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Lesson Plan 
A Brief Introduction: History of the 
English Language 
 

Summary 
1. Subject(s): History of the English Language 
2. Topic or Unit of Study: 1600 Literature - ​The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of 
Denmark 
3. Grade/Level: 12th Grade, Advanced Placement Literature and Composition 
4. Objective: Students will understand the development of the English Language in 
order to prepare for their reading of Shakespeare’s ​The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince 
of Denmark. 
5. Time Allotment: One, 50 minute period. 

Implementation 
Learning Context 

Using a Slides Presentation, the teacher will introduce students to the development of 
English in an effort to clarify some misconceptions they may have about Shakespeare’s 
use of the English Language. 

Procedure 

a. Anticipatory Set 

The teacher will show a picture of a fish and ask students to spell the word. After 
selecting a couple of students to spell the word, the teacher will suggest that the 
word could potentially be spelled as “Ghoti”. The teacher will present the words 
“enough, women, and nation” to highlight the flexibility of English vowel and 
consonant sounds (van Gelderen 15). 


 

b. Direct Instruction 

Students will take notes as the teacher reviews the different stages of English 
development using the slides presentation titled, “Brief History of English 
Language” (this can be found on the Teacher Resources page). 

c. Guided Practice 

First: Students will read Passage One on their handout to think about the many 
different sounds in English. 

Second: Students will identify the time periods for the development of English, 
and they will identify the period in which Shakespeare writes. The teacher will 
point out that Shakespeare DOES NOT write in Old English, and that Early Modern 
English is closer to Modern English. 

Third: Students will read an excerpt of the Northumbrian version of ​Caedmon’s 


Hymn. After attempting to read the passage on their own, students will listen to a 
reading of the Hymn found online. Together, the teacher and students will identify 
key traits of Old English. 

Fourth: Students will follow the same procedure for the excerpt of the Paston 
Family Letters for Middle English. 

Fourth: Students will conclude with an excerpt from Shakespeare’s, Richard III to 
highlight the differences between Early Modern English and Modern English. The 
goal is that students observe how much more they understand in this passage 
than they did in Caedmon’s Hymn. 

d. Check for Understanding 

As students work on the passages with their partner, the teacher facilitates 
observations and discussions by offering suggestions and asking questions that 
will help students identify key traits between the languages. 

e. Independent Practice 

After the slides presentation, students will read an article that summarizes key 
developments and events in the English Language. Students will work together to 


 

 
create questions for the text using Costa’s levels of questioning to measure their 
understanding of the text. 

f. Closing 

Students will complete their reading and questions at home for homework if they do not 
finish in class. 

Materials & Resources 


a. Instructional Materials: 
a. Slides Presentation 
b. Resources: 
a. Student Handout: Brief History of English Language 
b. Caedmons’ Hymn audio: 
http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/noa/audio.htm  
c. “Key Events in the History of the English Language” - text copies 

Assessment 
The teacher will choose questions created by students in order to assess their understanding of 
the assigned reading.