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Riddle Me This: An Anglo Saxon Poetry Lesson Plan

By Lady Lit

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.