Stones of Erasmus Teacher's Planner: Teach the Mythology of the Titan Gods and Goddesses with Middle and High School Students (Or, How to Make Mythology Relevant for Adolescent English Language Arts Students)
In this post, I briefly outline why it is both a challenge and a reward to teach mythology as a unit in a middle and high school classroom!
Last year my students sat at desks with
plexiglass screens, but we were still
able to engage in meaningful conversations
(including the meaning of myth). #thumbsup
Mythology is a powerful topic to introduce to adolescent learners in a Language Arts or Humanities classroom. But, there's a catch. You don't want to present mythology as "kids' stuff" — and you definitely want to have a conversation about how students were first introduced to mythology — via Disney's Hercules or from a children's book, or a trip to the library, or not at all! The aura of myth is everywhere. And myths originate from all the world's societies — from the moment the first human could speak, myths have been told.
State and reiterate to students that mythology is a wide-reaching topic, and in every culture and civilization, there is a mythology — the stuff of narrative that sticks, that is universal, and tells a human story. Greek mythology is a standard go-to when teaching myth. It's standard fodder in schools today — especially because of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and Edith Hamilton's Mythology. But don't just stick with the Greeks — provide a variety of mythic stories and see how they are parallel, and share common patterns.
Finding Patterns in Myth and Identifying Tropes
Believe it or not — characters like
Spider-man, from Marvel comics and movies
— are just modern-day iterations of myth.
What god would Spider-man be? Anansi?
In a middle or high school setting, it's important to contextualize myth and to make it relevant for today's learners. How do you do that successfully? The best way to do it is to show how patterns in myth crop up in our everyday world. Perhaps your students are not worried about finding a nymph on the sidewalk, or striding a bull that turns into a God — but, mythology is all around us. I love to use the website TV Tropes — it organizes common tropes found in literature, movies, television, and video games to show how popular allusions form and where they can be found! One good place to start is to show students how the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just another version of mythology, re-packaged for the new media set.
The difficulty with teaching myth to students is just simply the gulf of content that is out there. It can be overwhelming. But less is more. The goal of teaching mythology is to have students make connections. Also, older students can learn about the discrepancies found in myths, and chart out and graph those inconsistencies — such as why the stories from ancient sources change, are adapted, and evolve over time. There is no universal text when it comes to these stories — and prepare to leverage this reality to your advantage. Create group work that has students investigate the differences and similarities found in myth. And make sure to record and document what you find.
Teach a Three-Day Lesson on the Titan Gods and Goddesses
Where to start on a myth unit for middle and high school students? You can start with a lesson on creation myths, but don't forget the Titans. The Titans are the "old gods," and their stories are filled with violence, wonder, intrigue, rebellion, and the rise of the new gods, the Olympians. Learn with your students as you traverse stories that include a father castrated by his son; a wise, compassionate one who attempts to save humankind, and how a jar (or, is it a box?) unleashes mayhem onto the world!
|Use a three-day lesson plan digital download from |
Stones of Erasmus. Adolescents will love the messiness
and insanity of the old gods, the Titans.
A Fourth Grader's Optimism: Who Needs Some Inspiration? (Especially After the Tumultuous Events in Washington, D.C. this Week!)
Feeling the need to be inspired, I found this post-it note on a bulletin board at the school where I am a high school English teacher. I teach in a K-12 school in the New York City borough of Queens.
|Julian in Fourth Grade doles out a massive dose of encouragement.|
Needing Positivity this Week (For Sure!)I am usually the teacher who brings positivity to the classroom. But lately I have been feeling down-and-out. Maybe it's the global pandemic that has swept the world, or maybe it's the attack on our democratic institutions on Wednesday that threw the nation's Capitol building in lockdown when a large group of Trump-inspired far-right rioters breached security protocol and entered the federal building, breaking glass, vandalizing the Speaker of the House's office, and even infiltrating the Senate chambers — where just an hour before, legislators had convened to accept certified electoral college votes from the states — to follow through with the Constitutional process to de facto validate the election of the next President of the United States, Mr. Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Inspiring Note from a Fourth Grader
And I saw this note from a Fourth grader. Kids at this age have an optimism and clarity for both big-spectacled dreams as well as practical sense. Who doesn't want the world changed for the better. But I love how he admits it is a challenge. And kudos for his marvelous grammatical construction — "Changing the world isn't easy, but anyone can."
|An orange, beat-up pencil sharpener is affixed to a wall.|
An article in the latest issue of Atlantic Monthly on what makes great teachers revived my spirit a bit. After reading the article, I realized that growing up I thought of my best teachers as magical beings, as if they had possessed something we didn’t and they were willing to pass that magic on to us. I know. I had a heavy infatuation with teachers as a kid. So I am biased. And now, I am a high school English teacher. So there is that.
Obviously, good teachers are not superheroes.
They have foibles just like the rest of us. But, we have to stop thinking that “good teaching” is some mystery that lies in the realm of the unknown. As if the skill of teaching is an intangible thing that cannot be taught. There are qualities that one can detect in a teacher. When you meet a good teacher you realize they are never satisfied. Good teachers say stuff like this to visitors to their classroom: "' You’re welcome to come, but I have to warn you — I am in the middle of just blowing up my classroom structure and changing my reading workshop because I think it’s not working as well as it could.'" Good teachers are constantly re-evaluating their methods and constantly looking for ways to make the learning environment better.
- Good teachers “avidly recruit students and other teachers into the process.” I know this to be true. Good teachers create a vibe that sends the message: “let’s be a part of this.”
- Good teachers maintain focus and ensure that everything they do in the classroom contributes to the learning process. I chuckle at this sign of a good teacher because it reminds me of a teacher I had who would always use every opportunity as a learning moment, to such an extent that we as students were not always aware of it. We might be collecting cool quotes to put into our notebooks, not realizing he was teaching us how to be better researchers.
- Good teachers plan exhaustively and purposefully, planning backward from the desired goal. Yes, I agree this is a good sign of a great teacher. They have broad goals they want their students to reach and make sure every lesson somehow inches toward that goal. The work is in the details. It takes a mammoth amount of creative energy to accomplish this feat.
- Good teachers seem not to complain about the system, but work relentlessly despite the combined efforts of budget, poverty, and budgetary shortcomings. The converse of this is those good teachers often are ground down by bureaucracy and quit due to burnout.
Here is a different video than what I originally had seen on the Atlantic's web site on the "Manager Teacher" (a model I would like to emulate). The original video was taken down and I cannot find it, but this video is sufficient for what I want to showcase. Notice two things: how the teacher has the students' full attention (that did not come out of thin air) and how from the beginning she demands from students to illustrate their understanding of what they need to do. But she is concise and she uses "economy of language" — and then the students get to work!