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I teach a full quarter of Greek/Roman Mythology to 11th and 12th graders. I started two years ago and have tried to keep my projects interesting to my students and to show them how mythology is relevant to their world today. After studying the different gods, goddesses and their symbols, I have them do a presentation on Mythology in Advertisement. They need to go through magazines, phone books, etc. and pick out ads that relate to mythology. For example, Nike for the goddess Nike. After they find different types of advertisements, then they are to find a company whose logo comes from mythology and research that company. They need to find out all they can about the company, why the company chose their name, e.g. Apollo Heating, or how they came to choose their logo, e.g. Pegasus for Mobil. After they have found many advertisements and a company, then they do a presentation where they share their findings as well as their knowledge of mythology. This is very interesting not only for the students but also for me. No matter how many times I have done this assignment, my students come up with new companies. This also satisfies the famous question, When will we need to use this in real life?
My freshman students are required to learn the Greek and Roman names for each of the Olympians, as well as their Area of Power. We also learn some of the other well-known gods' information. To help students learn, we play BINGO. Our bingo cards have names and areas of power mixed around. The clues have names, areas of power, actions, symbols, etc. Students then cover up their cards with pieces of paper when the clues are given. Students enjoy learning the information, and it is a requested activity long after the study of Greek mythology is over. I do bring small prizes, candy, etc. for the winners, but the game is just as popular without the extra incentives.
After becoming somewhat familiar with the characters and their relationships, we write biopoems about each of them. We already used biopoems at the beginning of the year when we wrote them about ourselves, so the format is familiar to the students and easily modified to use with mythology. Format: 1) Greek Name. 2) Four Traits of Character. 3) Relative of ____ (1-3 people). 4) Lover of _____ (1-3 things or people). 5) Who feels _____ (1-3 things). 6) Who needs ____ (1-3 things). 7) Who fears ____ (1-3 things). 8) Who gives _____ (1-3 things). 9) Who would like to see ____ (1-3 things). 10) Resident of ______.11) Roman Name. Example: Aphrodite, Goddess of Love! Beauty and Fertility. A daughter of Zeus and Dione; wife of Hephaestus. Lover of sons Aeneas and Cupid and brother Ares. Who protects sailors. Who needs a chariot. Who fears War, Athena and Hera. Who gives Helen to Paris, a magic girdle to Hera, and Medea to Jason. Resident of Mt. Olympus. Venus.
As a student project during the semester mythology class, I assign students to groups. They work together and plan, then make their own mythology board game, complete with educational purpose, directions for playing, and a demonstration of knowledge about myths, etc. There have been some very sophisticated board games invented by students. Enough time is allowed after the games are completed to have student groups trade games and play another group's game. These board games are displayed in the school, and students get a lot of compliments. The local paper has done a feature with pictures of this mythology project. The students enjoy this and learn, too.
As we study the Greek gods, each student composes his or her own "Greek Gods' Book". For each god, they write a page of information based on their reading, a creative writing page where they invent an adventure for the god or goddess, have a god write a letter to another god, a poem, a diary entry, etc..., and a page of illustrations, usually a collage of relevent images found on the Web, though they may draw if they like. Each student ends up with about 40 pages of material, which we bind into a book, after they design a cover, do a back cover with info on "the author" (themselves) and add a table of contents. They are pretty proud of the result, even if they sometimes complain during the work process! When we study the labors of Hercules, students make up postcards sent by Hercules to his friends after he has accomplished each labor. Each card has an illustration on one side, and about half a page of creative writing on the other. Hercules suddenly becomes alive and close to the students!
My 8th grade class reads The Trojan War. We create a big bulletin board at the back of the room. There is a 3-D horse out of paper. We then create the city of Troy. Each student creates a well-know figure, about four inches high, that can be flipped up to reveal a short paragraph about that person. Some students are assigned objects to depict and explain the relevance. This is a very colorful and dramatic presentation.
I teach ninth grade English and do a very involved mythology unit and the Odyssey. I did an interesting compare and contrast essay with the Perseus myth (that the students read first) and "Clash of the Titans." That worked out great! Students have finished reading the Odyssey now and are going to be writing a modern day Odyssey where Odysseus has to return to their home town from a modern conflict. Each student spins the globe and puts his finger on a spot. Then his "chapter" has to involve Odysseus overcoming obstacles today in that country. The student also has to check with the person who would have the country before him. Not only teaches composition, but also geography because they have to chart the order of how Odysseus would return as well as some research into their respective countries.
I divide the class into groups of 4-6 and each group draws the name of a god or goddess out of a box. The group is then responsible for making a video commercial for that god/goddess. Examples include Athena's Smart Pills, Demeter Cereal, Aphrodite Make-up. All students participate in the commercial by making a storyboard, making props and acting.
I teach fourth grade. We use the Open Court reading series which requires a great deal of writing. We also spend a great deal of time examining genre in literature. In our first unit, with the theme Risks and Consequences, we read an adapted version of Jason and the Golden Fleece. The kids are fascinated by the action and gore. The unit just evolved from there. We are reading the myths on your web site and then writing summaries of the action. We also compare and contrast the heros. We grade these using state developed rubrics. The summaries are then published and made into a class book. The kids love it and are making the connection between the names and actions of the mythical characters and plot lines and vocabulary used today.
I approach my unit on contributions of the ancient Greeks by first taking an interest inventory. Students rank their interest in such areas as architecture, drama, government, mythology, science, language, ceramics, and math. I group them into expert groups based on their interests. Then, using a multi-media text set (i.e.books and texts from various reading levels and topics, videos, art prints, etc.) about ancient Greece, they first browse and then research their area of interest. Each group makes a poster, visual representation or work of art, to demonstrate what they have learned about their area of contribution. They all must participate in an oral presentation to the rest of the class--the drama group performs, the science group conducts an experiment demonstrating Archimedes' Principle, for example. Individually, they do written reports, and also complete progress reports and reflective pieces about their work on the project. I allow time for visits to other groups during the unit. We end with a culminating Greek festival, serving olives, citrus fruits, grapes, feta cheese, and baklava, for sure, listening to traditional Greek music and displaying their group project work. This unit is the highlight of my year and I am always looking for suggestions and resources to add to the text set.
Among other assignments, one of my favorites is to compare characters of the love myths to other literary characters. For example, the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe is closely related in theme to Romeo and Juliet. Another assignment I use to introduce the Greek mythology creation myth involves a compilation of 5 or 6 other cultural creation myths. I assign groups a myth, ranging from Egyptian to Aztec, easily found on the Net. Each group must present to the class, in essence, teach that particular myth. This opens the way for my lesson on the Greeks.
After introducing the creatures - Minotaur, Harpies, Cyclopes, etc. - I have the children design their own creature.
(1) They must describe at least three physical characteristics such as hair, head, body, hands, etc.
(2) They must give the creature character traits: helpful to humans, can't go out in daylignt, eats mice, etc.
(3) They must illustrate the creature.
(4) Finally they must name the creature.
The children love the chance to use the qualities of the creatures we have learned about and invent a few of their own.
I have the students retell a myth in first person point of view, assuming the identity of a hero like Prometheus or Theseus. They really enjoy this task, and it is a good comprehension strategy.
We make "flippy facts" quiz boards. After studying research materials on Greek Mythology, the students make these boards to practice the facts they have learned. The boards are made by writing some "clues" in the form of facts about a particular god, goddess or hero on the front of a plain 5 x 8 index card. On the back of the card, upside-down so it appears right-side-up when the card is flipped to see the answer, is written the name of that deity or hero, along with a colorful illustration. Each child makes five to ten of these cards. The child tapes his or her cards onto a piece of tagboard or construction paper, taping the tops of the cards so the bottoms are free to flip up and reveal the name and picture. After the boards are finished, the students trade quiz boards and see if they can guess the name of the deity or hero from the clues on the front of each card. This lesson can be modified for younger children by including simpler facts, for example the front of the card might say "God of the Sea" and the back "Poseidon." Older children might like to include more challenging facts or lesser-known deities. These boards can be made for any knowledge-level content area, and children enjoy challenging each other while they develop research and writing skills.
In the spring, I teach a 4-5 week unit on Greek mythology in English. The
science teacher does an astronomy unit, and the Civics teacher has already
covered types of governments in his class. For one week in May, we
combine with all other teachers of 8th grade classes to have GREEK WEEK.
We suspend classes for the week and develop special projects and sessions
covering all subject areas. The kids participate in sessions on Greek art,
Greek food, Greek math, internet reasearch on everything Greek to prepare
Power Point computer presentations, and write and illustrate myths. They
also build rockets. (Well, the Greeks would have done it if they had the
technology! It's a part of astronomy studies.) When Greek Week starts
students are divided into teams and compete against each other by selecting
a name for their teams, creating team logos and banners, and creating a
team chant. They receive points for each of these. We also play Greek
Quiz, a trivia game about ancient Greece and mythology all week in Home
Rooms. Teams also receive points for dressing Greek. The culmination is
on Friday when we launch the rockets in the morning and have the Olympics
in the afternoon. Winning teams receive wreaths for their heads and prizes
such as Dionysus's Delight (grape pop), Minotaur Meat (beef jerkey),
Demeter's Delicacies (granola bars), and Athena's Olives on a Stick, (green
The myths have provided a base for writing activities. In the past I have used the 12 Labours of Heracles, usually beginning with a discussion of heroes (e.g. comic book heroes), then telling the first 6 or so labours in some detail. The final labours are merely outlined and the students choose one to write their own version. While they cannot change the basic facts they have been given they are free to amplify as much as they like. The cover is a Greek helmet and all the pages including the cover are cut to that shape. We try to use a Greek style lettering for the titles, etc.
After teaching about the various Greek myths and students are aware of the masks the actors in greek plays wear, students are asked to choose a character in a myth and make a mask for that individual. Using large paper, students create the shape of the mask (making holes for eyes, nose and mouth) and decorate according to the character they chose. The masks are adorned with oversized words the students pick to describe the character. (Example: Arachne's mask has spider earings on with words like "too proud," "haughty," "skillful weaver," etc.) Masks are then hung around classroom.
After an introduction to mythology's major themes and purposes through videos, I tell my students the ancient Greek stories of how the Olympian gods came to be, how Prometheus created man and stole fire, the story of Pandora, and the story of the flood sent by Zeus. Students are then introduced to the Meeting of the Gods. Students each choose from a list of about 40 gods, goddesses, Titans, heroes, monsters, sorcerers, sorceresses, etc., one character to be for a day, with no duplications in the same class. They have one 85-minute class period to research their character in the library. The librarian pulls all the mythology materials and puts them on carts for easy access, so students generally find what they need in one class period. The presentation is only 1-2 minutes. I base my list of characters on the materials available in our library. The students then prepare a presentation that will fulfill the following criteria: 1. Choose one name to be and learn to pronounce it. 2. Design a 6"x10" name card and wear a 2"x3" name tag. 3. Select a picture to bring and show. 4. Plan an introduction of yourself: tell how you relate to other gods, tell some short stories about yourself, put the information on note cards and practice. 5. Tell us at least one complete story about yourself. You must summarize this story in writing prior to sharing it with us. When you present your tale, it may be from note cards, memory, or your typed manuscript. Everyone turns in a typed manuscript. 6. Create a symbol or prop to represent yourself. 7. Tell us how you are still alive. Students are given a grading scale or rubric with the requirements. I give 50 points for the assignment, five points for each component except the written myth, which is worth fifteen. On the due date, students come to class "in character" and tell their stories as if they were the mythological character. Many of them decide to wear costumes, and the props are usually quite imaginative. Most students have a lot of fun with this activity. The logistics can be worked out in many ways. Students can be given more time in the library, have time in class to work, then give their presentations within a couple of days from the research time, or they can be working on other things in class, like our heroes portion of the unit, and be given about a week to prepare for the meeting of the gods. This allows for additional individual visits to the library if need be and time to create interesting props.
After introducing the students to ancient Greek architecture - focusing on the Acropolis - the students research the mythological characters represented in Greek sculptures and vases. Each student must then create a 3-foot-wide poster board pediment illustrating a segment of a myth. The backgrounds are painted in earth tones and the figures are black silhouettes typical of ancient vase paintings. Borders must have a classical design - i.e. Greek key or egg and dart - and the name of the main character spelled in Greek. The pediments are then hung over doors throughout the school. It is a big hit with everyone and a way of exposing the whole school to Greek mythology.
I teach Advanced Placement English and regular English. One of the most
successful projects I do with mythology is to have students create their own
mythological story after studying some of the Greek explanations for such
things as rainbows and the seasons. They create presentations using posters
to explain their choices and also write a detailed description of the gods
involved, etc. It really helps them get a handle on why the Greeks
explained things the way they did.
Students create a myth of their own based on their name. Students use an enlarged scantron sheet and bubble in their names. They then trace the markings onto copy paper and connect the dots to create their own name constellation. They create a myth using the basic elements of myths to go with their name constellation.
I teach an extensive unit on Greek Mythology. As the culmination project, my students create a version of a local news broadcast set in Ancient Greece. I have five seperate sections, and each section is assigned a focus area: news, sports, weather, commercials, etc. Students apply and interview for various jobs. Each class has a producer. The producers run the "News Room" giving story assignments and making sure the set and costumes are ready by "deadline". Producers also meet to discuss each classroom's contribution to the show. Basically the meetings ensure no overlapping. There is a practice recording after which we make any corrections in the broadcast. The day of the final recording, the school counselor comes in to the classroom and video tapes. The counselor then takes the footage and edits it into a 15 minute video. The producers then hold a press conference inviting the local newspaper, school board members, various people in the community, etc. The entire news program is built around Ancient Greece and greek myths. Students determine the difference between a news story, "Ending of the Trojan War", and a feature story, "Interview with Zeus". This project is also a way for me to ensure all students receive the most valuable information about Ancient Greece without my having to teach it in all the classes. For example, in the class assigned to cover sports, I go into great detail with them on the origins of the Ancient Olympic Games. That class will then weed through the information and present, through their stories, to the other classes. The project as a whole will take two weeks. I use one week to research, write, and design sets and wardrobe. The second week is used for the practice run and the final shooting. Editing usually takes another week depending on how much time the counselor and I have to work on it. This is something the kids love, and it is a time for me to sit back and let students learn.
I have been looking for a way to teach the Odyssey to my kids without putting them to sleep or translating each and every word in the standard edition. My kids love reading about the Odyssey at Mythweb and answering questions after reading each book. This was the easiest time I have ever had teaching this unit. I have worked up some simple study questions to guide the reading. (These are presented here in Adobe Acrobat format. If you don't already have it, click here for a free download of Adobe Acrobat Reader.) Also from Beverly Sparks: a selection of Greek mythology projects.
I am using the myth of Procrustes as a short intro to an intolerance unit--"Take a stand". I tell this story to introduce the idea of how we all want people to fit our own idea of what they should be--e.g. shorter or taller! It's a sssssstretch but 8th graders love gore to start a unit.
After reading the myth of Pandora, I have my students find a container (box, jar, etc.) and decorate it so that it generates much curiosity and no one could resist opening it. They are to construct ten evils of today's society and place them in the box. All evils must be personified and have "eyes" and "wings". Some students choose to draw and color their evils while others choose three-dimensional objects and glue "wiggle eyes" and tissue paper "wings" on them. For example, one student glued eyes and wings on a small mirror to represent Vanity. Another student chose to draw "flying" handcuffs to represent Theft. Also, one item representing Hope for our present-day society must also be placed in the box. Next, I have my students either write a poem or a short essay about one evil contained in their Pandora's box. They also provide a "hopeful" solution to the evil they have chosen. This project stimulates their thinking and provides an outlet for their creativity.
My students really struggle with keeping the gods, goddesses, and characters straight, especially since our text uses both the Greek and Roman names. To help them with this and incorporate their artistic sides, I have students in pairs create a poster that shows information pertinent to that character or story. They must include color and use pictures as much as possible to explain their character's story and all the details necessary to help their classmates. They are encouraged to be creative and may give their picture a modern twist. When their posters are complete, we hang them up in the classroom as visual reminders and as learning tools.
"Pottery" - by Penny Burns
The students design a krater or amphora using the black-line method of Greek pottery. They use a template to trace the shape of a krater or amphora on dark red paper, which is about 24 inches high. They design a scene depicting one of the Greek gods or goddesses. They incorporate several authentic designs around the edges and borders of the krater or amphora. They are encouraged to use their creativity rather than duplicate another artist's image of the god or goddess. When all of the drawing is complete, they trace over the pencil marks with a permanent black marker. The end result is striking. This assignment really appeals to those "right brained" students who like to draw. This catches the attention of students who show little interest in daily assignments. I've given this assignment the past three years. The results keep getting better.
After introducing the Greek gods/goddesses in class and reviewing a few of these explanation myths, I provide each of the students with a very small decorative squash from a local market. I tell the students that this squash is going to become their new Greek god or goddess and he/she will be part of the students' original myths to explain some phenomenon of nature as their ancient Greek counterparts might have. The students are to give their squash personalities (faces, costumes, etc.), a name, a "power," and involve this new god/godesses in an original explanation myth that involves at least one of the "real" Greek gods/goddesses. Some very interesting stories have resulted!
After an overview of the principals of mythology as described by Joseph
Campbell's video series the "Power of Myth," our 9th grade honors students
watch the George Lucas documentary "The Mythology of Star Wars." The students note the similarities between the Star Wars hero archetypes, the fringe characters, and the hero mentors such as Obi Won and Yoda. Students are then put in groups of three. They randomly draw a Star Wars character and begin researching the ways in which the Star Wars character may be compared to a particular Greek or Roman character. The group is challenged to create a visual aide (poster, power point presentation, or dramatic presentation) which teaches the many ways in which the Star Wars character models the ancient character. We've had great fun with these presentations because the Star Wars myth is part of the American mythological heritage.
As far as what the comparisons actually are, according to the book "The Magic of Myth: A Companion Volume to the Exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum of
the Smithsonian Institution," by Mary Henderson, the following analogies can
be made from ancient myths to specific Star Wars characters:
1.) Theseus, like Luke, gains his father's sword for his heroic deeds.
2.) Merlin is King Arthur's "wise and helpful guide", just as Obi-Wan Kenobi is Luke's.
3.) Fearing for his family's safety, Luke initially refuses the call to
adventure, just as Daphne was turned into a tree when she refused her
call to adventure.
4.) Luke's obstacles are as plentiful as those of Odysseus.
5.) Obi-Wan becomes Luke's "hero partner", just as Gilgamesh had a friend/rival, Enkidu.
6.) The many creatures from the cantina are creatures "at the edge", like the many supernatural creatures often found at the threshold of
transformation for a hero's journey.
7.) Luke's fancy flying through the mazes is not unlike the labyrinth myth we
see with Theseus and the Minotaur. Theseus can go through the maze safely
because of his twine from Princess Ariadne; the droids which help Luke are
also from a princess.
8.) Luke and Han in the garbage masher, or Leia and Han in the belly of the
space slug, are like any hero in the belly of the beast - even Jonah in the
9.) The rebel forces have only one hope, to drop a proton torpedo into a
small target. That is not unlike David launching a small stone at the mighty
10.) Yoda is said to be a Taoist sage.
11.) Han is turned to stone, and that is found in many mythic stories such as
with Lot's wife and Perseus's use of the Gorgon's head.
12.) Luke gets dismembered as Osiris was by his brother Set
13.) Leia has been captured and taken to the underworld of Jabba just as
Persephone was abducted by Hades.
14. ) When the Death Star is supposedly supressed, it springs to life with a new
Death Star, just as the resurgence of evil happens with the Hydra's growing
15.) Luke tells Leia they are twins, just as with Romulus and Remus. The
two are yin and yang together; Luke has found his feminine complement.
16.) Luke realizes he must descend back again into the Death Star, just as
Hercules brings his friend Theseus back from Hades
17.) Like gods, Vader and the Emperor can look down on the conflict to comment
unseen by the mere mortals. Anyway, those are just a few from that book. The movie explains more in terms
that the students understand and with good clips from the movie, so even our
least knowledgeable "Star Wars" fan can get the jist of it.
After learning about Greek Mythology and all its stories and characters, I have the students construct a monument made of sugar cubes to dedicate to the character of their choice. They have to design their monument primarily of sugar cubes, and the design has to be somehow connected to their character. For example, Zeus - a lightning bolt, etc... They also have to write a paragraph explaining a little bit about their character and why they chose to dedicate their monument to that particular character. Students get a chance to show their creativity, practice summarizing and show what they know about their character.
Students seem to know and appreciate the
entertainment value of daytime talk and court shows on television.
By using that format, students can put on a skit about some of the
minor adventures which take place in Greek myth. For example, after
reading the story of Daedalus, students can use their imaginations as
to which characters should be interviewed on the talk show and which
controversies should be addressed. Perhaps Daedalus would be
confronted by his son Icarus because Hades enabled him to visit his
father on the show. Or there is a confrontation between Daedalus and
Minos. Or Daedalus meets the "wax" salesman and accuses him of
causing his son's death. The possibilities seem endless, and they
are when it comes to the imagination of our students.
I developed this lesson in an attempt to relate Greek Mythology to my tenth grader's world. After studying the major Greek gods, heroes and myths, each student is asked to find at least twenty businesses today that use names related to Greek Mythology. They can use the phone book or Internet, and no two businesses can be based on the same mythological subject. The student should explain why that type of business would use that name. After a class discussion over their findings, each student is asked to create a magazine ad for an imaginary business or product named after a Greek mythological character. The ad must include a drawing, the product, business name, and a slogan which provides a reference to additional information about the Greek mythological subject. The kids have a great time, and the lesson proves that the ancient Greeks may be gone but are not forgotten.
I give the students a small list of web sites, including this one, on Greek Mythology and a handout of about 20 questions which can be answered in a simple web search on Greek Mythology. They have one class period in which to find the most number of correct answers with a partner. Usually bonus points are motivation. They could spend a whole week browsing like this. I use mythology as background for The Odyssey.
In order to help students understand the Odyssey more fully, after reading the epic we watch "The Wizard of Oz". Students discuss both the video and the Odyssey, and they use the discussion and their own observations to compose a comparison/contrast essay. There are many similarities between the works: the Lotus-Eaters/the field of poppies, Poseidon/the Wicked Witch of the West, Athena/Glenda the good witch, Odysseus's crew/Dorothy's companions, and, of course, the journey home.
After reading several myths together, I asked students to make a list of common elements of mythology - or what do you need in a good myth? Working from their shared lists, I had students work together in groups of three and four, to write an original myth, which they were to share with the class. I found that by sharing the ideas for writing, their original myths were much better than if they worked alone. They all had a lot of fun using their imaginations and incorporating many details of mythology in their group writing. We finished off by having the myths read aloud, as a sort of group storytelling activity, which is also a pleasant change from each student handing in a piece of writing, with a very small audience.