Kindergartners began the theme unit of "Mythology" with listening to three traditional Greek stories from The Elderberry Book of Greek Myths retold by Eric Kimmel. "Arachne" (first introduced by Madame in our Latin class), told of a boastful girl who flaunted her gift before the gods only to be fated to be a master weaver forever. Next we realized that we should be careful what we wish for in "King Midas and the Golden Touch" and witnessed the consequences of opening up more than 'a can of worms' in "Pandora's Box." We discussed the genre of "the myth" and decided as a group that a myth:
1) is a story that is made up or not real (although it may have elements of truth, history, or a real place)
2) may have a lesson to be learned from it
3) may contain gods and goddesses
4) may also contain other magical creatures
5) may be considered a "creation story" or explain how something happened for the first time.
Kindergartners were later prompted to write in their journals about something that they would seal up in a Pandora's Box if they could. We also created our own unique and colorful Mythological Creature paintings in Art class.
On another day we compared a myth to a fairy tale and deduced that it is also a 'made up' story, may have a lesson to learn, has no gods and goddesses generally, but may have magical creatures. We read a version of Jack and the Beanstalk during Math class who actually helps a giant with some measurements and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka. We talked about "versions"or story retellings. We discovered that the "truth" may vary depending on who is telling it! We were also able to see a classic version of The Three Little Pigs play during our trip to Wild Swan Theatre recently. We even had a Special Reader come in all the way from Texas! Aditi's Auntie Rubina gave us an exciting and suspenseful retelling of the Three Billy Goats Gruff also seen by us at Wild Swan!
We also discussed the genre of tall tales. We listened to "John Henry"," Paul Bunyan", and "Pecos Bill" and found that parts of the tall tale are exaggerated for extra effect yet may have details that may have some truth or historical elements. The book Clever Beatrice by Margaret Willey (also a trickster tale and has a female heroine) has its setting in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The tall tale can also have elements of a creation story.
Inspired by the Greek myth Arachne (the origin for the word "arachnid") and the notion of the trickster tale, we began a series of books about "Anansi the Spider." We were able to make connections with these "spider stories" that are said to have originated in West Africa (Nigeria) and have similar versions in just about every other culture in the world. We listened to Anansi's various antics on audios and read alouds. We then broadened our study of 'the trickster' to include stories retold by author/illustrator Gerald Mc Dermott. We learned that Mr. McDermott was born and raised in Detroit MI, took classes at the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts) and is an alum of my Alma mater, Cass Tech High School. We listened to several books in Mc Dermott's series that are categorized as "myths"-Papagayo the Mischief Maker, Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest, and Jabuti the Tortoise: A Trickster Tale from the Amazon, and The Magic Tree: A Tale from the Congo.
The Kindergartners were thrilled to know that the last story originated in the birthplace of "Papa" Titos Sompa, a celebrated musician and historian who came to visit us a few months ago to teach us about the history and music of the Congo and allowed us to sample his traditional musical "toys" made from recycled materials. This awesome class collaboration with our buddies in Karl's 7/8th Grade class was informative, joyful, and full of rhythm and music from the home of the gorilla, Central Africa!