I’d like to share with you what I learned from teaching a middle school class called ‘The Story From Day One,’ which integrated mindfulness, visualization and inquiry exercises with the language arts curriculum.
We often teach myths as merely literature, divorced from the cultural, spiritual, and historical context. But we pay a price for this approach. It limits the depth of meaning students can derive from their study.
Combine this with the narrow focus on the now that social media can foster, and students easily feel isolated on an island of self, cut off not only from their contemporaries, but from a sense of the continuity of life. They have little grasp of how their lives today emerge from yesterday.
Kieran Egan, educator and author, advises in his wonderful book Imagination In Teaching And Learning: The Middle School Years, to design lessons with a narrative structure, understanding not only the skills and knowledge we want to develop but the transcendent qualities in the subject studied.
To excite students, especially middle school students who are still close to, if not seeped in, this age of magic, and who have a natural yearning for adventure and awe: Use stories of facing the extremes of reality and limits of experience, of heroes braving dangers and encountering wonders, to connect to and utilize students’ romantic imagination and emotional awareness to better understand course material.
A good way to begin is with Gilgamesh, the protagonist in the first written epic story, recorded sometime around 2100 BCE. Gilgamesh is the first literary hero, actually the first greatly flawed superhero. The story also introduces a precursor to the biblical Noah and the flood, as well as central themes that have filled literature ever since.
First There Was Breath, Then There Were Words, Then There Were Stories.
The first step in teaching mythology, literature, and language is to create the space in the classroom so language comes fully alive to students. Where they feel as well as examine what they say and read.
To read the whole post, click on this link to the ImaginEd website which published this piece.