Plan Your Unexpected Journey

Leave your hobbit hole and start an adventure with J. R. R. Tolkien's timeless tale of dwarves, dragons, and hobbits.

By Elijah Ammen

stack of J. R. R. Tolkien books


Friday, December 14th, marks the premiere of the first part of an adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's classic, The Hobbit. The Hobbit trilogy (being released one year apart over three years) is being adapted by the same team that worked on the Lord of the Rings adaptations. Use this great opportunity to your advantage. Hollywood is running a multi-million dollar advertising campaign for your next potential novel unit. But if you don't catch it this time, it's fine. You still have two more years to catch parts two and three.

The Hobbit is a much more light-hearted novel than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The book follows the journey of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who is unwillingly prodded into going on an adventure that revolutionizes his life, and changes the course of Middle Earth. Throughout the novel, there are elements that Tolkien would later use in his creation of The Lord of the Rings, such as the discovery of the Ring of Power, and recoccuring characters, such as Gandalf, Gollum, and Bilbo himself. 

There are numerous ways to approach the book, and we have many, many lessons and worksheets on the subject. However, here are a few categories that I have cherry-picked for your pleasure:



  • Literature Study Guide: A great packet of resources, ranging from anticipation guides to reading schedules to graphic organizers. These are excellent resources to help readers become independent during the unit.
  • Graphic Organizers: This overview lesson effectively uses well-known systems of analysis in order to encourage reflection on the novel.


  • Essay PromptsThe Hobbit can be taken at face value, or used to provoke commentary on social issues. Allow your writers to choose their prompts to discuss how they can apply themes from the novel to the real world.
  • Moral Dilemmas: Apply situations from the novel to real-world situations and defend your choice of actions in these moral quandaries.
  • Narrative Writing: After seeing narrative writing modeled in Tolkien's tale, have your class write their own narratives while mirroring elements like setting, characters, or tone.
  • Descriptive Writing: You'll need some checks for understanding to make sure all your students are tracking with the characters, especially if fantasy is outside their comfort zone. Use these descriptive writing exercises to have them describe different characters, their traits, and their appearances. This is a great tool for direct and indirect characterization as well.


  • Vocabulary Background: In order to understand Tolkien and his words, you need to understand his influences; particularly Norse mythology and other classic myths. This lesson includes excerpts of other myths and folk tales in order to compare and contrast them with Tolkien's work. 
  • Types of Quest: While the focus of this resource is primarily on the three types of quest literature, it provides key literary vocabulary that is essential to understanding the complex motifs of Tolkien's works.  
  • Track Your Vocab: Use a very simple notecard system to track a new vocabulary word every day and build up a robust vocabulary with Tolkien's legendary lexicon.
  • Round Robin Vocabulary: Have your class team up to create a round-robin story using new vocabulary words from the text. 

While you can be sure that the movie will deviate from the novel, the excitement level will be high. Comparing the same story across multiple mediums is also a crucial Common Core skill (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.9-10.RL.7), so highlight the differences rather than downplay them. While many people will enjoy the movie this holiday season, we know where this enchanting story first started: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."