If there is one thing I can count on with each new class that I get every year, it's that they will love mythology. No doubt that they know more than I do about it, as the characters are all around them in video games, movies and books. They are the experts, so my 8th grade Mythology Project was designed to allow them to show off their knowledge by making a book about a famous character in mythology, which we share with our 5th grade classrooms.
We start off by doing some vocabulary, which helps those students who aren't as knowledgeable about the gods and goddesses as others. We cover myth, god, mortal, Mt. Olympus, demi god, Titans, Olympians, and talk about Greece's relationship to the sea. We talk about the Olympic gods and show how many of our businesses today use references to mythology in their business names (Oracle, Hercules Moving Company, Nike, etc.). We talk about how myths were used to help explain those things that were not easily explained at the time, such as the rough oceans, volcanoes, and even love. (They all know who Cupid is, but did you know that Cupid shot lead arrows if he wanted to keep people from falling in love?)
After all of this fun exploration into the world of Greek and Roman mythology, we then started our project. By now, all of the students had their favorite characters, but we needed to make sure that we covered a wide range of characters since the books would be shared with the 5th graders to teach them about mythology. To keep it fair, we put all of the names of the acceptable characters on the board, and then wrote each student's name on a popsicle stick. We picked a stick at random, and that student then chose the character they wanted. It was the most fair way we could find to match characters to students.
The project was done on board books. I bought them from a company called Bare Books (barebooks.com), and they have a wide range of blank page books to choose from. I use their products often in class, especially when I want students to capture a comic or graphic novel story onto paper. I also use them with younger grade level students when I'm wearing my Basic Skills or Writing Coach hat to get students excited about showing off their writing. I have a closet shelf loaded up will all different styles and sizes of blank books. (That will be another blog, I'm sure.)
The pages in the book need to follow a guideline to ensure that each book contains pertinent information about the character:
The cover must include a drawing of the character (all pages must be hand-drawn and hand-written!)
Pages 1/2 - an overview and drawing of Mt. Olympus and its significance to mythology
Pages 3/4 - a family tree for that particular character
Pages 5/6 - What are the character's strengths/powers/symbols? (written and illustrated)
Remaining pages - a story in which the character appears that will help the reader understand the character's role in mythology (retold in their own words, not copied!)
The back cover includes a short biography of the student author, along with a photo.
While the students work on their books in class and out of class, we continue to explore the world of mythology. We usually watch any of the Percy Jackson movies by Rick Riorden as many of the characters will appear in them. We'll also look at Greek word roots to find similarities in words we use today.
When the books are completed, the 5th grade teachers use them for a day or two discussion to introduce mythology. The best part is when the books are returned with book reviews written by the 5th graders for the 8th grade authors. We all enjoy reading their feedback to us after they've read our books.