No Series: Exploring Imagery Through Beowulf


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RL:  Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • 7:  7th Grade
  • 2: 
    Determine a theme or central idea of a text and
    analyze its development over the course of the
    text; provide an objective summary of the text.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RL:  Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • 7:  7th Grade
  • 3: 
    Analyze how particular elements of a story or
    drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the
    characters or plot).

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • W:  Writing Standards 6-12
  • 7:  7th Grade
  • 3a: 
    Write narratives to develop real or imagined
    experiences or events using effective technique,
    relevant descriptive details, and well-structured
    event sequences.

    a. Engage and orient the reader by establishing
    a context and point of view and introducing a
    narrator and/or characters; organize an event
    sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

    b. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue,
    pacing, and description, to develop
    experiences, events, and/or characters.

    c. Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and
    clauses to convey sequence and signal shifts
    from one time frame or setting to another.

    d. Use precise words and phrases, relevant
    descriptive details, and sensory language to
    capture the action and convey experiences
    and events.

    e. Provide a conclusion that follows from and
    reflects on the narrated experiences or events.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Exploring Imagery Through Beowulf

Lesson Objective: Use descriptive details and sensory language
Grades 6-8 / ELA / Writing
ELA.RL.7.2 | ELA.RL.7.3 | ELA.W.7.3a


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does Ms. Novak prepare students for working with the text?
  2. What can you learn from Ms. Novak about using Common Core language with students?
  3. Ms. Novak says, "You can make anything accessible." How does she make this lesson accessible to all students?


Private message to Darryl Becnel
Great lesson. Of all the Teaching Channel videos I've watched, I think this one is my favorite. It was an excellent example of using effective and creative methods to teach what is sometimes considered a difficult subject.
Recommended (0)
Private message to Lisa Curatola
I LOVE this lesson! Thank you so much for sharing!
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Private message to Robert Leabo
Ah"Beowulf", we studied it in college. It was an interesting story, but it was presented very dryly by our professor. She was a nice lady, but all the info was way OVER our heads. I like how you actually break it down, make it relevant and connect it to the students' knowledge and lives. It's also refreshing to see passion and enthusiasm from you because as we all know, sometimes the really difficult material can be trying and tiring to teach especially when students struggle and many shut down. Kudos! :)
Recommended (0)
Private message to Michelle Majerus
This is fabulous! I wish I would have checked here last week as I just finished teaching Beowulf to my 7th graders. I am adding your ideas in for next year. Thank you!
Recommended (1)
Private message to Katie Novak
Feel free to email me and I'll send you whatever you need. (:
Recommended (1)


    ELA-Literacy: Exploring Imagery Through Beowulf

    Katie Novak VO/OC Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Shay Novak, which is going

    ELA-Literacy: Exploring Imagery Through Beowulf

    Katie Novak VO/OC Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Shay Novak, which is going to be my very fine restaurant, so you'll see me next on Top Chef.

    Katie Novak VO/OC I am Katie Novak. I am a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher in Chelmsford, Mass. I work at Parker Middle School. What I want to do today is get in the wonderful world of Beowulf and try to get...

    Katie Novak 7th Grade Parker Middle School, Chelmsford, MA

    ...them to go through Beowulf and try to pick up how the setting has affected the plot. But also I want them to work on writing a narrative that has descriptive detail.

    Katie Novak OC What are we thinking over here? What are we hungry for?

    Katie Novak VO/OC I'm going to start with a little restaurant skit where I'm going to project a menu that I have created where there's a pasta dish and a meat dish and a seafood dish. One really important part for me is this idea of how do you engage kids? And to engage kids, you have to connect to them. They all love food. I mean, they're 12. They love food. You know, they know what a menu is so I can kind of engage them that even menus use descriptive detail. And I write exactly like they write. The pasta was like heaven. It was so amazing on the plate. You know the meat falls off the bone. This is what they think is sensory imagery. And it's very pretty writing. But it's really, they're not telling us anything.

    Katie Novak VO Who got my meat dish? What were you seeing in your head, Mia?

    Mia VO Like chicken.

    Katie Novak VO Oh, chicken. Matt.

    Matt VO I was seeing like ribs.

    Katie Novak VO Rib? Uh-oh. What were you seeing?

    Male Student #1 VO Ribs that fall off the bone.

    Katie Novak VO/OC Ribs that fall off the bone. Wait for it. You're getting pig knuckles.

    Male Child #2 VO Ugh.

    Group OC Oh

    Female Student #1 VO Yum.

    Katie Novak OC What? I said it was meat that falls off the bone. I'm really insulted.

    Katie Novak VO/OC It's just kind of a way to get into their heads to say, "Language that is not descriptive is lame and confusing." And we see this on the most basic level of going to a restaurant.

    Katie Novak OC Is this what any of you thought you were going to order?

    Group VO No.

    Katie Novak OC No. Okay, so descriptive detail, huh. One of the standards that we're really working on here, Common Core Number Three, is that you use relevant descriptive details. Okay? An effective description presents a clear picture or image to your reader.

    Katie Novak VO/OC I think the challenging thing about the Common Core, especially for seventh grades, is trying to get 12 year olds to think about theme and illusion and like little small connections like you know how setting relates to plot is very abstract.

    Katie Novak OC So now we're going to do an activity. Each table is going to get a bag. And in the bag is a mystery item.

    Katie Novak VO/OC Then I move into an activity where I'm going to provide them with some random object in a bag, and they have to look in it and try to describe it with enough sensory images that someone else could draw it.

    Katie Novak OC Now you're going to have some people that might say...

    Common Core: Write Narratives With Descriptive Details

    ..."What's a chalice?" Simplify it even more.

    Male Student With Brown Hair OC A wine glass.

    Katie Novak OC Okay. So it looks like the top of a wine glass. That's a perfect way to describe it.

    Katie Novak VO/OC The big part of the Common Core also is to have discussions and to listen to what somebody says and change your own mind and ask relevant questions and to deepen your own understanding of things. And so I want them to really work together so they have something the group is proud of.

    Katie Novak OC So look at it again and think about how can you describe this so a reader, every single person in this room, gets the same picture in their head. Got it?

    Katie Novak OC I really want to focus on visualization. When an author does a great job with descriptive detail, the reader can see something in their head. It's like a movie playing in their head.

    Katie Novak OC Let's start with the back group over there. Caitlyn.

    Caitlyn OC Okay. It's a male that can be a form of a barbecue chicken wing.

    Male Student #3 VO A what?

    Katie Novak OC A male.

    Caitlyn VO/OC It can be fried, sautéed, baked. It makes popping noises .

    Katie Novak OC So is everyone kind of starting to picture what's in the bag?

    Group VO Yeah.

    Katie Novak OC/VO And again, there was a lot of words they couldn't say because part of the Common Core, what they really want you to do is say things in the unique, original way. Okay, can we unveil the item?

    Caitlyn OC Here it is.

    Katie Novak OC Let's bring it up. Bring it up.

    Male Student #4 VO Oh.

    Katie Novak OC Oh. Let's see. Look, it's pretty close. Considering they couldn't use like chicken or yellow or orange. Very, very nice. Round of applause for Lallie. Okay.

    Katie Novak VO/OC After I have the students visualize this random object in a bag, I want them to move onto visualizing Grendel in the play Beowulf.

    Katie Novak VO We'll go through and listen to it being read professionally. Then we're going to break it down into four parts and we're going to work on paraphrasing it or providing an objective...

    Common Core: Provide An Objective Summary Of The Text

    ...summary of it. And we're also going to focus on how elements of the story or drama interact. In specifics here..

    Common Core: Analyze How Elements Of A Story Interact does this setting shape the characters or the plot?

    Katie Novak VO/OC They don't really understand it in the language without some scaffolding and breaking it down. And so I try to model that when you read something difficult, you do break it down.

    Katie Novak OC When Beowulf says, "Hail, Hrothgar." He's greeting him. So today, he might say something like, "What's up, Hrothgar?" That's just what he's entering. Like when you come in and you're like, "What's up, Mrs. Novak?"

    Katie Novak VO/OC In this lesson, I try to differentiate by allowing students to have a choice in how they want to kind of express their knowledge. So there is an exemplar that I wrote that they can try to model it after. I have a rule book with really specific language in it, and some kids really need that. Because they want to know how am I going to do this? How can I be successful? Some kids don't learn that way. And they just want to get right into it and that's fine. But the scaffolds are available.

    Katie Novak OC Okay, I love this one.

    Male Student In Gray Tee Shirt VO/OC Yeah, you know, so I like to kill dragons and drove them from existence and they deserved it.

    Katie Novak VO Right. Yeah, you know, no big deal. I kill dragons and giants and stuff. I love that paraphrase.

    Katie Novak VO/OC By the end we have this paraphrase poem that they all get. I totally get the message. But then I say to them, "Well, what does Grendel look like?" And they'll say, "We don't know." Because there's nothing in there about that. That's when I want to kind of have them use the previous lesson on writing and visualization.

    Katie Novak OC/VO With a partner, as a group, whoever you're going to work with, decide what you want Grendel to be. And then we're really going to work on that description on Monday. Is he going to be a lizard? Is he going to be a gnat? Think about it.

    Katie Novak VO/OC You can make anything accessible. It's, that's the art and the skill of teaching. I know these kids, and I know that I can get them interested in something by making it seem relevant to them. And that's an art that I think every great teacher really has.

    Katie Novak OC Thank you all.

    Tch Teaching Channel

    Special Thanks To Katie Novak And All The Students And Staff At Parker Middle School In Chelmsford, Massachusetts

    Executive Producer/Director: Nancy Saslow
    Editor: Steve Eagleton
    Director Of Photography: Eli Gamson, Jeb Bergh
    Sound: Carlos Pulidos
    Production Assistant Ryan Maslyn
    A MEg TV Production For Teaching Channel
    ©Teaching Channel 2013

School Details

Col Moses Parker School
75 Graniteville Road
Chelmsford MA 01824
Population: 717

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Katie Novak
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