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Michael Conte, Jr.
These moments in a child’s life and more can occur through the study of Greek and Roman mythology. Through myths, we can help children escape reality for a short time, leave New Haven, and live through adventures with the heroes. We can take the children back to an era when men worshiped gods, superstitions ran rampant and heroes lived a glorious yet all-too-short life. We can also introduce the children to a new type of literature that will enable them to pursue their academic training while also contributing to their overall growth.
The unit that I have written will be used to introduce children to Greek and Roman mythology, and to excite their interest so that eventually they will study this subject further on their own. The unit is intended for middle school children and will last approximately six weeks.
What is a myth? Certainly Homer did not think he was writing mythology in the Iliad and the Odyssey but actual historical fact, The definition that I will use for myth and mythology is taken from Huck and Kuhn “a single myth is a narrative that tells of origins, explains natural or social phenomena or suggests the destiny of man through the interactions of man and supernatural beings. A mythology is a group of myths of a particular culture.”1
Greek and Roman mythology, in my unit, will be studied by the children through modern retellings of the ancient myths, the children;will also be able to acquire a sense of how myths have influenced art and literature in the contemporary world, The children will also get a sense of how the Greeks and Romans, without the techniques and instruments of modern science, tried to explain events in their lives through mythology, and they will be able to compare this kith the knowledge we have today.
The children will enjoy reading the myths as pure entertainment because they are action-packed, suspenseful and deal with problems and conflicts that the children will readily relate to their own lives. At this level of study, in order to help the children keep totally involved, it is not important for them to be required to know all the names of the gods and goddesses or their family histories. However, provision should be made by the teacher for those children who would like to do an in-depth study. Children who want to continue their studies in Greek and Roman mythology should be encouraged and the suggested book list provided in this unit will serve as a good starting point.
This unit is also designed to help stimulate the children in the classroom who are having difficulty with the basal series by providing an alternative unit to assist the teacher in teaching Language Arts and Beading skills, However, an indirect result of a unit of Greek and Roman mythology will be an introduction into a new area of literature and oral history, It will provide an exposure that.will enhance the child’s educational program by permitting the teacher to investigate other areas stemming from the basic unit. The other areas can include Science, Geography, and Art to name a few.
The second purpose of this unit is to strengthen the children’s Language Arts skills through lessons focusing on these skills which use the Greek and roman mythology as a basal text.
Finally, the unit is also intended to improve the Heading skills of the children using the modern retellings of the ancient myths Is the basal text.
My first method that will help eliminate the textbook problem for each child is to make a thermal spirit master copy of The myth chosen for study, This involves finding a modern retelling of the myth in a short, easy-to-read form for the entire class, Some books that I recommend for this are: Bulfinch’s, A Book of Myths; D’Aulaires, Book of Greek Mythsi and Evslin’s, Heroes and Monsters of Greek Myth.
Another method, in conjunction with the first, would be to have a number of different books containing myths available to the children in the classroom, The child, in the appropriate reading class or during leisure time, could pick up a book and read any myth he felt inclined to. A system would have to be developed to insure that the child is doing his assignment.
The system that I suggest would be to make up inter cards (5x8) having on them specific Language Arts and reading activities to be handed in upon completion of a particular myth, (Detailed examples will be found in later sections.) These index cards would be kept in a file box readiLy accessible to the child. The child would read a selection, pick up the activity card, do the activity, then hand in his paper.
A question one has to deal with in covering a unit of study in Greek and Roman mythology with middle school children is; how much of an in-depth study does the teacher want to do? Is it necessary to delve deeply into the lineage of the gods? Should the children know exact places, events, and characters?
Classroom management when using a variety of books and materials poses special problems in maintaining order and continuity in the classroom, Some techniques that can be employed are barge instruction, small group instruction, individualized instruction, oral reading, choral reading, S.S.R. (Silent Sustained Reading), and drama.
This unit can be treated in the classroom with any one of these techniques alone or in conjunction with one another. For example: A small group of children have shown interest in how and why Zeus became all powerful. Using D’Aulaire’s book2 the teacher could have a lively discussion with the children about the role of mother-earth (Gaia) and Uranus, the Cyclops, fifty-headed and one-hundred armed creatures, Cronus, the eventual downfall of Uranus, Pontus, the Golden Age under Cronus, the eating of the children of Rhea and Cronus, Gaia’s and Eihea’’s plot against Cronus, the hiding of Zeus and finally the downfall of Cronus and the rise of Zeus. At the same time, other children could be reading independently, working on cards (mentioned earlier), or doing projects related to a particular interest.
As it is difficult to touch upon all aspects of Greek and Roman mythology, I have had to limit my unit to seven sections, The sections can be used individually or in sets allowing the teacher greater flexibility in choosing topics for their classroom. The teacher can also use this unit as a “breather” every four or six weeks, to rekindle the students’ interest in mythology and to get away from the basal series, so often boring to the children.
However, I: would like to make a strong recommendation as to the first section of this unit taught to the children, The children will have a natural curiosity about the gods themselves, their past and powers, where the gods lived and what were the earth and Olympus like, Whether the teacher uses the unit in the order presented here, or segments of his choice, I have found that if the section on the Greek World is covered first, many possible questions answer themselves.
Each section will have its own particular set of objectives for Reading and Language Arts followed by a general discussion of the topic, Included in each section will be sample questions and activities in the two skills areas and possible sources for further study. All page numbers referred to are actual page numbers in the book from which the examples were taken, another aspect of the unit is that the questions, activities, and objectives from one section of the unit can be transferred to another and vice versa.
1. identify the main event/idea of a selection read orally
2.. answer literal questions relating to the selection read to them
3. determine word meanings by listening for context clues
4. follow oral directions
5. summarize the content of the oral presentation
6. react critically to an oral presentation
7. use the dictionary to get pronunciation
8. decode words in print
9. divide words into smaller elements3
In order to begin a study of Greek and oman mythology it is important that the teacher show the children how the Greeks and Romans interpreted the physical world as they knew it and how this interpretation is woven into the stories they told, Bulfinch4 gives an adequate description of the view of earth briefly in his introduction to A Book of Myths. However, t;o obtain a more concise and broader notion, Rose’s handbook5 provides an excellent version.
The children need to understand the limited view the ancient Greeks and Romans had of the earth, This will enable them to grasp how a culture could believe in gods, goddesses, and monsters, The view that the earth is flat, carried well into the 1400’s A.D., reflects the ancients’ lack of knowledge, and the child will be able to compare this to how far modern science has taken our society.
The concept that the gods live in the sky carried over into our modern religious worship and beliefs, as does the notion in ancient times of the underworld (Tartarus) with the concept we use today (hell).
In the lesson plan section, I will give an example of how this section might be started with the children. In the plan, I will also include sample activities and questions that could be put on index cards and used for individualized work.
Language Arts and Reading Objectives
The child will be able to:
1. recognize the root of a given word
2. spell prescribed vocabulary
3. spell proper names correctly
4. use a table of contents
5. use an index
6. locate words in a dictionary
7. use an encyclopedia
8. use a card catalog6
After the teacher an& student develop a sense of the Greek world, the next step is to discover the origin of the gods, D’Aulaire’s Book7 illustrates very clearly, through an easily read text accompanied by plot,s, the creation and lineage of the gods.
The children can learn how Zeus became ruler of the gods and the battles they had among each other. In this way they will gain an insight into the inner workings of Olympus. The Golden Age8 under Cronus could be used as an example to compare with the age in which the children are living.
The readings from D’Aulaire will lead the children to two rulers who fled when they realized their time of power was over, Cronus and Uranus. It would prove an interesting task to have the children guess and come to some conclusions as to where they went.
Examples of activities to be placed on the index cards might might include: 1) What kind of gods became powerful in mythology? 2) What role did Metis have in the rise to power of Zeus? 3) Change the ending of the myth. Whom would you make the ruler of the gods? 4) Illustrate the battle scenes or draw the monsters mentioned, Act as a reporter and write a column on the battle for power. 6) Find to examples of complex sentences and write them, 7) Match the gods and their powers with pictures from magazines.
Other sources of myths in this area are Hesiod’s Theogony, Rose’s A Handbook of Greek Mythology, Hamilton’s Mythology, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Bulfinch’s A Book of Greek Myths, and D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.
Language Arts and reading Objectives
The child will be able to:
1. write an ending to a story
2. write about a picture or scene viewed
3. add concepts to a story
4. write an imaginative story
5. express ideas in more complete sentences
6. read to follow directions
7. read for details
8. note sequence
9. recognize clue and signal words9
In this area, one can find the richest and most interesting stories. ne see the heroes throughout mythology. What are some of the qualities that separate these men from other mortals? As we read the myths, why do we find very little information concerning the average man?. ;ire they that unimportant? are they mere pawns for the gods and the heroes to manipulate? What is a hero? Teachers can use these and other questions to stimulate the children’s interest in a study of heroes in Greek and woman mythology.
In using this unit,and in particular this section, there will be little motivation needed, The story of Heracles10 is a prime example of a hero whose life was influenced by the gods, chiefly Zeus (who tried to protect him from Hera) and Hera (who despised him). The teacher can introduce the myth, starting with the lineage of Heracles, an important part of the myth, The children can begin some independent work on index cards, and small group and oral reading can accompany a discussion at the end of the lesson.
The twelve labors can be a source of lively discussion with many relevant concepts brought in: ridding the earth of monsters, evil in ancient times, atoning for a wrong one has committed, and jealousy as displayed by Eurysthes, King of Mycenae.
Taking the ninth labor from Silverthorne’s I, Heracles, The Girdle of Hippolyta, (a story excellently told in the first person) I will demonstrate questions the teacher may put on the index cards or use for class discussion.
Assignment: Read The Girdle of Hippolyta, pp.85-94.
1) What were the two reasons Eurysteus sent Beracles to get the girdle? 2) who sailed with Heracles? 3) Why did era tell the lies about miracles? What were Hera’s motives? What kind of person was Laomedon, King of Troy? 6) What are some of the heroic characteristics that Heracles displayed? 7) List all the contractions found in the selection, 8) On p.87, list the pronouns and the nouns they refer to, 9) Write a different ending to the story.
Other stories and sources the teacher may find helpful are the stories of Perseus, Theseus, Jason and Ulysses, Serrailler’s The Gorgon’s Head, Dolc’s Greek Stories, D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, Cate’s Athena, the Warrior Goddess, and Evslin’s Heroes and Monsters of Greek Myth.
Language Arts and Reading Objectives
The child will be able to:
1. recognize subjects and verbs
2. identify and use punctuation
3. identify nouns,Ą pronouns, adjectives, prepositions
4. add affixes to a given word root
5. identify simple, compound( or complex sentences
6. recognize pronoun and adverb referents
7. get the main idea
8. draw conclusions and make inferences
9. predict outcomes11
Nature myths try to explain the creation of the world, the animals, the movements or heavenly bodies physical forces, the weather, and other natural phenomena, It should be noted again to the children that the Greeks and Romans without technology, accounted for events that they could not readily explain, in terms of the gods’ involvement, The resources by which the teacher can begin a discussion in this area are vast, For this reason, I will detail an example of one type of a nature myth and end with possible sources for further study.
An example of a nature myth is the story of Proserpine12 which attempts to explain the four seasons. In the myth, the Romans, copying an earlier Greek myth, detailed the abduction of Proserpine by Pluto. ‘the seasons are explained by a deal made among Pluto, Jove, and Ceres (Proserpine’s mother and goddess of agriculture) which allows Proserpine to return from the Underworld to her mother for six months (growing time).
Suggestions for questions and activities are: 1) Why did Pluto carry Proserpine off? 2) If Ceres was a goddess, why did she have so much trouble locating Proserpine? 3) What is Tartarus? 4) List ten adjectives and the nouns they describe, Find five possessive forms of nouns, 6) Draw the Earth before or after Ceres had thought it was the cause of Proserpine disappearing.
Other stories the teacher might find helpful are: Echo and Narcissus, Latona and the Rustics, and Rose’s Handbook of Greek Mythology, Hesiod’s Theogony, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Hamilton’s Mythology, D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, and Bulfinch’s A Book of Myths.
Language Arts and Reading Objectives
The child will be able to:
1. give directions and explanations orally
2. make an oral presentation on a topic from an outline
3. use details in narration and description
4. retell stories effectively
5. participate in choral speaking
6. make generalizations
7. use context to get meanings of unfamiliar words
8. use a dictionary
9. use context to get. meanings of special expressions13
The problems that gods had with each other form a large and fascinating set of myths. The hierarchy of the gods becomes very prominent as the teacher, along with the class, continues a study of mythology. The unpredictable, quick tempered, vain, and jealous gods also used me as pawns to “get even” with one another or provoke other gods into action.
The children should be shown examples of how the gods were child-like when they could not get their way or were arguing with each other, The teacher should also remind the class tat it was the mortals who ultimately paid the price for this behavior, (Bomer, rose, and Ovid would be a particularly good source of stories.)
One example of this type of anger and jealousy among the gods and goddesses is shown in the story The Apple of Discord,14 his story reveals the vanity of the goddesses and can lead the teacher into a discussion of one of the greatest stories in Greek history, The Trojan War.
Samples of what the teacher can put on an index card for this story are: 1) Did Paris really have a choice or was his fate already sealed? 2) What prize would you have chosen? Power? Glory? The Fairest omen (Man)? 3) Do you think
Ulysses was influenced by any of the gods to make the oath? 4) On p. 120, find two complex sentences and write them. 5) List five affixed words. 6) Bind five words and write their antonym or synonyms.
Further sources in this area include: Zeus,15 Ares,16 The Theogony, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Rose’s A Handbook of Greek Mythology, Hamilton’s Mythology, and Bulfinch’s A Book of Greek Myths.
Language Arts and Reading Objectives
The child will be able to:
1. make an outline
2. transform an outline into a written report
3, write a critique of a selection
4, make a simple bibliography
5. make use of an outline
6. use a simple bibliography
7. choose subtopics in paagraphs covered17
8. write his interpretation of the topic
Another group of myths deals with the gods’ punishment of men, Greek and Roman mythology contain numerous examples describing the fate of mortals as determined by the whims of the gods, There are stories telling of those men who were favored by the gods and lived the good life and those men who angered or disappointed the gods and were made to suffer, Examples of stories which show the anger and, frustration of the gods would be the treatment of Odysseus18 and the suffering of Beracles.19 The heroes especially had to deal with a dilemma put in their path by the gods.
The story of Artemis20 will serve as an example to show show the gods and goddesses took their anger out on mortals who offended them, Actaeon, for Just seeing Artemis bathing, was changed into a stag and killed by his own dogs.
Questions and activities in this area and on this particular story might include: 1) What did Artemis do to Actaeon and why? 2) If you were Artemis, would you have done that to Actaeon? 3) why was she so upset about being seen? How was Artemis described? What were some of the emotions Artemis displayed in her reaction to being seen? 6) List ten verbs, 7) List five adjectives.
To continue this study, other stories the teacher might find helpful are: Midas, Niobe, and Daedalus from Bulfinch’s A Book of Myths, Rose’s A Handbook of Greek Mythology, D’Aulaire’s A Book of Greek Myths, The Odyssey, The Iliad, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Hamilton’s Mythology,
Language Arts and Reading Objectives
The child will be able to:
1. identify parts of a story
2. identify similes and metaphors
3. describe a character
4. identify the author’s purpose
5. pick out facts in a selection21
The theme of love is one that winds itself very intricately throughout Greek and Roman mythology, Sometimes it is serene, but often it is violent and tragic. The stories of Apollo and Daphne,22 and Pyramus and Thisbe,23 show the tragic nature that love can have.
Pygmalion,24 is a myth where love has a happy ending, with the hero’s creation being brought to life, In the story of Castor and Pollux,25 two brothers,l the love that they shared for one another would be a good theme to discuss and pursue with the children.
How could I forget to mention one of the most famous love stories in mythology, Cupid and Psyshe.26 This story tells of the problems and difficulties they endured even though he was a god, because his mother Venus did not approve of their love.
Hero and Leander,27 whose love went to the extreme of Hero killing herself on learning of Leander’s death, gives the teacher a sample of the variety of directions that can be taken in this topic, love.
I will use the example of Orpheus and Eurydice28 to show how this section may be implemented in the classroom, Orpheus, having lost Eurydice, was determined to return her to life and almost succeeded through his singing and his determination, However, at the last moment he failed hen he looked back.
This story can lead to a discussion in the class concerning failure, sorrow, or the loss of a loved one, Children can share their experiences of loss and how they felt compared to Orpheus.
Some activities and questions for the index cards may include: 1) hat human qualities did Pluto exhibit? 2) Would you have turned around if you were Orpheus? 3) When did Orpheus know that all was lost? 4) How did Orpheus get to Eurydice? 50 Outline the major events in the myth, 6) Write a different ending to the myth. 7) Draw the underworld the gates, the River Styx.
Other sources the teacher might find helpful in locating more myths in this area are: Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Dolch’s Orpheus and Eurydice, The Odyssey, The Iliad, Rose’s A Handbook of Greek Myths, and Bulfinch’s A Book of Myths.
Objective: The child will be able to describe the earth as interpreted by the Greeks and Romans.
- 1) Read to the class pp( 9-13, Bulfinch, an account of the Greek and Woman interpretation of the earth, (..Have copies made for all the children to review independently at a later date.)
- 2) Discuss what was read: facts, details, and list them on the chalkboard. Include:
|-flat and circular||-great hall|
|-River Ocean||-Elysian Plain|
|-Greece in the center||-Hyperboreans|
|-Mt. Olympus||-realm of the dead|
- 1) List the differences between the earth as we know it as compared to the Greek and Roman view.
- 2) Draw the earth as described in the selection read,
- 3) Draw Mt, Olympus and the houses of the gods,
- 4) Write a story on how you could get to the Elysian Plain.
Sample Index Card (for independent work)
Activity Card #1 Greek World
- 1. Write your description of the Greek and Roman interpretation of the earth.
- 2. Which god or goddess would you want to be and why?
- 3. List 10 pronouns fro the selection.
- 4. Find 10 affixed words from the selection.
- 5. Produce an art project using the selection as reference.
in writing sentences,
- 1) Type p. 28 from D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, the story of Hephaestus, leaving out all punctuation and make copies for the class.
- 2) Review the rules of grammar for commas, periods, question marks, and exclamation points.
- 3) Write an example of a sentence without punctuation on the board to illustrate how to do the assignment filling in the punctuation marks.
- 4) Read the entire selection orally with the class, having different children read,
- 1) On the worksheet, fill in all commas, question marks, and exclamation points where needed.
- 2) Make a list of the adjectives found in the selection.
- 3) Write a story changing the myth in which Hephaestus sides with Zeus.
Objective 1 The child will be able to demonstrate his knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology by making a travel folder.
- 1) Have magazines, newspapers, crayons, paints, scissors, glue, construction paper, pencils, etc, available for the class.
- 2) Show the children examples of travel brochures acquired from a travel agent. Greek and Italian ones would be useful for describing to the class what goes into making one.
- 1) Make a travel folder noting places to visit in Greece and Italy.
- 2) Make a travel folder as if you were going on a vacation to see the gods, Whom would you like to see, describing what the gods would look like accompanied by a picture cut out of a magazine or newspaper.
Bulfinch, Thomas. A Book of Greek Myths, New York, MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1942. A book containing thirty myths written in a vocabulary and style very appropriate for middle school children, challenging to Eill, A major source of information for the children, This book lends itself very well to the making of thermal spirit masters for use with large group instruction.
D’Aulaire, Ingri and Edgar, Book of Greek Myths,. Garden City: Doubleday and Company Inc. 1962. A Beautifully illustrated book for children containing over forty stories about the gods: minor gods, and the mortal descendants or Zeus. Easy reading with basic facts.
Evslin, Bernard, Dorothy Evslin, and Ned Hoopes, Heroes and Monsters of Greek Myth. New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1967. An easy-to-read book recounting the tales of the demigods Perseus, Daedalus, Theseus and Atlanta, Also included are the fables of Midas and Pygmalion.
Gates, Doris, Athena: The warrior Goddess, New York: Viking Press, 1972. A book describing the birth and life of Athena, Its many stories show her interaction with gods and mortals.
Heracles, Jason and Perseus, For more advanced readers. Gunther, John, Jason and the Golden Fleece, New York: Scholastic Book services, 1963. A book that can be easily read and enjoyed, A good adventure story recounting Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece, Boys in particular might enjoy this book.
Serraillier, Ian,. The Gorgon’s head, New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1970. A longer version of the Perseus myth recounting the birth, life, and trials of Perseus, h good book for boys, easily read with a challenging vocabulary.
Silverthorne , . Elizebeth , I, Heracle s . Abington, 1978. A book recounting the twelve labors of Beracles. An easy to read book that will have particular interest to the boys, Written in the first person.
Evslin, Bernard. Heraclea: A Legend of Warrior Women. New York: Four Winds Press, 1978. A myth with which the author takes great creative license.It is a book that discusses the warrior woman, Heraclea, and how she influenced the role of women. It is a story in contrast to Hercules.
Frazer, R.M., The Poems of Hesiod. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983. The translations of Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days. A good translation with the author’s comments and analysis at the end of each section. This is one of the earliest accounts of Gree mythology. A good source for the creation and lineage of the gods.
Fitzgerald, robert, The Iliad. Garden City: Anchor Press, 1974. The epic poem describing the Trojan Wars.
Hamilton Edith, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. New York: Mentor, 1942. A basic reference book on Greek mythology.
Huck, Charlotte and Doris Kuhn. Children’s Literature in the Elementary School. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1968. A teacher textbook on children’s literature. The unit discussing Traditional Literature: Theories of Myths, Fables, Epic Literature, and Myth and Mythical Heroes, would be a particularly good resource.
Innes, Mary. The Metamorphoses of Ovid, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Limited, 1964. A good translation of Ovid’s work, In particular, the introduction by Innes will help the reader understand the work better.
Lessing, Erich, The Voyage of Ulysses, West Germany: Herder, 1965. A large picturebook recounting, in Art and photographs, the voyage of Ulysses, Actual selections from the Odyssey accompany the pictures.
Rose,. H.J.. A Handbook of Greek Mythology, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1959. A basic reference tool for teachers teaching mythology.
Hero Legends Intermediate Cat, #113 p. 43
Myths of Greece and Home Intermediate Cat, #466 p.46
The Wanderings of Ulysses Intermediate JRMS
The Labours of Hercules Intermediate JR#S
Jason and the Golden Fleece Intermediate JRMS
King Midas Intermediate JRMS
Orpheus and Eurydice Intermediate JHMS
Yale Art Gallery-Greek and Roman Art
British Art Museum-Greek and Roman Art
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