In this lesson unit on ancient Greece, students compare three myths and create their own original myth.
- Conduct a character study on three mythological heroes
- Formulate a definition of the word "hero" based on mythological characters in a small group setting
- Evaluate detail, character, setting, sequence, cause/effect, imagery, and sound in non-print sources
- DVD or VHS of Clash of the Titans
- DVD or VHS of Jason and the Argonauts
- The story of Hercules, either in print or online
- Mythological Hero Chart printable
- Whiteboard and markers
- Audio-visual equipment to show the movies
- Chart paper, five sheets
- Five markers for student use
- Optional: Writing paper
- Procure copies of Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts. There are a couple of inappropriate scenes in each film, so preview them in order to familiarize yourself with the timing to plan a "cover-up" or "fast forward" technique.
- Decide how you want your students to read the story of Hercules. If you decide to use a print source, make enough copies of the story for each student. If you'd rather have students read web versions, find one that works for students' general reading level. I recommend the Myth Web version of the Hercules story. If you decide to use the web version, schedule time in a computer lab for Part III, if necessary.
- Make a class set of the Mythological Hero Chart printable.
- Either divide your class in groups of five students or prepare for them to choose their own groups for Part VI.
- Gather a piece of chart paper and a marker for each group for Part VI.
Part I: An Introduction and Perseus
Step 1: Introduce this lesson with a discussion about heroism. Ask each student who their hero or heroine is and why they chose that person. Who would you consider to be our modern day heroes/heroines? Ask students which characteristics their hero/heroine displays. Remind them that myths were the main form of education for Greeks long ago, and that they carried significance for humankind. Humans have emulated other people or "heroes" through time.
Step 2: Tell students that over the next several days they will be conducting a character study on mythical heroes of long ago. Distribute the Mythological Hero Chart printable and share with students that they will be completing this chart as part of their character study. Review the directions and the examples they will be completing.
Step 3: Introduce the first hero students will learn about: Perseus. Give a brief overview of the movie Clash of the Titans, a non-print version of the "Perseus and Medusa" myth.
Step 4: Show the film and have students complete the column for Perseus. This should take almost two class periods, depending on how much of the film you show.
Step 5: When you are finished with the film, have students keep their Mythological Hero Charts to use again later.
Part II: Hercules
Step 1: Inform students that today's character study will be about a familiar hero: Hercules. Activate prior knowledge by asking students what they already know about Hercules.
Step 2: Explain that students will be using the web to read the story about Hercules and his twelve Labors. Remind students that they need to look for the specific examples from the Mythological Hero Chart to complete the column for Hercules. This should take an entire class period.
Note: If you will be reading the myth, allow students to work independently or in pairs to research any additional information they need.
Step 3: Remind students to keep their Mythological Hero Charts to use again later.
Part III: Jason and the Argonauts
Step 1: Inform the students that the third hero they will learn about is Jason. Give a brief overview of the movie Jason and the Argonauts.
Step 2: Show the film and have students complete the column for Jason on the Mythological Hero Chart. This should take almost two class periods, depending on how much of the film you show.
Step 3: When you are finished with the film, have students keep their Mythological Hero Charts to use again later.
Part IV: Defining a Hero
Step 1: Divide students in groups of five. Have each students bring their Mythological Hero Chart to the group.
Step 2: Ask the groups to complete the following tasks:
- Allow each group member to share what he wrote in each area of the Mythological Hero Chart for all three heroes. Group members may add to their charts during this time, if needed.
- Create a general definition for a mythological hero, based on all three myths.
- Assign one student to record the definition on a sheet of chart paper.
- Assign one student to share the group's definition with the class.
Step 3: Allow time for the groups to work on the tasks. When students have a complete definition, give each group a sheet of chart paper and have the recorder neatly write the definition.
Step 4: When students are finished with the tasks and writing their definitions, have the groups' reporters present their definitions to the class. Post the definitions around the classroom.
Step 5: End the lesson with a discussion of each groups' definition and work together to formulate a final definition of a hero using all five examples. Close the lesson with a brief discussion about whether or not any student aspires to develop the characteristics or traits of a hero.
Supporting All Learners
- While most middle-school students are interested in watching movies, others may enjoy an animated web-based story of Hercules.
- You may need to vary the choice of graphic organizers to use with your students. The provided printable is only a suggestion.
Finding a New Hero
Have students write an essay or a journal entry identifying a popular book or movie character, like Harry Potter, as a hero. All evidence in the essay should be based on the final definition and traits arrived at during the class discussion.
In some cases, you may want to invite students to use another graphic organizer or storyboard to explain their reasoning, rather than an essay.
Invite students to watch a program on television and discuss with his/her parents the "hero" of the episode. Students should discuss whether the protagonist of a show is necessarily the "hero" as described during the class discussions.
- Complete the Mythological Hero Chart printable for all explorations.
- Optional: Complete the lesson extension essay or journal entry as a cumulative assessment of the lesson.
Evaluate whether or not the non-print sources provided ample information for the hero character study.
You may decide to grade any of the written work: the Mythological Hero Chart printable or the lesson extension essay/journal entry.