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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again

Dream a little dream of Hobbiton.

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When it comes to Tolkien, you have your hardcore Hobbits and your hardcore haters. There's rarely a middle ground with Middle-earth, but we can help you appeal to both camps without incurring the wrath of Smaug.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity exploring the genre-bending nature of The Hobbit.
  • reading quizzes to be sure students aren't depending on the movies and adding stuff they shouldn't.
  • literary connections to the Lord of the Rings series, Narnia, and Harry Potter.

Don't hide in your Hobbit hole. Use this precious teaching guide instead.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: This one's all about getting in the Tolkien groove. Students will study the songs and their contexts in The Hobbit, locate a moment in the text when another song might be added and create a new one. Yep, they're going to take a stab at songwriting, Hobbit style.

This short project should take about 80-120 minutes. But if you're hoping to save time in class, you can always assign the writing portion as homework.

Materials Needed: The text of The Hobbit, Internet-capable computer

Step 1: Lead a discussion about the role of songs and singing in The Hobbit. If you're dying to scratch that multimedia itch, you can include a small presentation of various adaptations of the songs. A quick YouTube search should yield dozens of possibilities—just be sure to watch them all the way through before you screen them to your students.

As you discuss the songs with your students, be sure to cover your bases by addressing the following key points:

  • Who is singing, and why it is significant or appropriate?
  • What's the context of the song? In other words, what's happening in the story when the song is sung?
  • How does song affect the pacing of the story? Why might that be important?
  • What do you think is the songs' overall purpose in the story?

Step 2: Ask your students,

  • Are there any moments in The Hobbit where you expected to see a song, but didn't? 
  • Are there any places you would add a song if you were adapting or revising the novel?
  • What is it about these moments that made you long for a song?

Brainstorm a few examples with the students, and be sure to keep track of their suggestions by writing on the board or projector.

Step 3: Break students into small groups (2-3 students maximum). Ask each group to choose one of these tuneless moments in the story and write a song for it that fits the context in the story and achieves some of the same goals that The Hobbit's other songs do.

Remind them that it doesn't have to be of professional caliber and that they will not have to sing it—thank the stars. Also, it can certainly be a short song. It doesn't have to be one of the more epic verses in the narrative. If they're musically inclined, they can go ahead and set it to notes, but a-tonal versions are welcome, too.

Step 4: As a final step, have the students share their songs, whether through oral presentation or by publishing as a class compilation. Emphasize that this is all in good fun, so students should try to be as creative as possible.

(California Common Core Standards for English Language Arts: Grades 9 & 10: Range of Reading 10; Text Types and Purposes 3; Production and Distribution of Writing 4, 5; Research & Build Present Knowledge 9; Range of Writing 10; Comprehension & Collaboration 1; Conventions of Standard English 1, 2; Vocabulary Acquisition and Use 4, 5, 6. Grades 11 & 12: Craft and Structure 4, 5; Range of Reading 10; Text Types and Purposes 3; Production and Distribution of Writing 4, 5; Research & Build Present Knowledge 7; Range of Writing 10; Comprehension & Collaboration 1; Conventions of Standard English 1, 2; Vocabulary Acquisition and Use 4, 5, 6.)

Instructions for Your Students

There has to be a few of you out there who are just dying to be the next great songsters of our time. In this short project, you'll get a chance to cut your teeth on a few classic tracks from Middle-earth, and create some song stylings of your own, based on Tolkien's tunes.

Step 1: Talk time. Take part in a discussion about the role of songs and singing in The Hobbit. If you're dying to scratch that multimedia itch, you can check out some versions of the songs folks have already set to music and sung. A quick YouTube search should yield dozens of results, some more hilarious than others.

As you chat it up with your classmates, be sure to cover the following key points:

  • Who is singing, and why it is significant or appropriate?
  • What's the context of the song? In other words, what's happening in the story when the song is sung?
  • How does song affect the pacing of the story? Why might that be important?
  • What do you think is the songs' overall purpose in the story?

Step 2: Now that we've got all those songs under our belts, let's ask ourselves,

  • Are there any moments in The Hobbit where you expected to see a song, but didn't? 
  • Are there any places you would add a song if you were adapting or revising the novel?
  • What is it about these moments that made you long for a song?

Brainstorm a few examples with your classmates, and your teacher will keep track of these suggestions by writing on the board or projector.

Step 3: Group up with one or two of your classmates. Choose one of these tuneless moments in the story and write a little ditty. Make sure it fits the context in the story and achieves some of the same goals that The Hobbit's other songs do.

Don't worry. Your song doesn't need to be professional caliber, and no one is going to make you sing it—unless you want to. You can keep it short and keep it a-tonal—no need to set it to notes unless you're musically inclined.

Step 4: As a final step, you'll get to share your songs, whether through oral presentation or by taking part in a class compilation.

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WANT MORE HELP TEACHING THE HOBBIT, OR, THERE AND BACK AGAIN?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Study Questions    Characters    Analysis    Facts    Quizzes    Movie    Best of the Web    
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