The Apple and the Arrow Literature Unit Study

This post is part of the 31 MORE Days of Literature Unit Studies series. You can find all of the links to the thirty-one studies in this post. If you’d like to use these ideas to create your own unit study, this post has step-by-step instructions as well as a free unit study planner. (Want to know more about what, exactly, a unit study is? This post will help.)

The Apple and the Arrow literature unit
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While you’re reading and working on your unit study, you can dowload this free printables pack of graphic organizers for reading. It has a plot chart, venn diagram, KWL chart, two mini book report organizers, a character analysis chart, a plot outline chart, and a reading response sheet where students can record facts while reading.
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The Legend of Willian Tell is a dramatic one. In the classic story, William Tell has to shoot an apple off of the head of his own son with a bow and arrow. The Apple and the Arrow is a middle grade Newberry Honor book that retells the story of this dramatic event.

Book Information

Author-Conrad Buff
Recommended ages– upper elementary, middle school
Synopsis– Told by Walter Tell, the son of William Tell, The Apple and the Arrow is a retelling of the famous legend of William Tell shooting an apple off of the head of his own son.
Historically, the book is set during the Middle Ages in what is now Switzerland. The people are under the tyrannical rule of Austria, and William Tell is involved in a secret plot to unit the surrounding areas to stand up against the Austrians. When William Tell is taken prisoner during a trip that he and Walter take to a nearby town, he’s forced to shoot an apple off of Walter’s head.

Language Arts

Point of view- Fiction books are usually written in third person point of view or first person point of view. (You can read more about point of view here.) What point of view is this book written in? Discuss point of view and also whose perspective the book is written from. Do you think this would be a good book to write in first person?
Myths, legends, and fables- There is much speculation about whether William Tell was an actual character or if his story is only legend. Explore the meaning of myths, legends, and fables on the Planet Oz Kids site. Discuss The Apple and the Arrow and whether or not you believe it is a legend or a true story.
Graphic organizers- Use a blank Venn Diagram (you can print here) to compare legends with either myths or fables. (If you want to get really creative, there are blank diagrams for a comparison of three, and you could compare and contrast all three.)
Creative writing- Write your own legend. Make up a character and an event he is a part of. Develop a story about your character and the event.

Science and Math

The Alps ecosystem- An ecosystem is a community of living things- plants, animals, and microorganisms- that are in relationship with each other and with the physical environment around them. Learn about the Alps (where the Tell family lived) as an ecosystem. Consider the climate as well as plants and animals that can be found there.
Archery- William Tell was known as an excellent archer. Watch this video to learn about the science of archery.
ArcheryThis video has an interesting archery experiment with some exploding gases.

History/Social Studies

Country study- The area where Walter and his father lived is now known as Switzerland. As you learn more about Switzerland, use this free printable country study packet to record your findings.
Country study- Research Switzerland with this National Geographic Kids site and Science Kids site.
Geography- Print a blank map of Europe here and label Switzerland. Find and label Austria, the country that was dominating the area at the time. (There is also a labeled map at the site that can help you.)
The Middle Ages- The story of William Tell takes place during the period of time we call The Middle Ages. Read about the Middle Ages from the History for Kids site. Record ten facts from the information you read.

Crafts and Fun

If possible, try out a bow and arrow and learn some archery for yourself.
Watch this video from Archery 360 to see some slow motion archery.
Make your own simple bow and arrow and see how well you can hit a target.
Literature unit study for The Apple and the Arrow


Dear Alexandra (This is a picture book appropriate for younger kids, but it would be a good way for older kids to learn about Swiss culture.)- Switzerland
William Tell Told AgainWilliam Tell
Castle DiaryLife in the Middle Ages
Medieval Tales- Life in the Middle Ages, famous stories from the Middle Ages including William Tell

Other Resources

If you’re going to try out archery after your reading of The Apple and the Arrow, this beginner bow and arrow set isn’t too expensive and has all you need to get started.

Find all of the literature units in this series here.

Literature unit studies for great kids books

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