Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A new blog — Teaching Tolkien

From time to time, I have something to share about Tolkien in the classroom (this, for example, and this, and even this). Thus far, most of these posts have dealt with Tolkien in the college classroom. But what about secondary school or even primary school? Today, I wanted to share news of a new blog, Teaching Tolkien, which takes up that very issue. This is something I know you are all going to want to keep an eye on!

In the words of the blog’s founder, Holly Rodgers:
Teachingtolkien.com is designed to be a resource for educators who are looking for methods for sharing the works of J.R.R. Tolkien with their students. The lessons described on this site were used with elementary students in grades 5 and 6, who are ELL (English Language Learners). These students are classified as limited English-proficient under the requirements of NCLB (No Child Left Behind).
That’s right: Ms. Rodgers’s students are not only fifth and sixth graders, they’re students whose first language is not English. Not only are their cradle tongues not English, they aren’t even European. Her class of thirteen speaks an assortment of more far-flung languages, including Somali, Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, Farsi, and Korean. This class, therefore, is not only a great test of the minimum reading age for Tolkien’s novels, but it should offer interesting insights into cultural reception of his themes and motifs as well. The results so far are very promising. After reading The Hobbit, Ms. Rodgers’s students clamored for The Lord of the Rings, on which they have now embarked.

Do give the blog a look, offer an encouraging comment, and wish Ms. Rodgers and her intrepid band of international literary explorers well. I was about the same age as these students when I first read Tolkien myself, as I suspect many of you were too. It’s wonderful to see teachers keeping that tradition alive.


  1. As someone who, by the intervention of friendly schoolteachers, first read The Hobbit in fifth grade and The Lord of the Rings in sixth grade, I approve. Though not non-European, my background is pretty far removed from Tolkien's, yet I had no trouble enjoying and appreciating the books.

  2. Funny, I never read any Tolkien at school, but at home. Except later, when I took a Middle English class at university :-)