Heroism in English Myth
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Cite historical examples of citizen actions that affected the common good.

Through reading the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, students will continue to investigate how present-day definitions of heroism have been influenced by cultural heritage and identify philanthropy themes intrinsic in their reading.

PrintFive Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • identify qualities inherent in the Code of Chivalry in a classical text involving Arthurian legend.
  • compare and contrast Greek definitions of heroism and those of the Anglo-Saxon heritage.
  • create an improvised scene reflecting understanding of mythical heroism as applied to a modern day setting.
  • demonstrate knowledge of philanthropy expressed in Arthurian legend.
  • Student reading logs or journals
  • Attached background information on Arthurian legend
  • Text of “Sir Launcelot du Lake” from Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory
  • Adequate numbers of 3 x 5 note cards for student use
  • Overhead of graphic organizer created from attachments below (Spanish version Handout Four)
  • Assessment rubric from attachments below
Home Connection: 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Students interview other adults about heroes of their youth. Students will record the responses to the following questions: What qualities make a hero? When you were my age, who were your heroes and why? What fictional heroes were your favorites and why? How did your personal hero act for the common good?

  • Books:
    • Mallory, Sir Thomas. Le Morte d’Arthur. Signet Classic, Reissue Edition, October 20, 2001. ISBN: 0451528166
    • White, T. H. The Sword in the Stone. Laurel Leaf, Reissue Edition, October 15, 1978. ISBN: 0440984459
    • White, T. H. The Once and Future King. Ace Books, Reissue Edition, July 1987. ISBN: 0441627404
  • Films
    • “A&E Biography - King Arthur: His Life and Legends.”
    • “Camelot.” (Richard Harris)
    • “The Sword and the Stone” (Animated, Sebastian Cabot)
  1. Anticipatory Set:In their reading logs or journals, students will respond to the following prompts: “What do you already know about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table? How are the stories of King Arthur similar to the Greek myths we’ve recently studied?” (See Lesson One: “What Is a Hero?” Heroism in Greek Mythology.) Show one of the following movies: “Biography - King Arthur: His Life and Legends” (1987) or “The Sword in the Stone” (Animated, Sebastian Cabot)

  2. Following a brief discussion on the reading log prompt, students will be introduced to the legend of King Arthur through direct instruction of necessary background information. (See Attachment One: Background—Arthurian Legends.) The instructor will introduce students to the primary characters in the legend, particularly King Arthur, Guinevere and Launcelot.

  3. Students will be asked to define the term ‘chivalry,’ with the instructor asking, “What kinds of qualities make someone chivalrous? How is chivalry like philanthropy and advocacy? What is comparable in the Greek mythology we read in Lesson One: ‘What Is a Hero?’ Heroism in Greek Mythology?” The prompting will provide introduction to the concept of the chivalric code and discussion of concepts like courage, personal honor, chastity and defense of the defenseless.

  4. Ask students to recall reasons for advocacy for the common good and the motivations for giving. Discuss altruism, why people may sacrifice for the benefit of others, enlightened self-interest, egoism. Connect these to actions of characters as the students move through their reading and development of their presentations.

  5. Attachment Two: Graphic Organizer for Reading “Sir Launcelot du Lac.” Students will complete the chart listing the qualities of the chivalric code.

  6. The text is to be read as a whole class with students responding in their writing journals to the following four statements:

    1. The aspects of the chivalric code that explain the struggle between Sir Tarquine and the other knights
    2. Sir Launcelot’s reaction to the proposal of the four queens
    3. Sir Tarquine’s reaction to the skills of Sir Ector and Sir Launcelot
    4. Sir Launcelot’s answer to Sir Tarquine’s questions about his identity. If the selection is read individually, the instructor should instruct students to focus their thinking on the four ideas above as they read, marking the chart created earlier as they read.
  7. Class discussion focus: Review student responses to the four previous questions and then develop class answers to the following:

    1. Is Sir Launcelot a hero according the chivalric code? Why or why not?
    2. How does Launcelot repay the noblewoman who releases him from the four queens?
    3. Why does Launcelot fight Tarquine?
    4. What elements of advocacy, altruism, enlightened self-interest, egoism do you see?
  8. In small diverse groups, appropriate to class size, students will create a short, theatrical scene for class presentation. Each presentation will be three to five minutes in duration, involving an imaginary meeting between a character from one of the Greek myths studied in Lesson One: “What Is a Hero?” Heroism in Greek Mythology and one from Arthurian legend. The subject matter must portray a problem or current issue. Students are to create dialogue with action illustrating the qualities of each character, but making clear contrast between them. (As an example: Odysseus and Launcelot are each driving into the parking lot at Wal-Mart at the same time. Wal-Mart is holding a huge sale and the parking lot is full. Both Odysseus and Launcelot attempt to pull into the only parking space left in the lot. How will each of these characters deal with this situation? Odysseus may be loud and boastful, demanding his due as King of Ithaca. Launcelot may remind Odysseus that honor dictates that Odysseus yield the parking space to him.) The conflict may be resolved in the simulation of a physical confrontation, but the verbal interaction between the characters should illustrate how each is viewed heroically within their cultures.

  9. Students should be given adequate class time to create and rehearse their scenes, with each participant writing his or her portion of the script on 3 x 5 note cards they can refer to during performance. At least one class period will be required for the performance of the scenes on completion. Students should be instructed that they will be graded on both their interaction within their groups and an interview with the instructor to determine what they’ve learned in this lesson, not on the quality of their performance.


The following one-to one assessment procedure is recommended for class sizes with enrollment of twenty-students or less. For class sizes above twenty, have students respond in writing to the questions in one class period and evaluate as an exam. Students will be assessed on their interaction in the groups and individual interviews with the instructor, based on the rubric. (See Attachment Three: Assessment Rubric for Individual Interviews and Group Interaction.) Student learning will be assessed through the interview process. Some of the questions the instructor might ask to evaluate the student’s involvement and understanding might be: “What is the chivalric code? How are the heroes of Greek myth and Arthurian legend alike? How are the heroes of Greek myth and Arthurian legend different? Who was Sir Tarquine, and how was he important in the story we’ve just read?” Each student is to be asked the same questions. The interview process itself will take place during class sessions while the remainder of the class is engaged in script creation. Allowing three to five minutes per interview will require a minimum of one complete class period. The need to monitor group interaction, as well as perform the evaluation interviews, will dictate the pace and timing of both the assessment and performance portions of the lesson. Additional evaluation tools are: teacher-constructed quiz or test on reading content, evaluation of Attachment Two, class discussion and participation and completion of the School/Home Connection.