I used to feel like the standard that required students to reference characters in mythology was a bit random. I struggled with how to tie this in to my reading instruction. But, when looking at the standards in totality, you can see how this builds upon previously taught standards and is a foundation for standards that will be taught in future grade levels. I realized that mythology is not to be taught as an isolated unit but incorporated into my reading instruction. This post shares some of my favorite ways to teach reading through Greek mythology. You can find all of these lessons in my Reading Unit 3.
Greek Mythology – Looking at Theme
I teach these lessons after students learn to identify the theme in realistic fiction texts, as well as the differences between theme and topic and theme and summary. You can read more about those lessons here. In these lessons, students move from identifying the theme to comparing the themes of different texts. Each time I read a mentor text, I add it to our anchor chart.
In the first lesson, students read two myths Pandora and Icarus and Daedalus. I had a hard time finding student friendly copies of Greek myths, so I ended up writing a version for my students. I wrote each myth, so they could all fit on one page AND so that each passage lended itself to its accompanying graphic organizer. In this first lesson, students identify the topic and theme of the myths and write a brief summary of the texts.
Greek Mythology – Side by Side Comparisons
I begin to transition students into making comparisons with this side by side comparison activity. Students read about Arachne and Hercules and use the graphic organizer to identify the theme of each passage. This allows students to see how the themes are different. Students also number the sequence of events in the order in which they occurred for each passage. Even though students do not reference mythology, they are building the repertoire of background knowledge and are making steps to that level of expertise.
Comparing Greek Myths
In the following lesson, students read about Medusa and Narcissus. I allow students to share what they believe the theme of each text is. Students are often surprised that both texts have the same theme, but there are completely different events that express that theme. Students complete this graphic organizer which revisits story elements and characterization, as well as begins pushing in writing about Greek myths. As this point, students should be able to reference mythology in their writing.
Comparing and Contrasting Greek Myths
In the following lessons, students begin digging a little deeper into theme and mythology by comparing and contrasting Athena and Ares through a Venn-Diagram. It’s important to make sure all students remember how to use a Venn-Diagram. You never know when you’ll be surprised with a student who doesn’t remember how to complete one. As students read, they should think about the similarities and differences between the two myths. I want the primary focus of student thinking to be about the theme of the two myths, but students can add to that as needed.
In the final lesson, students write a compare and contrast paragraph. They will first use a graphic organizer to compare and contrast Paethon and Niobe. Then, students will use that graphic organizer to write their paragraph. I love having the graphic organizer and paragraph on the same page, because it allows me to hold students accountable in referring to their graphic organizer in their paragraphs. Too frequently, I see students complete the graphic organizer and then not refer to it once in their writing.
After teaching these lessons, don’t be surprised if your students are completely hooked on Greek mythology. It always fascinates students! You may want to encourage students with suggestions for related fiction series such as The Lightning Thief or Goddess Girls.