What Is a Myth?
Students learn the characteristics of myths through reading and making inferences.
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
In this lesson, students will infer characteristics from an example story to construct a definition of the word "myth." They will also apply those characteristics to an unfamiliar story to determine whether it is a myth or not.
- Identify a "myth" as a story created to explain scientific phenomena.
- Complete a graphic organizer to explore new vocabulary.
- Apply learned information from one text to another.
- Draw conclusions and make inferences.
- Use graphic representations to organize information.
- Review different types of literary genre.
- Paper and pencil
- Word Questioning Worksheet (PDF)
- Chalkboard or chart paper
- An example of an unfamiliar myth (You can use this example of an Australian myth.)
- I like to use Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears to introduce the concept of a myth. You may choose your own example from your library.
Set Up and Prepare
- Copy the Word Questioning Worksheet (PDF) for each student.
- Clear an area on your chalkboard or use chart paper for a brainstorming session of different myth stories.
Step 1: Introduce this lesson with a read aloud of Verna Aardema's Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears. This is a familiar African tale that brings a multicultural perspective to the study of mythology.
Step 2: Review the different types of literary genres and their characteristics. Ask students to classify Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears into a genre. Lead the students in a discussion of a myth. Assess their prior knowledge of the term.
Step 3: Instruct a volunteer to define the word "myth" using a dictionary and discuss its meaning. Tell students that a myth is a kind of story which attempts to interpret some aspect of the world around us, often times expressing its culture's moral values in human terms. Help students identify characteristics in the story that are unique to mythical literature. Ask students the following inferential questions:
- What is being interpreted in this story?
- Is the interpretation real or scientifically based? Why or why not?
- What moral value is being addressed in this story?
Step 4: Brainstorm other well-known stories that can be classified as myths. Write student responses on the board or chart paper. Ask students why they chose these particular stories. What characteristics classify these stories as myths? Help the students to refer to any interpretations, explanations, and other moral lessons addressed in each myth.
Step 5: Distribute Word Questioning Worksheet (PDF). This activity will help you determine the students' understanding of a myth. In small groups, have students complete it using the word "myth" as the "Word Worth Watching." Upon finishing, have each group share the information they recorded on their worksheet.
Step 6: To conclude, read aloud a myth that is unfamiliar to the students. (See the example of the Australian myth.) Have the students write a paragraph or two either defending the story as a myth or explaining why it is not.
Supporting All Learners
Using graphic organizers appeals to visual/spatial learners, allowing mathematically gifted students an equal chance for success. Using the Word Questioning Worksheet (PDF) will greatly benefit these students by providing a strategy for studying vocabulary that will help them in any core subject area. Allow students to work independently or in small cooperative groups.
1. Word Questioning Worksheet (PDF)
2. Myth or Not Paragraphs
Are the students isolating the characteristics of a myth in their explanations on the Word Questioning Worksheet and in their paragraphs? Do the students understand that many different cultures have similar myths?
Evaluate the Word Questioning Worksheet (PDF) and the paragraphs about the unknown myth. Look for rationales in the paragraphs that include characteristics of a myth: about nature, explains a phenomenon, etc.