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January 03

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on this day.

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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on this day.

Grades 7 – 12
Calendar Activity Type Author & Text





J.R.R. Tolkien, Oxford don and professor of linguistics and medieval literature, was born in South Africa on this day in 1892. He is best known for his creation of the elaborate mythological world of Middle Earth. A tale told originally for his children's amusement, The Hobbit was published in 1937 to great acclaim. His more substantial work for adults, The Lord of the Rings, became a literary watershed with an inestimable impact on popular culture. Tolkien died in 1973.




With the film versions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit having become so popular in recent years, there is a good opportunity to compare the differences between print and nonprint media. Start with a brainstorming session on how movies tell their stories. Students may need prompting, but eventually they will generate a list that will likely include music, characters, costumes, settings, and acting. Then, ask students to think about how books or novels tell their stories; some things on this list will overlap with the first.

Next, have students read an excerpt from a Tolkien novel. One that works well is the scene from the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring in which Gandalf convinces Bilbo to leave the ring behind. Then, view the corresponding scene in the film version. This scene can be found at roughly 0:25.00 on the time counter. After viewing, have students write about changes the filmmakers made and, most important, why they made these changes.

As a final step, have students return to any text that they are currently reading in class and imagine how a particular scene might be filmed. Ask students questions such as the following: What music would be used? What actors would play the roles? What costumes would they wear?



  • The Tolkien Society

    The goal of this site is "to encourage and further interest in the life and works" of Tolkien by providing information about "the books he wrote, his life, and books others have written about him." It is a must-stop for Tolkien fans.

  • J.R.R. Tolkien Trail, 24-Hour Museum

    Explore pictures of real-life locations in Scotland, paired with descriptions that Tolkien used to describe his Middle Earth, at this National Virtual Museum site from the United Kingdom.

  • On J.R.R. Tolkien and the Creation of the Modern Fantasy Novel

    The History of Literature Podcast takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known. This episode covers J.R.R. Tolkien.


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Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Cover to Cover: Comparing Books to Movies

Students compare and analyze novels and the movies adapted from them. They design new DVD covers and a related insert for the movies, reflecting their response to the movie version.


Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Writing a Movie: Summarizing and Rereading a Film Script

Lights! Camera! Action! In this lesson, students view a scene with no dialogue from E.T., write a script for that scene, and perform a dramatic reading while the scene plays.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Comparing a Literary Work to Its Film Interpretation

Students will really get into the swing of things as they analyze the text and film versions of Edgar Allan Poe's story, "The Pit and the Pendulum."


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Focusing Reader Response Through Vocabulary Analysis

Students suggest and categorize words that they associate with a novel they have recently read, ranging from details about the plot to feelings about a character.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Reading Literature in Translation: Beowulf as a Case Study

Using several translations of the same passage of Beowulf, this lesson introduces students to the idea that translation is not an objective practice, but that it involves "imaginative reconstruction."


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Preparing for the Journey: An Introduction to the Hero Myth

Students read a variety of picture books that contain elements of the hero's journey and use an online interactive tool to analyze the stories.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Tracking the Ways Writers Develop Heroes and Villains

Everyone knows that Star Wars character Darth Vader is a villain. This lesson asks students to explore how they know such things about heroes and villains they encounter in texts.