Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Greek Gods vs Super Heroes.....5th grade

How do ancient myths and legends influence our
contemporary worlds?

A few months ago, as the 5th grade students were completing last art projects, one young energetic student turned to me and ask, "Hey Ms. Angelopoulos, are we going to study Greek Gods?"  I said, "You know Adrien....we can do that."  His request was not completely out of character and not completely unfounded.  In preparing for this monsterus unit, I considered the overall theme for 5th grade: Connecting Past to Present.
And it worked out perfectly

(special note:  there will be many special notes....This entire art unit was considerably lengthty.  I think, overall, it took 8 weeks---probably more--- to culminate.  BUT--a really huge and important 'but'--throughout the course of the art unit, the students were fully engaged, interested and invested in every component of the lesson.  The most rewarding and amazing aspect was the amount of work they did.  From research, to studying, to analyzing to incredible amounts of homework, no one complained.....)

Day ONE: 
Introduction, discussion, exploration
To spark their interest and to prompt their thinking, I created a powerpoint with various images, depicting primary representations of the Olympians of Greek mythology and contemporary interpretations.  Our focus was to explore how the myths and legends of ancient Greece have translated across time and continue to be important stories in present time.  Along with recognizing present interpretations, we discussed the elements of these myths and legends that remained the same, through "symbols".  These symbols, the trident for Psoseidon, the lightening bolt for Zeus...became the recognizable link between past and present.  Their first assignment was to research all 12 Olympians, focusing on their symbols, characteristics, their powers, their realm and their purpose.
(Special Note:  Because of the nature and the various components to this unit, I searched for some help, specifically for charts, lists, and lots, and lots of text.  I printed copies of charts, brought in library books, referenced movies and research appropriate websites. The students also were encouraged to continue to research at home and finish anything and everything for homework.  http://www.mensaforkids.org/lessons/greekmythology/mfklessons-mythology-all.pdfhttp://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/~/media/ArtsEdge/LessonPrintables/grade-5/greek_myth_character_chart.ashx, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0814255/)


Helping Zeus, Biographical Poems
and discovering our inner Olympian
 The flow of the instructional sequence was slightly loose.  The students independently monitored their progress and used my guidelines to set goals towards completing each component. 
To really understand the essence of an Olympian, we really had to embody the full spirit and character of a great god.  *insert climactic music*
Of course, the mighty Zeus called down from Mt. Olympus in search of another god or goddess. 
Reflecting on the characteristics and attributes of the original 12 Olympians, each student interpreted their own strengths and metaphorically became an Olympian.
What better way to express our Olympianess than with a poem.  A biographical poem lended to a perfect way for the students to focus their Olympian characteristics on very specific individualized details.  It was a great way to incorporate a little writting within the art class.

(special note: At the end of the third day, all students were responsible in completing all components to this point.  More importantly, each student needed to complete their sketches for their pendant design.  The pendant assignment, required each student to choose a specific, recognizable image to represent who they are as an.....*insert climactic music* Olympian)

clay pendants and Percy Jackson
After completing their two sketches, each student used clay to sculpt their, very powerful, Olympian pendant.  The students had two choices towards creating their designs: substractive and addative clay methods.  After a quick demonstration and modelling the use of a rolling pin, the students rolled out slabs that were about 1/4 inch thick and used a cookie cutter to cut a circle.  Most importantly, a straw was used to create a small hole at the top, as to thread some yarn.

After a quick fire in the kiln, the students painted their pendants with acrylic paint and gave them a nice glossy finish with some Mod Podge.  Not only were these pendants executed very well, they became the foundation for the next component, connecting ancient to modern.

(special note:  The clay was white talc.  I chose to use acrylic paint, rather than glaze because of time and because acrylic paint affords the students a little more flexibility with color choice.  Below is a complete pendant.  The symbol is a doughnut......  As the students were sculpting and painting, "Percy Jackson and the Olympian: The Lightening Theif " was playing in the background.  The movie becomes the initial connection to present interpretations of myths.)

transforming from Olympians to Superheroes, comic book characters and special powers
There was a great buzz in 5th grade about their art projects at this point.  All students were engaged, all were completing their work and all were participating in class discussion--which I have to say became quite heated at times.  Now, the task at hand was to reflect on the characteristics of the Olympians and connect them to contemporary representations....superheroes. 
We looked at various paintings by Tim Maclean, depicting "Modern Myth".  These paintings were a perfect platform for comparing/contrasting the characteristics of gods and superheroes and connecting modern myth to ancient legends.
(special note: For HOMEWORK the students were responsible for determining which superheroes represents the 12 Olympians, using a similar chart as in Day TWO.  Needless to say....there was debating...a lot of debating.)

Along the way we sketched out our Olympian as a superhero, using our pendant symbol to identify who we are.  These sketches were transformed into comic book covers, introducing to the world a new hero!  The students inspiration stemmed from classic comic book covers.

(special note:  This portion of the unit was also a multi-step, multi-faceted component.  While the students were working on their comic book covers, I pulled each of them aside and took an action snap shot and printed them in black and white.)

The students had a few choices for designing their ultimate superhero.  Some chose to create a costume, some chose to be themselves and some decided to add a 3D effect.  To complet the project, each student needed to include their superhero name, a background, their character and a catch phrase, such as "Donuts  for everyone"!


essay writing, evaluations

The culminating activity for this art unit was writing an essay describing their position on the topic of Greek Gods  vs. Superheroe.  The focus was for each student to reflect on the connection between Greek Gods and Superheroes, showing an understanding of their different characteristics through an essay, answering the question "Who would you rather be?" 

(special note: This writing activity fit in really well with what the students were already learning in their writing curriculum. High emphasis was placed on 'evidence' to support their reasoning, requiring the students to think back to the pendants and our previous discussions of the Olympians.  To help guide their thinking and help their reasonings, I used portion of this prezi http://prezi.com/njmhpfvusj3m/superhero-v-greek-god/. )

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O_baixOBko  (mind inappropriate word)

This project was really guided by student interest and it paid off.  From the first day the students were fully engaged because the topic was relevant and contemporary.  I was amazed that for two art (days and homework), the students just focused on researching...and researching...and researching.  And they didn't seem to mind it.....

In reflection, taking my student's suggestion for theme for the art unit was great...and exhausting.  It was great because the students' interest and enthusiasm really inspired the instruction and the activities.  It was exhausting because the students' interest and enthusiasm really inspired the instruction and the activities.  And I didn't seem to mind it....

See you back in the