6th Grade English Extension Projects: Examining the Cultures & Monomyths

header for hero myth post

As a 6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher using a paced curriculum for language arts, and Social Studies that examined ancient history, I needed a lesson that focused on practicing writing and revision skills, but allowed students to focus on understanding cultures. Further, the students with whom I work were living through a pandemic while learning remotely, so the lesson needed to reinforce and re-teach previously taught material.

The lesson allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the monomyth (hero myth) structure outlined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces and adapted by Christopher Vogler into the Twelve Stage Hero’s Journey (our Language Arts curriculum). Further, it encourages them to discuss and examine the ways in which these myths reflect the ideals and values of the cultures from which they emerged by focusing on the structures common to monomyths, such as archetypes and stages, and drawing connections to historical context.

This unit is an exploration/culmination lesson that follows Module 2 of the Wit and Wisdom curriculum. Students demonstrate their understanding of the monomyth (hero myth) structure outlined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces and adapted by Christopher Vogler into the Twelve Stage Hero’s Journey. Students will identify the narrative structure and archetypes common to monomyths and will explain the narrative structure of their chosen myth. For their performance task, they will analyze the variances in their text and the full class texts or myths chosen by their peers. The final student product will show their understanding of the narrative elements and provide analysis. Students will have choice in the product, pace and the specific myth for this lesson.

Planning: Concerns and ISTE Standards

As with any lesson, my primary concern is logistical — my constant focus is ensuring that I have adequate scaffolding and accommodations to meet the needs of diverse learners, specifically students with disabilities, academically challenged students, and students for whom English is not their first language. However, because that concern is ongoing and overarching, I can also identify multiple other concerns as I begin the project. The first is ensuring that there is enough opportunity for student choice in content and creation, and that those choices ensure that there is an adequate level of rigor for a wide range of student skill levels. Secondly, I have concerns that my goals and standards are too specifically tailored to the product I want rather than the skills that I want students to attain in this lesson. Third, I am concerned that students will be distracted by technology-based options within their product creation phase and will not meet my learning goals for them.

Meeting ISTE student standard 2 is a natural outcome of this lesson. Students will engage in synchronous discussions in zoom classroom sessions and asynchronous discussions using google classroom’s question feature. Students engage in rich non-academic discussions using google classroom already because our daily attendance questions are all “would you rather” type questions, that spawn heated debates over 6th grader friendly topics such as whether it is better to have extra hands or feet. Using digital means to communicate in supervised discussions helps students practice ISTE standard 2b: “engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices.” 

Because students will access online sources for narratives and myths, as well as video and audio sources teaching the narrative structure and archetypes for monomyths, they will have an opportunity to practice and gain support on ISTE student standard 2c, which entails respecting intellectual property. This is one of the most difficult standards in my experience with 6th graders, who frequently copy and paste information into their work with little consideration for citing sources or the origin of the information.

Planning: Goals

CCSS

Common Core Standards addressed in this lesson:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.3: Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.5: Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.2B: Develop the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Essential Questions (EQ):

“These are questions that are not answerable with finality in a brief sentence — that’s the point. Their aim is to stimulate thought, to provoke inquiry, and to spark questions” (Wiggins, p. 106)

  • How does the monomyth narrative structure deepen my understanding of a myth from my chosen culture?
  • What is the significance of the hero’s journey within the culture and the monomyth?
  • Based on my understanding of the culture in which the myth developed, why did (or didn’t) specific archetypes appear?

Planning: Assessment Evidence

Performance Tasks:

Digital Archetype Book — Students use google slides to create an illustrated book identifying the archetypes of the hero myth, and naming the characters that represent each archetype in the myth the student has chosen. Each page will include a title, illustration of the archetype, and at least one paragraph explaining how the character does (and does not) align with Campbell’s concepts of the archetype, and hypothesize on the elements of the culture in which the myth developed that influenced the difference.

12 Step Choice Activity — Students will develop a product that teaches the 12 steps in monomyth narratives. The product will present the steps in order, and present the specific example of that step in their chosen myth. Students will explain how each step results from the step before it in their chosen narrative and flows logically into the step after it. If the step does not do so, the student will analyze/explain why this disparity exists. Suggested formats include: flow chart, slide show, video, construction project (digital or actual), or essay.

Myth Analysis Essay — Students will write 3 part research and analysis essays examining a chosen culture from which a hero myth emerged, and explaining how the text structure of a myth from that culture aligns with the monomyths narrative structure and theme using Campbell (above grade level) or Vogler (on grade level).

Other Evidence

  • Reader’s Journal — Students will maintain a three column reading journal summarizing events, making predictions, and reflecting on their connections to the text.
  • Quizzes – Open-note and open resource quizzes will encompass the 12 steps of the myth, and archetypes of mythology.
  • Socratic Seminars  — Students will engage in structured, student-led discussions about archetypes, narrative structure and diverse cultures.

Student Self-Assessment and Reflection 

Peer and Personal Revision Checklists — Students will work within writing teams to review and revise their writing, Students will remain in the same writing team throughout both projects. As much as possible, writing teams will be grouped by the  culture they are using for their myth essay. The exit ticket for each writing team project will require students to reflect and report on their team’s activities.

Planning: WHERETO Learning Plan

WHERE the unit is going: Learners will examine the ways in which their hero myth reflects the culture from which it emerged and the universal archetypes and stages of the monomyth (where). They need to make these connections to deepen their understanding of narrative and historical interpretation of literature (why). Learners will have opportunities to share their understanding through differentiated projects, class discussion, and a final essay (what).

WHERE students are coming from: Learners  are in the second semester of 6th grade and have completed two class novels in which they examined the narrative structure of novels and the historical events around which the novels centered, and one classical myth. Learners in this program come from diverse backgrounds and have diverse learning needs that need to be addressed in order to provide all learners with a free and accessible public education.

HOOK and HOLD all students: Student engagement at the outset will be through the use of multi-tools that engender discussion, such as Matthew WInkler’s video, What Makes a Hero?, and lesson slideshows that provide opportunities for discussion (Winkler, 2012). During the unit, engagement will result from discussions and parallels between the myth from the class text and a modern hero myth of the student’s choice.

EQUIP, students with tools necessary to demonstrate learning: Differentiation within the unit is one way to equip students with the tools necessary to demonstrate learning. For example, some students will acquire their understanding of myth structure solely through reading the class text and attending to generalized lessons, some students will need more explicit instruction through targeted lessons emphasizing and focusing on specific myth elements, others will only understand once they have made a connection to media they already know, and some students will need all of this and simplified text or tasks to ensure understanding. 

Provide opportunities for EXPLORATION: Learners will have opportunities to explore concepts through connections to modern media that they already know and enjoy. Learners will also be able to access an immersive hero activity through a Minecraft Education Edition hero myth task.

Checkpoints for student REFLECTION: Students will have opportunities to reflect with each major assignment through private messages using the Mote extension, and through short reflection surveys.

Revision opportunities: Each assignment provides students an opportunity to revise their work and reconsider responses following teacher feedback. Note that this is not necessarily revision due to answers validity or completeness. Teacher feedback includes clarifying questions and questions to encourage further thought about the assignment. Students can resubmit with adjustments to their work as many times as they wish within the 2 week window.

TAILOR learning to different needs and skills: Personalized aspects for all students include using Loom to create video feedback for ⅓ of student writing and assignments (a rotation system ensures video feedback for ⅓ of the students on each assignment, ensuring students get video feedback for ⅓ of their assignments), personal comment feedback, and opportunities for choice in content and format for some assignments. Students may also receive instruction in zooms, video recaps of zooms, or through written instructions.

Differentiated learning for ELL students include simplified instruction with maintained rigor, and opportunities to access vocabulary instruction in the home language. Differentiated instruction for students with learning disabilities include simplification of structure, organization, and product; shortened assignments, small group learning, use of Co-writer and other accommodation software, audio books, and single step instruction. Differentiated instruction for neurodiverse students includes assignments chunked into smaller sections, the class agenda formatted as a printable checklist, single step instruction, frequent teacher check in, and graphic organizers.

ORGANIZE to maximize initial and sustained engagement: Learning moves from teacher to student locus of control fluidly throughout the unit as new concepts are introduced. Each time a new skill or concept is introduced, the movement toward greater independence uses the “I do, We do, You do” method of gradual release of responsibility and increase in student self direction. This format has other names and is essentially the method shown in the graphic below.

Graphic shows varied versions of gradual release of responsibility for learning from teacher to student.

Phase 4: Six Facets of Understanding

Six Facets of understanding 

This learning experience incorporates the facets of understanding below:

Facet Task/Assignment
Can explain—via generalizations or principles, providing justified and systematic accounts of phenomena, facts, and data; make insightful connections and provide illuminating examples or illustrations (Wiggens, 84). Performance task
Socratic Seminar
Can interpret—tell meaningful stories; offer apt translations; provide a revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make the object of understanding personal or accessible through images, anecdotes, analogies, and models (Wiggens, 84).Performance task
OIW
Have perspective—see and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture  (Wiggens, 84).Peer review checklists
Small group writers’ workshop tasks
Performance task
Have perspective—see and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture (Wiggens, 84).Performance taskOIWGroup discussions
Socratic Seminar

The Lesson

Context

The Wit and Wisdom curriculum teachers’ guide provides a week between modules (units) for teachers to engage students in problem or project based learning, reteach and build skills. This learning experience follows the end of 6th grade Module Two of our paced Wit and Wisdom curriculum.

The skills not taught as part of the learning experience, but used in it are taught previously as part of Module Two. In this way, the learning experience provides reinforcement of Module Two skills while also allowing for student choice and individual learning. The unit that follows this is test prep for the spring state tests, followed by the passion project and final novel.

Students will have written 1 explanatory essay, a narrative summary and may have written their own myth (depending on the course and time allotted). Students will have been exposed to narrative structures in both myth and novel forms with a focus on character and theme. They will have had opportunities to analyze the Monomyth genre with a focus on stages of the hero’s journey and on the hero’s journey archetypes, and to use textual evidence to support a claim.

Lesson Overview

Secondary Tasks

The assignments listed below are tasks modified from existing tasks in Wit and Wisdom, or are additional tasks. The tasks help prepare students for this week-long unit and increase engagement for these tasks in a digital environment. Students will have encountered these tasks earlier in the process.

Digital Archetype Book — Students use google slides to create an illustrated book identifying the archetypes of the hero myth, and naming the characters that represent each archetype in the class myth (the Odyssey or Ramayana, Divine Loophole). This can also be a stand-alone assignment using the myth the student has chosen. Each page includes a title, illustration of the archetype, and at least one paragraph explaining how the character does (and does not) align with Campell’s concepts of the archetype. Extension projects allow students to hypothesize on the elements of the culture in which the myth developed that influenced the difference.

Digital Stages Book — This is identical to the digital archetype book, but works well as a flip-book for students who need additional scaffolding and support for the stages, or who have significant reading delays. Both books serve as tools for students in the research phase of this lesson. 

Digital Stages Assignment (part of the existing curriculum, and modifications that make the assignment meet the requirements of the existing curriculum and support the extension project covered in this lesson. Images in the structurally modified stages assignment are from Ramayana, Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel.
Digital Stages Assignment (part of the existing curriculum, and modifications that make the assignment meet the requirements of the existing curriculum and support the extension project covered in this lesson. Images in the structurally modified stages assignment are from Ramayana, Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel.

12 Step Choice Activity — This is the extension activity of the digital stages book. Instead of giving advanced students additional work, they have the opportunity to build a more rigorous product that teaches the 12 steps in monomyth narratives. The product presents the steps in order, and the specific example of that step in their chosen myth. Students will explain how each step results from the step before it in their chosen narrative and flows logically into the step after it. If the step does not do so, the student will analyze/explain why this disparity exists. Suggested formats include: flow chart, slide show, video, construction project (digital or actual), or essay.

Quizzes — Quizzes serve two purposes: show that students have read the text, assess student understanding prior to lessons. Quizzes are always open-book for all students and are untimed. This universal accommodation allows students to use their resources, and means that students that haven’t memorized the information assessed in the quiz can practice accessing the information in their text or learning tools. Students are instructed to take their time and use their books/resources as a testing skill. 

Readers Journal — This is an important part of the Wit and Wisdom curriculum. Students maintain a composition notebook in which they respond to the reading. I do not have documents for this assignment to share because students work offline.

Socratic Seminars  — Students engage in structured, student-led discussions about archetypes, narrative structure and diverse cultures. Teacher role is to take notes and ask prompting questions. Students have prepared for the discussions by reflecting in their readers journal and practicing productive discourse as a class.

Performance Task

Myth Analysis Essay — Students will write 3 part research and analysis essays examining a chosen culture from which a hero myth emerged, and explaining how the text structure of a myth from that culture aligns with the monomyths narrative structure and theme using Campbell (above grade level) or Vogler (on grade level).

1 Week Lesson Plan

Monday

Asynchronous Work:

  • Readers Journal (due before class)
  • Write in your agenda (during zoom)
  • Decision tree (during zoom)
  • Culture Research (optional homework)

Synchronous Zoom Lesson:

  • Entry: Hellos and sharing time (pet cams, weekend reports, etc)
  • Prepare to Learn: Write in agenda, students open tabs, open readers journals and textbooks
  • Hook: zoom poll
  • Socratic Seminar: discussion of how ancient Indian and Greek cultures are reflected in Ramayana: Divine Loophole, and The Odyssey.
  • Project Introduction 
    • Introduce essential question
    • Remind students of essay format
    • Work through decision tree with student willing to be the example
  • Project Work 
    • Students complete decision tree while on zoom and check in with teacher before leaving to do homework 
    • Students can ask questions while working, teacher monitors students in their google docs and responds in direct chat or on the doc if student is going astray
  • Closing: Teacher directs students to tools to access myths: class texts, Sora, Libby, online book resources
  • Learning Support – After zoom
    • Students with additional learning needs return to zoom to complete culture research with the teacher.

Tuesday

Asynchronous Work:

  • Culture Research (during or before zoom)
  • Temp Check Survey (before zoom)
  • OIW (small group or individual)
  • Graphic Organizer (optional for now)

Synchronous Lesson:

  • Entry: Hellos and sharing time, students who have not completed the temp check do so during this time
  • Prepare to Learn: students open tabs needed for today, close other tabs
  • Hook: share out discoveries from students who began/completed culture research (this is also a question on the Temp Check Survey), share out ideas from students who have not
    • Differentiation note: having the share out question in the temp check survey allows anxious students to pre-think about their answer and share with greater confidence out loud, or to copy and paste their answer into the chat to share. This accommodation also supports students without identified disabilities who need additional time to consider their responses.
  • Small Group Work/Discussion: Students are placed in breakout rooms according to their responses on the Temp Check Survey. Breakout rooms are set to “participants may choose room” so that students in need of help can move into the room where the teacher is to ask their question on direct chat rather than call for help. Breakout rooms are as follows:
    • Students who have completed their culture research — these students will share their answers and inferences about the parts of culture that are reflected in the myth from that culture, they will provide additional insight and feedback to one another to add to their connections or research. They will work on their OIW chart while doing so.
      • Differentiation note: the students with additional learning needs completed their cultural research with the teacher yesterday, allowing them to participate in this group. This changes the group’s make up and adds much needed diversity of learning and thinking.
    • Students who have not completed their culture research — This is the majority of the class. They will be divided into breakout rooms based on the culture that they chose for their research. They will work together in their room to complete the culture research assignment as a group, and finish by using copy and paste to ensure that all students have their own copy of the group’s work.
    • Students who are non-responsive or require a different timeline — These students will stay in the main room with the teacher and work through the obstacles (this may include support from the student’s adult at home), and set goals for their self-paced work. If appropriate, they will then move into the correct group. If class is co-taught, these students will work with one teacher while the other teacher moves between the other breakout rooms.
  • Closing – Students return to the main room
    • Students share out briefly
    • Teacher assigns OIW, point out graphic organizer is available for students who wish to work on it when they have their OIW complete
    • Students make a plan for completion
    • goodbyes.
  • Learning Support – After zoom
    • Students showing an interest in additional challenges will stay on zoom to discuss adaptations for assignment.

Wednesday

Asynchronous Work:

  • Essay Graphic organizer (during and after zoom)
  • Temp Check Survey
  • Deep Dive Discussions

Synchronous Lesson:

  • Entry: Hellos and sharing time, students who have not completed the temp check survey are directed to do so 
  • Prepare to Learn: students open tabs needed for today, close other tabs, gather their myth texts (may be electronic or physical), gather support materials (previous work, readers journals, etc)
  • Lesson: Mapping OIW, evidence, to graphic organizer
    • Teacher leads students in marking up their OIW
      • AVID note markup
    • Students mark up their OIW while teacher monitors their documents and intervenes as needed (individual practice)
    • Teacher models how to map OIW to the graphic organizer and add evidence/elaboration
  • Independent Work: Mapping
    • Breakout rooms: Students who understand the process and are ready to map move to breakout rooms based on working style.
    • Main Room: Students who need additional support remain in the main room for reteaching and reframing of the lesson.
      • Students may move to breakout rooms once they understand.
      • Students who need more time on the OIW markup activity remain in the main room with the teacher on mute working on it until finished. Then they participate in reteaching/reframing.
  • Closing – Students check in before leaving
    • Teacher reminds students to participate in asynchronous deep dive discussion threads.
  • Learning Support – After zoom
    • Students who prefer to do deep dives verbally stay to discuss in small group. Teacher takes notes and provides them for students to copy and paste into their asynchronous deep dive discussions, or posts for the students if they prefer to remain anonymous.

Thursday

Asynchronous Work:

  • Rough Draft (during and after zoom)
  • Reflection and Revision

Synchronous Lesson:

  • Entry: Hellos and sharing time, 
  • Prepare to Learn: students open tabs needed for today, close other tabs, gather their myth texts (may be electronic or physical), gather support materials (previous work, readers journals, etc)
  • Hook: students share their thoughts from their deep dives to whole group,  
  • Lesson: Mapping graphic organizer to rough draft
    • Teacher models using deep dives to build a thesis 
  • Independent Work: Mapping
    • Students move to breakout rooms by topic to brainstorm their thesis statements and hooks.
    • Students return to the main room.
    • Teacher models mapping their graphic organizer to rough draft and directs students to resources for this (sample essay, model video, conclusion notes)
  • Independent Work: Mapping
    • Breakout rooms: Students who understand the process and are ready to map move to breakout rooms based on working style.
    • Main Room: Students who need additional support remain in the main room and complete the assignment with the teacher leading.
  • Closing – return to main room
    • Teacher explains homework — finish mapping, reflect and revise
  • Learning Support – After zoom
    • Students who need help remain for help on zoom assignment and homework.

Friday

Asynchronous Work:

  • Rough Draft (during and after zoom)
  • Peer/Self Revision Sheet
  • Writing Reflection worksheet
  • Writing Rubric

Synchronous Lesson:

  • Entry: Hellos and sharing time, 
  • Prepare to Learn: students open tabs needed for today, close other tabs, gather their myth texts (may be electronic or physical), gather support materials (previous work, readers journals, etc)
  • Hook: students read out their favorite sentence in their essay  
  • Lesson: Writers’ workshop
    • Teacher explains writers’ workshop goals and guidelines
    • Teacher Sets up breakouts based on student needs.
  • Independent Work: Writers’ Workshops
    • Students move to breakout rooms and work as follows:
      • Students working on graphic organizer go to a breakout room to catch up
      • Students writing their rough drafts stay in the main room to catch up, then move to a breakout room.
      • Students who feel their introduction is weakest work together in 1 room to peer edit, reflect and revise.
      • Students who feel their body paragraphs are weakest work together in 1 room to peer edit, reflect and revise.
      • Students who feel their conclusion is weakest work together in 1 room to peer edit, reflect and revise.
      • Students who are confident their work is perfect or have had an adult edit it will work in a breakout room to go through the rubric line by line and mark their draft according to where it fulfills the rubric’s guidelines for on or above standards.
    • Students return to the main room.
    • Teacher models mapping their graphic organizer to rough draft and directs students to resources for this (sample essay, model video, conclusion notes)
  • Closing – return to main room
    • Teacher explains homework — complete and submit your final draft; complete reflection
  • Learning Support – After zoom
    • Students who would like to get additional feedback from teacher and other writers can stay to get feedback.

Featured Image by Radoan Tanvir from Pixabay

Resources

AVID (2010). Socratic Seminar Guidelines. AVID Weekly. Retrieved from: https://www.sac.edu/StudentServices/Counseling/TeacherEd/SiteAssets/Pages/Workshop-Powerpoints-and-Materials/SocraticSeminarHandoutsRTTC.pdf

Carthage College (2019, October 30). UbD Stage 3: Plan Learning Experiences through WHERETO (Series 4 of 4).  Retrieved from: https://www.carthage.edu/live/blogs/132-ubd-stage-3-plan-learning-experiences-through

Gonzalez, J. (2014, June 23). Understanding by Design, Introduction and Chapters 1-4. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/ubd-chapters-1-4/

Grandmont, M. (2017, December, 9). Crafting and conducting a successful Socratic Seminar. NCTE Blog. Retrieved from: https://ncte.org/blog/2017/12/crafting-conducting-successful-socratic-seminar/.

Great Minds (2021). Knowledge on the go. Retrieved from: https://gm.greatminds.org/en-us/knowledge-for-grade-6

Great Minds (2018). Module 1: Resilience and the great depression. Great Minds. Retrieved from: https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/3454910/Wit%20Wisdom/Tennessee%20Reviewer%20Files/SE%20Handouts/06.01.Student%20Edition_2017_Clean.pdf

Great Minds (2017). Leading and Supporting School Wide Implementation. Wit and Wisdom Implementation Guide Grades k-8. (pg. 73-74). Retrieved from: https://s3.greatminds.org/link_files/files/000/000/007/original/IG.pdf?1489431853

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 

 Winkler, M. (2012). What makes a hero?. TED-ed. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/Hhk4N9A0oCA

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