Five classics for 2019: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

We have five classics for you and your students to explore this year. When we read a story, we read so much more than the plot. Stories, and especially classics, open the door to multiple worlds, which we can become exciting territories for classroom activities and projects. In this series we give a short overview of our new stories: the author, the plot, the characters, the adaptation, the various classroom learning possibilities and some background information about the creation of the reader. The classroom learning projects are mostly CLIL projects (history, science, geography, literature, philosophy, psychoglogy, art) and language areas. Apart from these short overviews, we also prepare detailed lesson and project plans for each title. Watch out for these posts on our blog.

In this post we introduce A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court written by Mark Twain (Level 2). The adaptation and the activities were written by Scott Lauder and Walter McGregor, and the story was illustrated by Andrea Alemanno.

The other new titles are:

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

1 Who is the author?

Facts about Mark Twain’s life

  • His real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens.
  • He was born on November 30th 1835.
  • He was a writer, a publisher, a teacher and a businessman.
  • As a child he lived in Hannibal, Missouri.
  • His years by the Mississippi River inspired the stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
  • He had three daughters with his wife, Olivia.
  • There were a lot of ups and downs in his life. He made a lot of money, but also lost a lot. He had a big family, but one of his daughters died and he suffered from depression.
  • He was born after the appearance of Halley’s comet, and he died when it appeared again in 1910.

2 What do we need to know about the story?

Mark Twain wrote A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court in 1889. The story is about Hank Morgan, an American man who travels back in time to the land of Camelot and King Arthur. Morgan uses his knowledge of science to improve life in the past. Mark Twain was fascinated by science and technology, and a lot of inventions as well as a lot of scientific knowledge appear in the story. In the story, Morgan makes the people in King Arthur’s Court believe that he is a great magician. The story is also about how his good intentions of improvement make things more difficult and tragic in the court.

The setting

The story is set in medieval England.

The characters

The characters in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Illustration by Andrea Alemanno. © Helbling 2019

3 Why did we choose this title for adaptation?

It’s a great story! Fun, critical, caring and ironic. It’s an example of Twain’s transitional work, that bridges his more happy-go-lucky earlier work and his darker later writing. It’s also an early example of science-fiction plus it is a great tool to introduce the theme of fake news and get young people thinking critically about what is happening in the world around them.

4 How can you use this reader for language learning? 

CLIL and discussion topics

Choose one discussion and research topic for each group of students to explore.

  • Time travel
  • Inventions in the story
  • The Arthurian legend
  • History: Early medieval England
  • History: Castles in medieval England
  • Geography: imaginary places of Camelot in England and Wales
  • Mythology: Camelot / How do you imagine it?
  • Astronomy: Solar and lunar eclipses
  • Magic and magicians: Merlin
  • Medicine: Infections and vaccinations

Watch out for our project lesson plans for more detailed activities based on these topics.

Language stuctures

  • Present simple, present continuous
  • Narrative tenses: past simple, past continuous
  • First conditional
  • Describing places
  • Describing animals
  • Say or tell?
  • Countable/uncountabe nouns

Vocabulary development

  • Body language: verbs
  • History: describing medieval buildings and clothing
  • Medieval jobs and job descriptions
  • Medieval tournaments
  • Inventions
  • Talking on the phone
  • Describing people

5 How did we create the reader?

The original text of the novel was simplified for elementary-level learners, avoiding complex grammar and sentence structures and minor plot strands that may lead to confusion. The vocabulary is only simplified as much as it is necessary to make it comprehensible for language learners at this stage.

The story was illustrated by Andrea Alemanno. You can read our interview with him on this blog. Andrea has illustrated several other Helbling Readers:

Here is a simple chart about our reading levels.

Helbling Reader levels.

Read more stories in the Helbling Readers series written by Mark Twain:

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