Novels to Knowledge:  Writing with Robin Hood


Medieval History, Literature, and Writing for Middle Schoolers

Writer’s Path to Critical Thinking


Teacher:  Holly Van Houten

Ages 11-13

Note:   This is a 2 hour class starting at 9:00


Class Fees: 

 $341 or $331 if taking 2 or more classes. 

Homework:  Reading: 2-3 hours / Writing: 2 hours (approx.)



The Middle Ages for Middle Schoolers!  During this year long course on history, literary analysis and writing skills for middle schoolers, we will be reading Newbery Award winning novels, anchored by the classic tales of Robin Hood, King Arthur, and the Arabian Nights. These great works of literature will allow us to explore Feudalism, Life in a Medieval Village, Richard the Lion-Hearted, the Crusades, the Armor and Weapons of the Middle Ages, Coats of Arms, Tournaments, Medieval Ballads, Troubadours, William the Conqueror, The Battle of Hastings, Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the Magna Carta. The Legendary Tales of Robin Hood will provide the focus for the Fall Quarter, during which we will also read the Newbery winning Good Masters, Sweet Ladies! and Catherine, Called Birdy. These novels will give students a thorough overview of what life in the Middle Ages was like.  For the Winter Quarter, we will begin with the Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and supplement those stories with two fantastic Newbery novels:  Crispin, the Cross of Lead and The Door in the Wall.  During the Spring Quarter, we will move beyond medieval England as we read The Arabian Nights, and pair that with a novel of medieval Korea, A Single Shard and a novel about medieval Russia The Trumpeter of Krakow


In our writing topics, we will explore the concept of honor. As we look at Robin Hood’s society of outlaws, we will consider what principles should form the basis of an “ideal” society, what rules should be established, how leaders should be selected and if and how new members should be allowed to join.  Students will consider if there is ever a time when it might be necessary, even right, for someone to break a law? Might a law breaker actually be a hero? What qualities make a hero?


Using these stories of adventure, courage and chivalry, students will explore the Middle Ages as they hone their writing skills.  For our writing projects, we’ll be incorporating the "literary circles" approach -- where each student takes on a specific role (Character Analyst / Thematic Advisor / Historian) for each novel. Over the course of each quarter, students will write three essays (2-3 pages in length) related to their “role” for each book. This class will take students step by step through the process of creating strong essays. We’ll be emphasizing the entire writing process – from planning through drafting and revision.  Writing well allows students to express their ideas, argue their opinions and demonstrate their knowledge.   As they write about these novels, students will go through the process of organizing, developing and clearly articulating their ideas -- an excellent way to learn about any subject.  We will use a Roundtable Writers’ Revision Workshop format to look at essays together, as a class, so students can also learn about the reactions their writing elicits from others and build their own critical thinking skills.  There is always a wide range of writing abilities in a class like this and every student just writes at their own level, challenging themselves to develop and mature as thinkers.  To enhance the collaborative nature of this class, we will also be implementing technology as we work on the Writing Process.  This class will be a great opportunity to enjoy some wonderful novels and practice essential literary analysis and writing skills.


In this class, we will be implementing technology to help us work on the Writing Process.  Students are invited to bring their own laptops or use our Huck Chromebooks to take advantage of the incredible, collaborative power of Google Docs. This will make it possible for us to share ideas and revision techniques far more efficiently.