The first day of the unit will serve as the foundation upon which the next three weeks will be built. On this day, it is crucial to draw forth prior knowledge while exciting the students’ quest for new knowledge. Before introducing the students to the African myths, the teacher will ask the students to recall their definition of myth. The teacher will guide the students through a review in which an established definition of myth is brought forth. Building upon this definition, the teacher will tell the students that they are about to embark on a wonderful journey into the world of cultures that differ from their own.
Before introducing students to the African myth, the teacher will lead the class in a discussion on forms of entertainment in today’s society. The teacher will direct the conversation to focus on television, movies and novels. The teacher will incite the students to identify the elements of these mediums that attract the students.
Why do we watch television? What keeps us viewing a particular movie? What makes us want to turn the pages of a book?
From the discussion of the mediums listed, the teacher will redirect the students’ thinking. Students will be asked to think about countries and cultures that do not have television sets or movie theaters, public libraries or large bookstores.
How do these people entertain themselves?
The teacher will allow the students to brainstorm about possible answers to the question. The students will share their responses. The responses will serve as a springboard for the introduction to the topic of the unit. Students will be made aware of the fact that they are about to begin a study of two cultures that use an oral tradition as a means of entertainment. The people of Africa and the Mayan peoples both engage in telling tales or myths. Beyond entertaining, the myths also serve to educate and inform. The students will soon see how this is so.
Before the study of the African myths commences, the teacher will ask the students to complete a K-W-L chart. K-W-L is a meaning-making strategy that engages students in active learning. The strategy creates an instructional framework that begins with what the students
about the topic to be studied, moves to what the students w
ant to know
as they reflect on their knowledge and generate questions about the topic, and leads to a record of what students
as a result of their engagement in the K-W-L strategy.
With the introduction of the myths as a means of entertainment, education and information combined with a recognition of prior knowledge of Africa, the students are set to begin their adventure into the African culture.
The second day will begin with a review of yesterday’s lesson. The students will be reminded that African myths are designed to teach and entertain. The teacher will ask if any students can identify the continent of Africa on a map. With the location established, the students will sit on the floor. They will be told this arrangement is to help them relax and get prepared to take a journey through the villages of Africa, across its rivers and into the jungles. The teacher will read aloud an African myth. Upon completing the tale, the teacher will ask the students a series of questions.
Did the myth entertain you? What elements of the myth kept you listening?
What did the myth teach you about the African culture?
What is your personal reaction to the myth?
[The teacher must work to ensure that the students are able to identify unique aspects of the African culture as provided in the myth. It may take several readings before students are able to do this.]
At the end of the discussion the teacher will read another myth to the class. During this reading the students should attempt to mentally answer the questions while they listen. At the end of the second reading the teacher will again engage the students in a conversation in which they provide their responses and reactions.
Day Two has served to provide the students with a sampling of the African culture. Students will be encouraged to add information to their K-W-L charts. As the unit progresses, students will see their knowledge of the culture expanding.
On the third day the students will continue their exploration of the African culture through the myths. The class will begin with a review of the common elements identified in the myths they have heard thus far. It is essential that they students are constantly reminded of the culture’s intention to inform, educate and entertain via the myths.
On this day, students will work in pairs. Each group will be provided with two short myths. For each myth, one member of the set will read the tale aloud while the other listens attentively. After each reading the pair will discuss the story and attempt to identify the essential African elements. Each group will be encouraged to share its findings with the class.
After the class has completed the paired readings, the teacher will introduce the students to the idea of the “storyteller.” The teacher will tell the students that in their groups they each functioned as a storyteller; one who tells another a tale. The teacher will help the students understand that the people in Africa rely upon the storyteller to provide the myths; the storyteller is the one who continues the tradition of the myth. Because of the African storyteller, the students are able to experience the wonderful humor and adventure found within each myth and they are able to learn about a culture distinctively different from their own.
On the fourth day, the tradition of the myth as embedded in the culture of Africa comes to life. On this day, the students will experience the wonder of an African storyteller. There are two wonderful and exciting storytellers available. Sylvia and Jeff McQullau are from New Haven and they have the ability to hold the students spellbound. Another exciting storyteller is Sara DeBeer from West Hartford. These individuals come highly recommended and tell exciting tales of African tribes.
Sitting on the floor at the feet of the storyteller, students will watch and listen to tales straight from the mouth of an individual from Africa. The storyteller will provide the students with a vivid taste of the African culture.
Students will be allowed to ask questions of the storyteller. Students will be encouraged to display their knowledge of myths.
At the end of the week during which the students have been presented with information, Day Five will serve as a reflection and response day. Students will continue to add to the K-W-L chart. Students will be encouraged to review the chart and summarize what they have learned throughout the week.
Students will also be asked to provide a journal type response to several questions. Journal responses are designed to be informal writings whereby the student is not concerned with formalized writing but rather concentrates on reflection. The responses will be based on the myths read and heard over the past four days. The questions will include:
Provide a brief summary of your favorite myth. What did the myth teach you? What did you learn about the African culture from the myth?
What did you learn about the African culture this week?
How can you apply this new knowledge to your own life?
In what ways can you teach this to others?
Does the new knowledge make you want to learn more about the African culture?
Has your appreciation of the African culture been increased by this new knowledge?
Does it increase your desire to learn more about other cultures?