British Lit: Beowulf – Sutton Hoo Nonfiction Text Activity



You will receive both an editable Microsoft Word and PDF file of this assignment. If you’re needing a beautifully written article to supplement your Anglo-Saxon poetry and Beowulf units, this AOW-styled assignment will work well. I’m always trying to find current articles to supplement Anglo-Saxon literature and this one fits the bill.

I created this Article of the Week assignment for my British Lit students to complete as homework over the course of a week while we read excerpts from Beowulf during class. (I did allot some class time to the assignment, so kids could get assistance if needed.)

About the text: This assignment has students work with an informational text from The New Yorker magazine by Sam Knight titled “Revisiting Sutton Hoo: Britain’s Mythical Ship Burial.” The article is fantastic and is a great example of writing that blends genres seamlessly. The text centers on the 1939 discovery by excavator Basil Brown of the Sutton Hoo ship on land owned by Edith Pretty in Suffolk, England. The article also discusses the larger meanings of the discovery on scholarly knowledge of Britain’s Dark Ages as well as connections to Britain’s contemporary Brexit divide.

What students are asked to do: The assignment asks students to find new vocabulary, outline the article in a way of their choosing, notice the author Knight’s interweaving of narrative and expository writing, discuss the changing notion of Britain’s Dark Ages, and comment on Knight’s connections to contemporary British life. Through these activities, I basically wanted students to read the article as a writer would. There is no key with this assignment because most answers will vary.

Also note: This article can be used in tandem with a viewing of Netflix’s 2021 movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan, The Dig. In fact, I had my students watch the first sixty-six minutes of The Dig before giving them this assignment. This was especially helpful to those students who were intimidated by the article’s longer length and needed an “on-ramp” to the assignment afforded by the movie. (My review of The Dig is here on my blog. Here’s the viewing guide I made for the first sixty-six minutes.


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