The story of King Arthur is one that scholars believe is a case where fiction has somehow been blended with reality to become part of the history of a given place. In this case, King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, the Holy Grail, and Camelot, are ingrained as part of the British culture and held in reverence the way many historical figures are. While there is no real evidence to suggest that King Arthur actually existed, the story has been around for centuries and has become the symbol of British history.
Mythology, World History, Language Arts, Political Science
Students will be able to:
- Use their prior knowledge to brainstorm definitions of terms associated with the legend of
- Utilize group work skills in completion of brainstorming activities and King Arthur projects.
- Participate in class discussions about the popularity of King Arthur over time and the way that
the people, places, and things associated with King Arthur have become symbolic to people
around the world.
- Use viewing and listening skills to complete an historical timeline of the legend of King
Arthur and how it has evolved over time.
- Utilize their knowledge of the literary elements of plot, theme, and symbolism to discuss how
these elements appear in the legend of King Arthur and how and why they have changed over
- Complete research using primary sources to tell the tales of King Arthur, present the
major themes and symbols from these stories, and discuss how they still relevant in today's
- Work with partners to present what they have learned by sharing their projects with others in
a forum where they can discuss what they have learned and answer questions about it.
Relevant National Standards from Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel) available at http://www.mcrel.org
Standard 2: Understands the historical perspective.
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes
Standard 6: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of
Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of information texts.
Listening and Speaking:
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.
Working With Others
Standard 1: Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Standard 4: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills
Approximately two 90-minute or four 45-minute class periods
Assumed Student Prior Knowledge
Students will need to have a basic understanding of myths and how they have been perpetuated for thousands of years and have continued to be part of even our modern culture. Knowledge of the literary terms symbolism and theme will help students with understanding the lesson.
- To create student interest, place the following terms and question on the board or overhead
- Holy Grail
- Knights of the Round Table
- Question: Which legendary character are all of these terms associated with?
- Once all students are in the classroom, break them up into teams of four and have team members
sit near one another. They will need a piece of paper and pen/pencil.
- Explain that you will be playing a game where teams will need to work together quickly and
quietly to write down what they know about each of the words revealed on the overhead. It is
important that they are quiet enough that other groups will not hear and copy their
- Begin revealing the words one at a time. Give students 30-60 seconds to record as much
information/brainstorming as they can about each word.
- Pose the final question to each group and provide 30 seconds for them to record their answer.
- Collect papers from each group and check to see which groups answered correctly. Provide
each member of these groups with a small piece of candy (optional).
- Return papers to the groups and facilitate a short (5-10 minute) discussion about the legend of
King Arthur. Ask students to discuss their definitions of the terms they brainstormed about.
In addition, ask questions such as:
NOTE: Depending on prior knowledge, students may or may not be able to answer all
of the questions. This is fine. They are meant to get students thinking about the
themes and symbols in the story of King Arthur.
- Why do you think the legend of King Arthur is still popular today?
- What did King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table represent?
- What does Excalibur represent?
- What does the Holy Grail represent?
- What type of place is Camelot and why are people always searching for a place like this?
- Using the Myths and Heroes: Four Stories link at http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_four_arthur.html, introduce students to the
the idea that the story of King Arthur may have originated from a 6th Century soldier by
viewing the video clip.
- Distribute a copy of the Timeline worksheet and explain to students
that they will need to use this as they view "King Arthur". They should record information
about how the story of King Arthur grew and changed over time based on what was
happening in England at the time. To add more in-depth information about the evolution of
the legend of King Arthur, provide students with a copy of Michael Wood's article "King
Arthur" available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/state/monarchs_leaders/arthur_01.shtml
and have students record additional notes about specific authors, dates, and historical events
on the back of the Timeline worksheet.
NOTE: Take time to stop the film and provide students with time to complete specific sections of the worksheet as they are viewing. Answer questions as they arise.
- When viewing is completed, facilitate a class discussion using the Timeline worksheet and its content. Discuss topics such as:
- During times of change, the legend of King Arthur consistently becomes socially and politically significant. Discuss why.
- The story of King Arthur is built in layers with more characters, symbols, and plot elements added to the story each time it is retold. Discuss the specific characters and symbols that developed over time and remain a part of the story.
- While the legend of King Arthur is fictional, it seems to be a symbol for England and its history. Discuss how the story fulfills this role.
- Distribute the King Arthur Project Guidelines handout to students.
Explain to students that they will be using what they have discussed and seen in class along
with additional research to create a project that focuses on one of the symbols or themes
from the legend of King Arthur. Read over the directions and discuss with students how
projects should be completed. Provide class time for students to decide on and begin
researching the content for their project.
- When projects are completed, have a King Arthur fair. Invite other classes, parents,
community groups, etc. into the classroom and provide students with the opportunity to
present their projects. Each pair should set up a small booth using a desk or table top. Here
they should display their project and be prepared to explain what they learned to others as
they pass by and view the work.
- Have King Arthur fair participants provide students at each booth with 1-2 sentences of
written feedback about what they learned from the project and the quality of the work
- Students could earn completion grades for participation in class discussion and completion of
the Timeline worksheet.
- Students could complete a short critique about each display. On it, they should comment on
the following topics:
- Three things that I learned from your project were....
- Three things I thought were done exceptionally well on your project were....
- My suggestion(s) for improving the project would be....
- Students could receive a grade for completing the project with historical accuracy, presenting
the content in a neat and organized way, and for their demonstrated understanding of
symbolism and theme illustrated in the project using a scoring guide created by the teacher or
- Have students write down what they learned from completing the King Arthur project using a
one or two paragraph narrative that addresses points decided on by the teacher.
- Have a King Arthur contest where students nominate one another for exhibiting the qualities
and characteristics of the Knights of the Round Table. Using a short nomination form,
students should list the name of the student they are nominating and a short explanation
explaining what s/he did to receive the nomination. Do this for one week. Begin each class
period by presenting Knights of the Round Table awards (a certificate with a small treat or
some other appropriate recognition) and reading what others said about the nominated
- Using the article "For One Brief Shining Moment: Choosing to Remember Camelot"
available at http://www.pcasacas.org/SPC/spcissues/25.3/Brigance.htm, conduct a class
discussion about the comparisons made between Arthur's Camelot and the Camelot of the
Kennedy's. Use a graphic organizer such as a Venn Diagram or T-Chart to examine the
similarities and differences between the two. Discuss why the Kennedy's Camelot has
become so much a part of American History and political life and compare this to how the
legend of King Arthur has become a symbol for British history.
In Search of Myths and Heroes PBS companion site to the program
Timeless Myths: Arthurian Legends
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
King Arthur's Legends
King Arthur: A Man for All Ages
The Once and Future King