Freshmen: What is mythology’s purpose?

Yesterday we ended class understanding that humans tell/create stories in order to make sense of the world and pass on knowledge or information (or to just entertain ourselves). Jumping off of there, today we looked at a particular type of story: the creation myth.

In groups of three and four students read one or two creation myths (a creation myth is a story about how the world began) from around the world and from different time periods. (One group wrote their own creation myth.)

After reading the stories, students answered these questions to present to the class:

-Where/when is your story from?
-Tell us about the characters
-Briefly summarize the plot
-Does this story connect to other stories you know?

After each group presented I asked what each story had in common with each other. For the most part, all these myths included some kind of higher being (like a god of some kind), or said that the world was created from some kind of natural disaster. In fact, many aspects of these myths are similar.

We ended class on these questions: What is the purpose of mythology? Why have we told (very similar) myths  for thousands of years?


Seniors: Macbeth Act 1 scene 3 to Act 1 scene 5, Is Macbeth in control of his actions

Today we read I.iii to I.v of Macbeth, focusing specifically on how his ambitions to become king change within just a few pages. Then we compared what we know of Lady Macbeth, Macbeth and Banquo’s personalities.

Class ended with students journaling their thoughts on the question of whether or not Macbeth is in control of his life and decisions, or if a higher force is controlling him. Students were asked to use specific lines from the text between I.iii and I.v.

Freshmen: Why do we tell stories?, Study of Apparent Behavior

Today we wanted to answer the question why do people tell stories?

We started off with me showing you a short video. After watching it two or three times, you wrote down your answer to the question “What happened in the picture?”

After we discussed what we wrote, I had you flip over the sheet of paper and you watched the same video, this time answering nine very specific questions:

1) What kind of person is the big triangle?
2) What kind of person is the small triangle?
3) What kind of person is the circle?
4) At one point the big triangle and the circle were together inside the box. What was the big triangle doing?
5) Why did the circle go into the house?
6) In one part of the picture, the big triangle and
the circle were in the house together. What did the big triangle do then? Why?
7) What did the circle do when it was in the house with the big triangle?
8) In one part of the picture the big triangle was
shut up in the house and tried to get out. What did the little triangle and the circle do then?
9) Why did the big triangle break the house?
After we discussed our answers with each other I gave some background about why we did this. This movie and these questions came from a 1944 psychology study called “The Study of Apparent Behavior,” which showed that most people who watch this movie came up with stories to explain the shapes’ movements, rather than using plain geometric terms. As a class we talked about why this could be, journaling to the question “Why do we tell stories?”

After some brief talking we looked at the beginning of the article “The Art of Immersion: Why Do We Tell Stories.”

We ended class writing to the question “Can you think of a story you know that was told to help us make sense of the world around us, or a story that is/was told to pass on knowledge or an understanding about the world?”

Seniors: Macbeth I.1 – I.3, Meeting the witches, Looking at three film versions

I handed out our Macbeth books. Make sure you get one (and write down your book number) if you missed class today.

We read the first three scenes of the play out loud (in a performance style) in front of the class and discussed the characteristics of Macbeth and the three Weird Sisters (also known as the witches).

Then we watched three movie versions (Roman Polanski’s Macbeth from 1971, Patrick Stewart’s from 2010 and the movie Scotland, PA, which is a retelling of Macbeth set in the 1970s) of when we first meet (and when Macbeth first meets) the witches. After watching those three we journaled  to these questions: How have the witches influenced the play already? Based on what we’ve seen so far, what do you think the witches represent?

Senior English: Using Lance Armstrong to Explore Ambition

Here’s what we did in English today:

We started off going over the class syllabus, which you can find by clicking on the “Senior English” tab on this site’s home page.

Then, we began a discussion on ambition:

Pick one of these quotes as a springboard into a free write of your own ideas about ambition. For example, is ambition a good or bad character trait? Or, when does ambition turn from an admirable characteristic in a person to a detrimental one? How does the quote you chose connect to your thoughts?

Let your writing wander. It’s ok if you contradict yourself. Keep your pen moving for five minutes.

“When the gods wish to take vengeance on a man for his crimes they usually grant him considerable success and a period of impunity, so that when his fortune is reversed he will feel it all the more bitterly.“
–Julius Caesar

“Ambition can creep as well as soar.”
–Edmund Burke

“Ambition, madam, is a great man’s madness.”
–John Webster

“Ambition is a ‘lucifer’ applied to a barrel of gunpowder, the explosion of which, where it succeeds in blowing one man into a niche, dashes twenty to atoms.”
–Charles William Day

“Ambition fortifies the will of man to become ruler over other men: it operates with deception, cajolery, and violence, it is the action of impurity upon impurity.”
–T.S. Eliot

“Ambition is but Avarice on stilts and masked.”
–Walter Savage Landor

“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.”
–Salvador Dali

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”
-Napoleon Bonaparte

“The same ambition can destroy or save, and make a patriot as it makes a knave.”
-Alexander Pope

After some time discussing what was written in class, we take a look at the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong, the former 7x Tour de France champion.

Then, in small groups we read the New York Times article Lance Armstrong Is Stripped of His 7 Tour de France Titles. Students wrote — using evidence from the text — arguing whether or not ambition could be blamed for his rise and his fall.

Then, we watched some videos of his interview with Oprah where he finally admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. They can be found on this website.

Finally, before class ended students wrote one more time. Taking examples from all parts of class (the initial free write, the New York Times article, the Oprah interviews) students decided whether or not ambition is a learned/developed personality trait or an inherited one. In other words, are people born with ambition wired into their character or is it something that develops over time. Can someone who has let ambition get the best of them turn things around? Do you feel that Armstrong did? Make sure you note when ideas in your final piece of writing came from your first two free writes. This last piece of writing was handed in at the end of class.