Myths as Informational Reading and Text

No, your not seeing things! I actually wrote the title you see before you.  Last year was my first year teaching 7th grade and my first year teaching myths.

Last year when I taught the myth unit, I felt it was a success.  We looked at many different types of myths from different parts of the world and students wrote their own myth.  This year I am continuing this mini – unit within my bigger informational text/writing unit.  Below is a list of the myths my 7th graders read.

  • “Persephone and Demeter” (Greek).
  • “The Epic of Gilgamesh” (Mesopotamian).
  • “The Secret Name of Ra” (Egyptian).
  • “Why the Sky is Away from the Earth” (African).
  • “The Instruction of Indra” (Hindu).
  • “Amaterasu” (Japanese).

All of these myths are found in our literature text book we have.  I use our literature book the longest during the time we read the myths. During the rest of the year, it is a filler where I may use a story to introduce a specific genre or a certain literary concept before going on to a much bigger piece of text such as a chapter book.

Now, besides sharing the different myths that my students read, I want to share the reason why I view myths with my students as informational text. I share at the beginning of my informational unit with both my 7th and 8th graders that informational reading and writing does two things: informs and explains. We also discuss how informational reading and writing helps individuals learn something they may not already know.

As many people know myths were stories created to explain events or objects in the world that could not otherwise be explained.  Despite the fact the explanations themselves revolve around supernatural forces, learning about different myths from around the world gives us better insight into the cultures from where they originated.  Furthermore, myths can lead us to look at the similarities and differences of the different beliefs and attitudes of traditional cultures.  Finally, the students are better informed leading them to identify and relate  to contemporary literature and modern English when there are references made to the myths we study.  So what information is being given or taught to the students? Specifically:

  • students learn about different cultural beliefs.
  • as an expansion for S.S., students learn about different regions in the world.
  • there are valuable lessons to be learned from each myth.
  • students gain insight into more contemporary literature and can better understand it.

Many English teachers may think I am really stretching this and perhaps taking a wrong approach to the way I teach my students about myths.  For me, I feel I am pushing or challenging  my students to think critically about the oral tradition that includes myths. The same oral tradition where legends are thought to be historical, but lack the evidence to prove them accurate and true.  Folk tales, fairy tales, and tall tales all come out of this tradition as well.  And although these may not hold truth, what better way will students learn about personification without a good fairy tale such as Pinocchio.

My students also write their own myth where a lesson has to be learned within their myth.  That can be saved for another post!

Cheers!


Why Twitter is Valuable in the Classroom

Have you ever looked at the idea of teaching informational writing and thought to yourself it was going to be a struggle to motivate your students?  I honestly used to dread teaching any type of informational writing to my students.  I always felt my students were very disconnected in the informational world of writing.  I have taught compare/contrast, and a straight up expository writing where students had to pick a topic and “explain” it or give information on the topic they chose.

Well, without a doubt it is safe to say I was being a lousy teacher in the past.  Sometimes I wish I could have those days back when I could have done so much more for my students. 

Now, because I can’t change the past,  I won’t dwell on it. Today, my students are exploring several different pieces of informational text.  As mentioned in my last post, my students know informational writing already. I have to give them a lot of credit.  On the other hand, when it came to introducing them to Twitter, they were not so well versed.  Out of the three 7th grade classes I teach I had a total of eight students raise their hand when I asked who had a Twitter account.  This led me to ask them about their use of Twitter and only two of the eight students actually use Twitter at least once a week.  This has led me to do some thinking about social media.  Is the hype over using social media winding down? I believe I even mentioned this in my last post about Facebook.  Students, or at least my students, don’t seem to be connected as much to the social media sites.

Now, my students are well aware of what Twitter is and they know about people following you and you following others. As our discussion progressed we discussed professional uses and business uses of Twitter.  Students came to the understanding that businesses use it because it is free advertising for companies that would otherwise have to pay for commercials, billboards, or magazine ads. They were spot on when we talked about reaching audiences who were technology savy and may do their shopping online.  We even talked about free giveaways (like the one I am having now). 

When it came to the professional use of Twitter, it was a tougher conversation.  Students needed to understand how Twitter can be rich with information that can be valuable to them and adults such as myself.  It is much more than following what Justin Beiber is doing. I shared with my classes who I follow and what I am trying to get out of Twitter. I talked about how it is my professional community where I can obtain resources and information about teaching, education, reading, and writing.

At this point, this is where we discuss the idea of hash-tags and what they are used for on Twitter. For my class, we will be using hash-tags to display items like examples of complex sentences, compound sentences, subordinate clauses, etc.  This will build mentor texts for my students to refer to when they are reading or writing.  In essence I am helping them build their own professional community.  Twitter will also help them build more understanding about being a digital citizen as they follow other classmates and use the community we will build using hash-tags.

Our lessons on Twitter runs about two days.  By the end of the second day I have the students do a paper tweet in their journal practicing the 140 character rule that Twitter has for tweets. Students write about anything from what they did the night before to what they might be doing after school.  Next week, we will start effectively using our hash-tags in class.

Cheers!