12th Grade ELA : Unit #4 - The King Arthur Legend : Lesson #1

The Legend of King Arthur Day 1 of 3 - Independent Reading

Objective: SWBAT show understanding of the King Arthur Legend through summarizing key events and answering comprehension questions.
Standards: RL.11-12.10 W.11-12.9
Subject(s): English / Language Arts
60 minutes
1 Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers - 0 minutes

My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions every other day.  Activities for this lesson take nearly three class periods to complete.  The lesson below outlines activities for Day One on The Legend of King Arthur.  Students engage in independent reading, summarizing events in a graphic organizer, and answering comprehension questions.

2 Introduction - 5 minutes

I introduce the lesson by telling students that in our study of the hero's journey, which we have explored as reflecting the human experience in prior selections, such as Beowulf and the Iliad, King Arthur is an important figure in Western culture.  I remind them that the Wife of Bath's Tale from The Canterbury Tales was partially set in King Arthur's court.

I ask students what they know about King Arthur.  Students note the following:

  • Merlin the wizard protected Arthur as a child.
  • King Arthur pulled the sword from the stone as a boy to become king.  
  • King Arthur ruled the kingdom of Camelot.
  • King Arthur established the Knights of the Round Table, who lived by the code of chivalry that involved honor, reverence for women, duty to the kingdom, and integrity.
  • King Arthur had a powerful sword called Excalibur.


While we discuss how the knight in the Wife of Bath's Tale does not represent the code of chivalry, I offer King Arthur as a heroic figure who learns the true meaning of honor.  Even though his kingdom of Camelot values honor, he must learn about honor through his own personal journey.

I tell students that we will explore the Big Idea, “Our own heart, and not other men's opinions, forms our true honor," in King Arthur's journey.

To provide students with a review of the King Arthur Legend, I use "The Legend of King Arthur" from Scope magazine (Scholastic, 1981), which provides a section-by-section narrative of King Arthur's journey.  Teachers may decide to locate a similar text online.

Since we have studied some less than honorable characters in The Canterbury Tales, such as the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner, I tell students that I want to give them a point of reference regarding honor, integrity, and the human experience prior to exploring the tragic hero in Macbeth and Hamlet

3 Independent Reading - 95 minutes

I distribute the story (Story Handout: "The Legend of King Arthur"), a graphic organizer, and review questions to students.  To facilitate their work, I do the following:

  1. I explain that they must read the story, noting the main points by section on the graphic organizer in the summary boxes (Handout: Graphic Organizer - Section Summary Boxes).
  2. I preview the text, section-by-section, reading the section title, and displaying the graphic organizer on my document camera, I point out corresponding summary box on the graphic organizer. 
  3. I explain that students are to answer the review questions (Study Guide: Review Questions for The Legend of King Arthur) in the boxes on the second half of the graphic organizer (Handout: Graphic Organizer - Review Question Boxes).

By exploring the literature this way, students can focus on what happens in the text and verify their understanding prior to answering the review questions that check their comprehension. That way, if they need to return to the text for clarification, their completed graphic organizer will make the process more efficient.  

Students engage in independent work today; they will also have time to finish the assignment (Student Work: The Legend of King Arthur) next class.

Student Ownership

Since I teach seniors who must be college and career ready in a few months, I think it's important to provide opportunities for students to own their learning.  I have been teaching them strategies to comprehend complex texts all year, such as summarizing, close reading, and going back to the text for clarification.  This assignment gives them the opportunity to practice those strategies independently.