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Lesson Plan on the Role of Myths

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Teacher: Natascha Beutner        Subject: Social Studies
Grade level: 4       Date: May 26, 1998

I. Content: Myths are invented stories which the Ancient Greeks used to explain why things are, where things came from,  who did something, and how human beings should be. (i.e. what human ideals and values are).

II. Prerequisites: Students should be able to explain who the Ancient Greeks were, where they lived, and who the prominent figures were in Greek mythology.

III. Instructional Objectives: When requested, the students will describe myths. Included in the description must be a reference to at least the following: two characteristics of all myths, the purpose of myths in Greek culture, the purpose of one student-selected Greek myth, and two examples of the influence of myths in modern day culture.

IV. Instructional Procedures: I would begin the lesson be asking the students, "What is a myth?" and "Why were myths so important to the Ancient Greeks?" I would listen to some of the students' suggestions prior to explaining on the chalkboard. I would write down that a myth is an invented story that is used to EXPLAIN something. I would draw three columns on the chalkboard. At the top of the first column, I would write, "Why?"

At the top of the second column, I would write, "Where? and "Who?" At the top of the third column, I would write, "What?" and "How?" I would direct the students' attention to the first column and explain that the first purpose of a myth is to explain WHY something is the way it is. For example, why do seasons change? Why is there day and night? I would ask the students if they can think of other examples and write them down in the first column. I would then explain that the second purpose of a myth is to explain WHERE something is from or who did something. For example, where do people come from? Who taught people how to use fire? Once again, I'd ask be students to think of other examples. Finally, I would explain that the third purpose of a myth is to explain HOW human beings should think and behave. It also explains  what makes a person selfish, vain, generous, etc. For example, how should we behave towards others? What qualities make up a hero or heroine? I'd ask the students to think of other examples. I would then explain to the students that I will read them an example of a myth from a book called, "The Fall of Icarus". I would tell the students that this is a very unique book because each of the illustrations on the pages come from a painting by a man named Peter Brueghel. The name of the painting is also called, "The Fall of Icarus", and each of the scenes in the painting describe a character or event in the story. I would tell the students to pay very close attention to the pictures on the pages and to listen to the story very carefully.

Does it explain WHY?

Does it explain WHO? Or does it explain HOW or WHAT?

Once I have finished the story, I would have the students tell me what they think the myth is trying to explain. If the students have not already guessed it, I would tell them that the story is trying to explain HOW human beings should behave. First, it is saying that human beings should never try to be something that they are not, and second, human beings should never be too proud or arrogant. I would ask the students if they believe the meaning of this myth is useful today. I would tell the students that there is no right or wrong answer, and that they should express their ideas. Once I have listened to some of their ideas, I would present to the students a paper bag that has slips of paper folded in half inside it. On each sheet of paper, there will be a name of a Greek myth written on it. I would then tell the students that I will walk from desk to desk and each student will take ONE sheet of paper out of the bag. The name of the Greek myth on the sheet of paper that they choose is the one that they will research and write a short summary on. (Each summary is to be a page or so long). On an overhead, I would have the following instructions of what I would expect on their summaries. These would be read a loud.

The NAME of the myth
WHO the main characters are
WHAT the myth is about
What the myth is trying to EXPLAIN
WHY you do or do not believe the explanation in the myth can be important in modern-day life.

I would tell the students that once they have written their summaries, they will be given an opportunity to present them to the class.

V. Materials and Equipment:

The Fall of Icarus. Deblander, Gabriel. Duculot Editions, Paris 1978. (Any copy of this myth along with a copy of Brueghel's painting will do).

Paper bag

Strips of paper with names of Greek myths written on them

Overhead projector and overhead

Overhead markers

VI. Assessment: I would assess the students' understanding of the characteristics and purposes of myths through either written or oral  descriptions.

VII. Follow up Activities: I would have the students write their own myths which seek to explain something. Students will also be asked to illustrate the character and events in their myths such as Peter Brueghel did. Students will be given an opportunity to present their myths and illustrations to the class..

VIII. Self Assessment: I would review the quality of the work that is assigned as a follow up activity, as well as the students' summaries, to determine how effective the lesson was. I would determine whether discrepancies exist between intended and actual outcomes.

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