Anna of Byzantium Lesson Plan
- Grades: 9–12
About this book
Subject Area: Language Arts; Social Studies
Reading Level: 8.3
Anna Comnena is a princess with a very promising future. As the eldest child of Alexius I, the ruler of the Byzantine Empire, she will be his successor to the throne. When her baby brother John is born, Anna is concerned, but her confidence grows as her grandmother grooms her into an intelligent, sophisticated young woman schooled in the art of diplomacy. However, when Anna's grandmother feels increasingly threatened by her protégé's power and independence, the princess's royal aspirations are stripped away. Betrayed by her family, Anna decides to seek revenge to gain her rightful place in the empire.
Students will learn how to make inferences when reading a novel by examining textual clues and drawing logical conclusions.
Standard: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process (making inferences)
Look at the map in the beginning of the book. Review the dates of the Byzantine Empire (the author only concentrates on the following years: 1081-1118). Focus on the geography of the region. Ask students: What do you notice? Based on the map, what conclusions can you make about the book? Next, examine the family tree labeled "The Comnenus and Ducas Families." Ask students: What do you see? Based on the diagram, what can you conclude about the book's characters?
- Invite students to share and discuss what they know about the book before reading it. For example, they will conclude that the novel is set in the Byzantine Empire (which encompassed modern-day Greece and Turkey) during the 11th and 12th centuries (only during Anna's life). They will also conclude that the characters in the book are part of a royal family, and Anna's father, Alexius, is the emperor. Explain to the class that by reading these supplementary materials, they were able to make inferences about the book. Define inference — a logical guess or conclusion based on textual clues or evidence. Emphasize that making inferences is an important strategy to use when reading challenging texts.
- Before reading Chapter 1, ask students to make a two-column chart with the headings "Word Clues" and "Inference" in their journals. Read the first paragraph on page 1 aloud with the class, and then ask: Where do you think the narrator is? Tell the class to list words from the passage that provide clues in Column 1, and write their answer in Column 2. For example, word clues include: "rough robe," "refectory door," "sisters," "gray habits," and "in silence, as usual." The inference would be: I think the narrator is in a convent or monastery with nuns. Discuss responses.
- Continue reading the chapter, asking students to make inferences and cite word clues. For example: Where was the narrator before the convent? How do you know? They will infer that she has a royal background because of her memories of "bronze dishes," "servers," and "tall goblets."
- After reading Chapter 1, discuss: Why do you think the author begins the novel in this mysterious way? What is her purpose? How would the novel be different if it began with the final sentence in Chapter 1 (see page 4)? Focus on how the author reveals clues about the narrator and her surroundings, but does not state them directly. The author leads the reader slowly into the story, dropping hints and inviting the reader to make inferences. This creates a mood of mystery, suspense, and intrigue.
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Teaching Plan written by Lauren Gold.