In March of 2013, back when I was teaching English in Japan on the JET Program, I did a unit with my tenth graders on mythology. It started off with reading summarized versions of the myths “Orion and the Scorpion” and “Echo the Nymph” in class. The next phase consisted of students looking up a story from any world mythology online or in the library for homework, then writing their own summaries in English and presenting these as speeches to the class. Students also had the option of writing their own original stories “inspired by the night sky,” which was a phrase used in their English textbook Prominence to describe how many myths came to be. The grand finale—and my favorite part—was turning these myth summaries into mini books.
The “book” was made from one sheet of A3 paper (approximately 12 x 17 inches). I had learned how to fold a single sheet of paper into an 8-page mini book from another ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) who had presented the technique in a meeting. Instructions can also be found on various websites. I like the explanation given by the Fiji Island Mermaid Press. Once folded, the pages end up being about 4 x 6 inches when you use A3 size paper.
Unfortunately, right around this time my camera was malfunctioning (note the horizontal lines visible in the above photo at full size), and by the time students completed the assignment, it had stopped working altogether. I did not get around to buying another one before returning students’ projects, so I don’t have good quality photos of them, which is a real shame. All I have is what I took with my laptop’s camera. Still, the students who put a lot of effort into their books did so well that it comes through even in these images. Click the thumbnails for the full size!
“Arachne changed into the Spider” by 1-5-37 N.Y.
“Arion’s Story” by 10-1-27 M.K.
“Odysseus’s Voyage” by 1-2-26 N.K.
“Ikaros’s Wings” by 1-3-24 K.H.
“Gemini – The Story of Good Twins” by 1-3-40 S.Y.
Side note: Many students translate directly from Japanese when stating what grade they’re in in English. This is a problem because the count starts back at one with each level of schooling in Japan, unlike in the US, where it’s continuous from 1st through 12th grade. So “High school year 1” in Japan is equivalent to 10th grade in the US.
“Daphne” by 1-8-32 H.R.
“Thor became bride” by 1-5-40 W.M.
Though the majority of projects did end up being based on Greek mythology, there were also some books on Norse and Japanese mythology, one on a Bible story, and a few original stories.
This was a massive project at the end, because I wanted to display the students’ books in such a way that others would be able to read them—without walking off with them!
I chose about 50 of the best books (out of 400) to display on freestanding boards outside the Language Lab. I taped a length of colored raffia to each book in the central fold so that it stuck out at the bottom like a bound bookmark, and at the top to give me something to hang it from. Each book sat in a “cradle” of two push pins. This way, passersby could read a book and easily put it back in place when they were through.
By the time I got this display done, my camera’s shutter was stuck in the completely open position, so I couldn’t capture anything other than a blaze of light. Luckily, the board showed up in this scene from one senior homeroom’s movie presentation for the school festival, so you can at least get some sense of it.
I have included here PDFs of the in-class handouts and lesson plan I made for this project, as well as the sheet explaining the homework assignment. This was definitely my most successful injection of the visual arts into the English curriculum!