In our continuing study of Greek mythology, students are looking forward to working in their small groups discussing the myths they have chosen. Before jumping into that, we spend some time looking at one together. The tale of Hercules twelve labors is not on their list of choices so this mini lesson gives the whole class an opportunity to explore two topics that students can then apply to their group work. One topic is identifying the meaning ancient Greeks drew from the myth and another is uncovering what meanings myths have for us today. Hercules (also referred to as Heracles) was the son of the king of the Greek gods, Zeus, and a mortal woman, Alcmena. As such, he desired immortality but also faced mortal challenges. Although blessed with great strength, he was made to struggle through incredible difficulties in order to fulfill the purpose of his life.
In our discussion students note that ancient Greeks saw heroes as a bridge between mortals and gods. They pursue fantastic adventures and epitomize ideal qualities such as perseverance and resilience. Heroes were examples to aspire to, and by doing great deeds immortality could be reached. The tale of Hercules also illustrates that many mythological figures represent qualities to be avoided, such as Hera’s jealousy, which was the cause of great suffering for Hercules. From this point the discussion turns to our own lives and what truths myths hold for people living in modern times. We determine that it does not matter who your parents are or where you are from, you can and must make something special of your life.
Instead of reading a print version of the story of Hercules, we watch a video created using PowToon. I hope that some students are inspired enough to try making their own films using this free website. They are definitely intrigued by it and admire the polished production.
According to the reading plan that we are following, today is a day for students to arrive ready to participation in small group discussions. Doing so depends on completion of independent work (reading the assigned myth, answering a set of comprehension questions, and filling in a characteristics of myths worksheet).
Each small group (4-5 students) spends time reviewing the comprehension questions and identifying the myth characteristics. This gives everyone a chance to express their general interpretation of the myth, ask questions, and check their understanding. For your reference, an answer key for the comprehension questions appears here. An example of student work appears here.
After discussing the myth, each group is responsible for creating a class chart or another activity that demonstrates comprehension. Graphic organizers for these projects are available here. Groups that present a viable option to summarize their understanding in another way are encouraged to do so. Some ideas include writing and performing a scene from the story, creating a video (maybe someone will try PowToon), or creating a keynote or other visual presentation.