Heroes and Legends
Students chart character traits based on readings of Ancient Greek myths.
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
Students will use print and nonprint sources of different heroic myths to generate a definition of the word "hero."
- 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 nonprint sources.
- Paper and pencil
- A copy of the movies Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts
- A copy of the story of Hercules. Find one in your library or try the one on this Myth Web
- Audio-visual equipment to show the movies
- Five pieces of chart paper
- Five markers
- Mythological Hero Chart (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- Procure a copy of Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts from a local video store. Be advised that 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.
- Copy the Mythological Hero Chart (PDF) for each student.
- Gather enough copies of the story of Hercules for each student.
- Divide your class in groups of five or allow them to choose their groups for Day Six.
- Provide a piece of chart paper and a marker for each group on Day Six.
- Schedule time in a computer lab on Day Three for the web quest on Hercules, if necessary.
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 about 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 them that over the next several days they will be conducting a character study on mythical heroes of long ago. The first hero they will learn about is Perseus. Give a brief overview of the movie, Clash of the Titans, a non-print version of "Perseus and Medusa."
Step 3: Distribute the Mythological Hero Chart and share with the 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 4: Show the film and have students complete the column for Perseus. This should take almost two class periods. Tell students to keep their Mythological Hero Chart in their notebooks for the next few class periods.
Step 1: Inform that 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: Share with them that they will be using the Internet to read the story about Hercules and his 12 Labors. Remind them that they need to look for the specific examples from the Mythological Hero Chart to complete the column for Hercules. (If you will be reading the myth, allow students to work independently or in pairs to research the information.) This should take an entire class period. Tell the students to keep their Chart in their notebooks for the next few class periods.
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. Have students watch the film and complete the column for Jason on the Mythological Hero Chart (PDF).
Step 1: Divide students in groups of five. Have each students bring their Mythological Hero Chart to the group and tell them that each group will:
- Have each person share what he wrote in each area on the Chart for all three heroes. Group members may add to their Chart during this time, if needed.
- Create a general definition for a mythological hero, based on all three myths.
- Assign a recorder to record the definition on the chart paper.
- Assign a reporter that will share the group's definition with the class.
Step 2: Allow time for each group to work on their definition. When complete, allow time for the five reporters to present. Post the definitions around the classroom.
Step 3: With the class, discuss each definition and 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 will enjoy the animated web-based story of Hercules. In some cases, you may want to invite students to create another graphic organizer or storyboard to explain the lesson extension. You also may need to vary the choice of graphic organizers to use with your students, as the chosen printable is only a suggestion.
Students will write an essay/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 definition and traits arrived at in class discussion.
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.
1. Complete a Mythological Hero Chart (PDF) during all explorations.
2. Complete the lesson extension as a cumulative assessment of the lesson.
Evaluate whether or not the nonprint sources provided ample information for the hero character study.
The teacher may decide to grade any of the written work: the Mythological Hero Chart (PDF) or the lesson extension essay.