English III: Early American Origin Myths

Native myths 1

Our class text is Prentice Hall’s Literature: The American Experience edition. After having outdated texts for a rather long time, it is exciting to have texts which are actually designed with Common Core in mind. Unfortunately, there is just not enough time in the semester to read and discuss every text, so we have to sort of pick and choose the highlights of each period which make it into the 18 weeks.

{Now, if you are interested in the outline, you can find the outline of the course modules in my TPT store at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Stephanie-Kirk-11}

Alas, the first experience our students had with the text was Native American Origin Myths. We spent a total of two days on this task, spending about 75 minutes a day. We are just coming out of an entire week on an informational text in which we painfully modeled every detail of close reading, answering text-dependent questions with evidence, and completion of a writing task, so I wanted to do something to make the lesson as engaging as possible.

Myths covered:
1. On Turtle’s Back
2. When Grizzlies Walked Upright
3. Navajo Origin Myth
4. Cherokee Origin of Fire (not in the textbook but included because this is used for modeling)

What do I want students to know and be able to do at the end of the lesson?
1. Explain the point of an origin myth.
2. Retell the origin myth.
3. Know what archetype is, identify it in text, and compare it across multiple texts.
4. Know what theme is, identify it in text, and compare it across multiple texts.

How will we get there?
We started out the lesson by reviewing common skills of archetypes, theme, and traits of origin myths. Fortunately I built the PPT in a way that if a student could tell me what it was I didn’t have to go in detail about it, but when they couldn’t remember archetypes I had that built in as well. Overplanning for anticipated difficulties is ALWAYS a good practice because it is better to have a plan for if something does not work than to allow instruction to fall apart because the students just didn’t have the knowledge you thought they should have coming into the lesson.
Anyway, I knew having the students all read every myth was going to be dreadful and boring, and there was no way to make sure that fit in the pacing. So I modified and divided the class in three groups to study an origin myth, draft it as a play, perform it, and discuss archetypes and themes across multiple texts. Students also were assigned homework to complete the reading guide and text-dependent questions, and students were held accountable for this with the included reading quiz for the second day.
Before reading I did a short story preview and vocabulary preview activity in which students reviewed the material and told me what they thought about the selection. This is such a change from when the teacher used to tell the students all about what they were going to read before reading it. By doing a story preview in this manner, curiosity increased and I think buy in and participation was enhanced.
While day one was mostly skills and notes to intro the period, we did have time for every student to complete his/her first reading of the text. The way I assigned the texts was in looking at the student lexile with some thought into the text lexile and the layers of complexity of the story. I printed the reading guides and wrote the students’ names on the page. Students were not given any sign of who their group might be until the second day. To round out the first part of the lesson, I had a canned closer of using a post-it note to create a Facebook status or Tweet based on the assigned story. To review the skill itself, I had students use an index card to write a note to an absent classmate to explain the skills reviewed/learned for the day. As I type this it occurs to me I should do that every day and post the best summary as a sort of learning wall in the room. I’ll get on that Monday.
Back to the lesson… students were to complete the next reading of the text and answer the text-dependent questions on the reading guide. To help them remember and hold them accountable I sent a Remind101 message to all parents and students in the class.
On day two, I reviewed what we had done and where we were going to go next. I created a model of exactly what I expected them to do using a new myth. Considering skills I had them tell me what the elements of drama were and what goes on a script. I showed them the myth and my script. Then I used students to help me act out the skit for the class. This was great because it allowed me to show my expectations and it allowed us to discuss the role of performer and observer in the room. I gave the students time and materials, and then they produced a script and acted out the plays. After each presentation, I used questioning to get the students to think through the patterns, characters, and symbols which repeated throughout multiple texts. As an exit ticket, I had the students use constructed response and text evidence from each myth to argue a theme in all texts.

All in all, this was a fun lesson with the students. It was hard letting go of control but the bottom line was that this lesson was probably the first time since I can’t remember when that I didn’t feel I was the hardest working person in the room. I built in character and team building, behavior expectations, and tiered accountability. If I had it to do over again, I would have revised pacing to include a more thorough discussion of theme of each myth and had some sort of reporting out format for the groups to engage the audience in talking about archetypes and themes rather than having to lead it myself. But, judging by the output, the students are good with being able to give a theme. Finding the evidence is something I need to build in future lessons for additional modeling and practice.

From American Literature Module 1: Beginnings to 1800 as featured in my English III course. The text referenced is Prentice Hall’s Literature: American Experience Edition.
If you are interested, these documents can be found at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Native-American-Myths-Prentice-Halls-Literature-American-Lit-EDITABLEKEYS-843374

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