Today I am reflecting on the next installment of what I’ve been doing with my county’s unit asking student to analyze theme in a text as well as cultural values reflected in the text by focusing on cultural heroes from around the world. Of course, I had to start with King Arthur tales!
As much as I would absolutely adore to cover the entire text of my favorite Arthurian legend (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), I sadly do not have them time. I was fortunate to find this lovely slimmed down 6-page version on TPT. It may be much smaller in length, but it’s still got enough of the story to really enjoy and analyze for theme.
First, I laid the foundation the week before by having a lesson on archetypes as well as a brief lesson on how to take a thematic topic (one word) they identified and turning it into a thematic statement. I find that my students get deep into analysis once they’ve really gotten the archetypes and what they symbolize. I then made a “cheat sheet” of the most prevalent archetypes in the story and their meanings (mainly The Hero, The Journey, The Temptress, The Trickster, Colors, and the number three).
Then, we took it slow! We did the first page entirely together with me thinking aloud and asking the questions. Page 2 though, I started shifting it their way. I read the page and then gave them 5 minutes to turn to someone and discuss what they saw- archetypes, words that stood out, etc. Page 3 we did the same. This time I reminded them to look up any proper nouns and meanings of any names (hint- Gawain’s horse’s name means “weakling” and from that we compared this story with David and Goliath) as well as identify the archetypes and what those could be telling us. We continued on this way through the end.
The whole class discussions were amazing and I could see my students really getting into the text. After the text had been thoroughly analyzed, I shared the graphic essay version of Neil Gaimon’s article on why we need libraries . We discussed how the images created melded with the words and enhanced the mood and tone. I then challenged them to create a graphic paragraph that depicted the theme of the story with a piece of evidence and draw an image that connected the two. Then I threw some markers at them and let them run with it! The room was a buzz with discussions on the text, images that they should create, running their theme statements by others, and so much more. It was lovely to see!
We will be ending our look at King Arthur tales with an analysis of Neil Gaimon’s “Chivalry”. Their summative task from the county is a thematic analysis essay that also analyzes how you can identify a cultural truth or value from a variety of stories from that culture. With what I have seen thus far, I am optimistically hopeful that they will rock it!