a result of the influence of the Christian religion into an ancient pagan culture. Tell students they will find evidence of Christian elements and pagan elements side by side in the story line. Students must infer what segments are from the original pagan culture and what segments are from the addition of Christian monks who actually recorded this legend. The story itself dates back at least 300-400 years prior to recording. Explain that Beowulf is a man who becomes a larger-than-life hero, saving the nation from brutal attack by several horrible monsters. Ask students to also watch for the way Beowulf is regarded as a hero by his nation as well as by other nations. Students should read the selection at home before the next class.

DISCUSSION time may vary widely depending on the direction your discussion takes and the level of involvement of your students.
1.In the course of this discussion, several major points should be addressed. I suggest using any of a wide variety of teaching guides for key points regarding the use of a hero in epic literature and the role of culture in the development of a story. Students may even want to address everything from the impossibility of a man pulling the arm from a monster capable of squeezing 30 soldiers in his bare hand, to how a society treats its fallen heroes. I suggest pursuing as many literary devices as you wish. Decide on a focus and lead discussion in that direction. For my purposes, I have had great success in dealing with all of these concepts under the bigger concept of cultural influence. My focus will be on the language first and then other thematic approaches as interest dictates. For this lesson, the focus is strictly the transmission of language. All other lessons would follow once this basic foundation has been established.
2.Address devices used to aid in memorization of history and traditional legends. At the very least, discuss the characteristics of Anglo-Saxon poetry. Introduce the following literary terms and show their relationship to lines of BEOWULF.

Caesura a mid-line pause in Anglo-Saxon poetry lines

Alliteration repetition of initial consonant sounds

Strong rhythm

No intentional rhyme scheme

Support materials in the textbook are quite good as aids in explanation if you desire to use them for additional information.

3. Have students find examples of each of these literary devices and discuss their use as memorization aids. Encourage students to draw parallels with their own study habits. What memorization aids do you use? What shortcuts do you take to increase your skills? Can you see how difficult studying would be if memory were your only source of information in the absence of the written word?
4. At this point, I would ask students to turn to the student beside them and discuss for a maximum of two minutes the memory aids each uses and their effectiveness.
5. At the end of this time, survey the class as a whole to see what methods of study are most commonly used and which are the most effective. Results can be written on the board for the sake of comparison. Be sure to discuss whether any of your students use the some of the same methods used by the Anglo-Saxon people.
6. Ask students if anyone has learned about the success of any study aids that he or she plans to try in the near future. This step clenches the leap from academic to everyday life. You may be surprised at the results your students give you.

ASSESSMENT next class period of 63 minutes
1. Though formative assessment has gone on at each step through discussion and observation, summative assessment will take place today.
2. Write this question on the board.
How did the Oral Tradition of literature affect the lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry still in existence? What basic elements are found side by side?
Be sure to cite specific details as support.
3. Ask students to take out a piece of paper to answer the essay question on the board. Encourage students to think through the planning stages of their answers before they actually begin the first paragraph. Remind them to follow basic writing guidelines as instructed on the FCAT. Tell them that scoring will be done according to the state guidelines set forth in the FCAT Rubric listed below.
4. Rubric
Score Point 10
*addresses the topic
*some organization pattern is evident
*support may be a list or generalization
*word choice is limited or inappropriate
*frequent errors in conventions

Score Point 20
*addresses the topic
*attempts an organizational pattern
*support is nonspecific, repeated, erratic
*word choice is vague, limited, predictable
*may have errors in basic conventions
*common words are spelled correctly

Score Point 30
*generally focused
*organizational pattern is demonstrated
*may have uneven support
*word choice is adequate
*some variation in sentence structure
*conventions are generally followed

Score Point 40
*support is consistent, but lacks specificity
*word choice is adequate
*some variation in sentence structure
*conventions are generally followed

Score Point 50
*support is ample use of specific details
*mature command of language
*varied sentence structure
*conventions are generally followed

Score Point 60
*focused, purposeful, insightful
*support is substantial
*mature command of language
*precise word choice, freshness of expression
*varied sentence structure
*few errors in conventions

5. Papers will be due at the end of the period. This daily writing assignment is worth a total of 60 points. Be sure you grade papers and return promptly to students.

To answer the question, students must understand that not being able to record their own legends completely changed the way the world looks at the Anglo-Saxon culture. That's is what they are being given a chance to demonstrate--the understanding of how a non-written language impacted history.

In addition, inferences lead to an understanding of the author's intent. History records the author of the tale as Anonymous. The Christian monks who had a hand in the writing down of the tale were trying to use the tale to spread Christian influence as much as they were trying to record a people's history - hence the obvious changes. Ex-Beowulf prays to the gods of war, etc., for strength and then later prays to the Christian god for mercy on the souls of those who die. Also the story deals with monsters, gods, and the soul's destiny, etc. The essay question assesses how much of this pattern the students understand.

In a typical piece of literature, plot, characters, theme, tone, et al, all work together to create a central focus or effect. In this tale, the elements don't really fit together, so it is almost spooflike in some ways. The monster can scoop up 30 soldiers in one fist and squeeze them to death out of jealousy, yet Beowulf is able to kill him in hand to hand combat by pulling out the monster's arm. Then the arm is hung over the rafter in the Mead Hall back in town. The pieces of the puzzle don't fit together well--all as a result of having to pass stories along by mouth rather than in writing. The lack of a written language really dramatically impacted the history and the literature that later evolved from that language. All of it is suspect as a result.

Normally our society will not tolerate a story that does not fit together. This activity and the subsequent assessment piece encourage students to see where we have come from. Evaluation of their understanding comes from the thesis statement for the essay and the development of the supporting details.


Formative Assessment-continual as listed in Procedures
Summative Assessment essay question answer graded by FCAT rubric listed in procedures


This lesson builds on school-wide efforts to increase FCAT writing skills. It combines literary and historical knowledge with practical writing and study skills. Excellent for transferring academics to a real world application. Students absolutely love the simulation. It is usually something students talk about all year.
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