The Origins of English

Teacher Page


This WebQuest provides students with an introduction to the history of the English Language and an exploration of the epic poem Beowulf.  The lesson series is aimed at Dutch students in High School with an intermediate to upper level of English.  The lesson series has been designed so that the students are active participants and the activities have been chosen as to actively engage the students and address different learner styles. According to Beach et al (2011) “Students become engaged in activities that involve their active involvement in constructing their own versions of texts and social works” (page 52). Another important element in the design of the lesson plan and accompanying assignments was an attempt to address the different echelons of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.


Learning Goals:
• Students will consider etymology and the way in which English is a composite from a variety of languages.
• Students will draw on their prior knowledge of word meaning, word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features.
• Students will gain knowledge of the major historical, social and political events causing changes in the English Language.
• Students will be able to place the poem Beowulf in its historical, linguistic and cultural context, in order to gain a richer understanding of both text and context.
• Students will experiment with language and structure.
• Students will cooperate with others and contribute to group processes.
• Students will practise presentation techniques and language of persuasion.


Beach, R., Appleman D., Hynds, S., Wilhelm, J. (2011). Teaching Literature to Adolescents. New York: Routledge,
Heaney, S. (2000). Beowulf: A new verse translation. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.Images sourced from:www.writeups.org
Rubric from 'Read Write Think' detailing how to use readers theater in the classroom. Sourced from: http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/readers-theatre-172.html
Image on the title page: Illustration Language Family Tree by Minna Sundberg sourced from: http://www.theguardian.com/education/gallery/2015/jan/23/a-language-family-tree-in-pictures
All Images sourced from Google Images:
Beowulf images:www.writeups.org
Image on Introduction Page:http://oldenglish.at.ua
Image on Teacher Page: http://tvo.org


In the attachments, you can find the answers to the assignment on the longest Welsh place name, Kennings and Old English to Dutch. For the Call My Bluff assignment, Old English words can be sourced from the following website: Old English Dictionary, see link below.

Should students struggle with the translation of Beowulf, teachers could aid students with prompts from Seamus Heaney's (2000) excellent translation of Beowulf, there is also an online reading of his translation, see the link here below.

The web quest is aimed at students from the Netherlands, the exercise on Dutch translations teachers could replace with an exercise using words from their own language, or a language which students are familiar with. The online Old English dictionary could be a useful resource when searching for words.

Answer Short Translation Exercise: Ehtahund mila lang and tu hund mila brad.

800 miles long and 200 hundred miles broad.

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