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Riddle Me This: An Anglo Saxon Poetry Lesson Plan

written by: Lady Lit • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/20/2012

Reciting songs, tales, and riddles was one of the major functions of the Anglo-Saxon poets. Riddles were involved all aspects of Anglo-Saxon life. Studying such riddles gives us a glimpse into details of the Anglo-Saxons and their culture.

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    After studying Beowulf, seniors in my classes are assigned an outside project consisting of writing a riddle. Students are free to model their riddles after the Anglo-Saxon riddles that are preserved in the Exeter Book. In fact, to get started, I read some of these riddles with my students. Not only do we have a good time, students learn and get to hear what constitutes an appropriate riddle.

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    The Five Golden Rules

    As is the case with any riddle, I give students, some limitations:

    1. Riddles must be a minimum of ten lines.

    2. The first word of each line must be capitalized.

    3. Riddles must contain two examples of each of the following: alliteration, end rhyme, internal rhyme, metaphor, personification and similes.

    4. Words used in the riddle must be spelled correctly.

    5. Riddles must end with a question.

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    Grading and Evaluation

    To make the riddle easy to grade I have students underline the examples of stylistic devices in their riddle, and out to the side, I have them label the example as a simile or metaphor. If students label their riddles accordingly, it really reduces a teacher’s grading time in half as the teacher does not have to hunt for such devices.

    I count the riddle as two test grades, and I determine the numerical grade by adding up the point value. Numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 listed above are all worth 10 points each for a total of 40 points. Number 3 is worth 60 points. I make sure that students use the stylistic devices listed in number 3 correctly. As there are a total of twelve examples of stylistic devices that students should use, each example is worth five points.

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    Solve the Class or Stump the Class

    Teachers can easily modify this lesson plan to their preferences or add to it or whatever is suited to the teacher’s purpose. I make my students type this riddle as it is an outside project. It is an enjoyable lesson and a fun project for students to complete.

    Also, when the riddles have been turned in, I read the riddles aloud and have students guess the answers to the riddles. It makes for a fun class period, and it is really interesting to see what riddles can stump the class.