Greek Mythology and Readers Theater
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
Covering Greek mythology can be very confusing. For one thing, the family tree for the Greek gods makes the family situations on Jerry Springer and The Maury Show look normal and tame. Mythology is not my strong suit, and the end of the year is not necessarily the time to cover topics that you are not completely confident with. So when I stumbled across a Greek mythology readers theater book, I was ecstatic. Read on to find out how to incorporate this activity into your classroom.
Photo: One student made a cake for the "God and Goddess Bake Off" play. This was a great way to celebrate the day!
To introduce the Greek gods, I show my students a BrainPop video. BrainPop is a great Web site that offers high-quality information in a fun, efficient way. Though the site is not free, a subscription is well worth it. We then, as a class, compose a family tree from a student-friendly Web site that describes the gods and goddesses.
The next step is to read the first play in Greek Myth Plays, which introduces all of the gods and goddesses, again, in a fun and easy-to-read way. We discuss brain-friendly ways that this play could be executed and techniques that would assist students in remembering the attribute of each god. The brain-friendly ideas include wearing name tags, dressing in a memorable way, carrying a memorable prop, or talking in a way that coincides with the god's attribute. For example, Poseidon (god of the sea) would wear blue, have wet hair, and carry a glass of water.
After we read the play, I choose half of the class to work on acting it out. The remaining half of the class will act out another play from the book.
The readers theater plays in my class run a five day course. In general, it goes something like this:
Monday Students are given the script. They read the script independently, look up a few vocabulary words, and write a brief summary of the play. A director is chosen to direct each play. They are given a list of students who are in the play and assign roles.
The director is a highly sought-after position, but it is not an easy one. Many disagreements can occur in the production process and the director must be able to keep the group moving forward. This position is great for students you would like to help develop leadership skills.
Tuesday The director tells the students their roles. They do a read-through and generate ideas for staging, props, costumes, music, and backdrops. The director will finalize the vision in his/her mind, assign extra tasks, and ask me for certain supplies, props, or music.
Wednesday Students begin to bring in their supplies or props from home. They rehearse a few times. At the end of the day, the director spends time going over "gems and ops," or what is going well in the play and opportunities for improvement.
Gems and ops are important in order to maintain focus; to practice reflective, critical thinking; and to keep all team members on the same page.
Friday Showtime. Each cast will present to the classmates that are not in their play. Each play takes about 20 minutes. During the play, the audience members critique the play by writing down gems and ops.
Sample Friday Play Schedule:
- 11:00 Play #1 setup.
- 11:05 Play #1 performed; audience members write down gems and ops.
- 11:15 Director of play critiques the performance of his/her team with some gems and ops.
- 11:17 Audience members are chosen to share three gems and three ops. Teacher adds his/her opinion.
- 11:30 Play #1 takedown; play #2 setup.
- 11:35 Play #2 performed; audience members write down gems and ops.
- 11:45 Director of the play critiques the performance of his/her team with some gems and ops.
- 11:47 Audience members are chosen to share three gems and three ops. Teacher adds his/her opinion.
- 11:50 Play #2 takedown.
Photos: On the left, Pandora's Box. On the right, you get to see the actors hiding in the box.
On the left, Zeus and wife judged the bake off. On the right, the cast and crew. Each god/goddess dressed in a memorable way. They loved doing these plays!
The details thought of by the students . . . ambrosia, the food of the gods on the left, and wings on the feet to match the Internet research they did on their characters.
- Students should simply say "thank you" when taking gems and ops from the audience, to keep things moving. They should not try to explain or justify what they were doing.
- The best play gets a reward. In my classroom it is one of two things: Either the director gets to keep a traveling trophy on his/her desk for the week, or the cast of the winning play gets to eat lunch in the classroom on Friday with the teacher.
- Each week new directors and a shuffling of the cast members occur.
- I love this activity at the end of the year. It allows for maximum engagement with minimal input from the teacher. Students really are in charge of their learning.
- The director has the power to grade the other students, granting up to ten of the 100 points available for this assignment. This allows the director to have some power to facilitate a well-run rehearsal.
THE VALUE AND THE SKILLS
- Students develop their fluency skills.
- Students develop their abilities to read with inflection and emotion.
- Students increase their vocabulary.
- Students learn about Greek mythology.
- Students learn how to lead or work as a team toward a common goal.
- Students practice being resourceful and creative.
- Students learn how to present to an audience.
- Students learn how to give and receive constructive criticism.
- Students learn how to be reflective, critical thinkers.
- Students expand their comfort zones.
2i2 is a trademark of Mr. Vasicek's classroom. It promotes a life of integrity and doing your best.