Levels of Thinking: An Introduction to Archetypes

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SWBAT support inferential analyses of text and demonstrate understanding of figurative language by brainstorming and identifying archetypes of western literature.

Big Idea

You should never take an apple from a crone: one of many important message we can learn from archetypal symbolism.


10 minutes

We will start class with our customary ten minutes of reading. At this point, most students are in their second or third novels. I will read for most of the time, but will also try to take note of titles so that I can have conversations with them about how they are liking certain things/comment on books I have already read and get an informal gauge on how things are going for them.

Archetype Gallery Creation

15 minutes

Today we will begin the process of connecting our study of rhetoric to strategies for reading literature. We will be starting Othello soon and I want to make sure that students understand that authors also use rhetorical strategies and appeals in literature, but sometimes we have to put our figurative language interpretation goggles on to understand what they are doing. So, to begin, we will do a quick overview of universal symbolism, or archetypal patterns in western literature . 

Prior to class starting, I will post cut out images/labels of the following archetypes on my wipe boards. 

  • Forbidden Fruit
  • Water
  • Fire
  • Serpent
  • Tree
  • Forest
  • The Four Seasons

I will ask students to circulate the room and write what those images/words mean to them. This is before I have ever introduced archetypal language to them, so I am hoping that they will pull in their background knowledge of things like Disney movies or children's books.

The standards ask for students to be able to demonstrate understanding of figurative language as well as determining explicit and implicit or inferential meaning of texts (RL.9-10.1 and RL.9-10.4). In addition, they are going to have to identify themes that appear in multiple texts or other pieces and speak with some fluency about common meaning in these texts. Providing them a concrete scaffold for doing this through the universal symbolism of archetypes will assist them in the very complex nature of synthesis tasks.

Archetype Introduction

25 minutes

Once the students have finished brainstorming, I will ask them to return to their seats and pull out note-taking materials (they have a notebook for our core class). I will use a visual presentation to  teach what an archetype is and some of the key archetypes that we will reference in coming lessons.

As much as I hate to lecture, this is one of my very few long lectures that I give each year. I try to spice it up by providing images from popular films and/or television series so they can see the long-reaching impact of archetypal imagery. In addition, while they take notes, I will call attention to their brainstorming, which will be posted on the boards around the back of the room. I will also ask students to contribute ideas verbally so check for understanding as we move through the notes (SL.9-10.1).

This lesson fits into a couple of larger concepts for my class this year, so wanted to also give you a heads up for that. My teaching partner is using the Advanced Placement strategy of levels of thinking/questioning. We introduced this earlier in the year, but are asking them to move their thinking to the higher orders now that we are almost through quarter one.

This is a nice overlap between his standards and the Common Core as the Common Core really asks students to master skills in the higher levels (level three: Analysis, synthesis, evaluation, etc.). By introducing them to archetypes here, I am hoping to provide some frameworks for their analysis and interpretations of the complex texts we are working with in the coming weeks.

Wrap up and Next Steps

5 minutes

If there is time (is there ever time?!?), I will ask students to return to their initial brainstorming and add any additional ideas that they may have gathered through the notes. I will ask them to share these verbally with the class.