Chopped Mythology Projects

By: Mary Kienstra on: February 3, 2016  in: Engagement, mythology

What happens when you combine a fourth grade study of mythology and the  TV show Chopped to create a project?  Chopped Mythology Projects and amazing results!  My students took this engaging project and created projects that surpassed my highest expectations.  (And it was fun!)

One of the most important rules I try to follow is to not show a model when I assign a project.  I don’t want kids to think they have to imitate my model.  I want them to envision something bigger, better, and more creative than I could ever model.  I am rarely disappointed.

After my students read several anthologies of mythology from different cultures, they wrote paragraphs comparing them.  They described the characters and the “rules” of each kind of mythology.  They did all the “academic” things that our curriculum requires.  I knew that they understood mythology and were ready for a challenge.

The assignment was to create a mythical figure, with a twist.  In the spirit of “Chopped,” the kids had to choose 4 different ingredients to include in their figure.

  1.  The first choice was a physical thing that they chose from a basket. They could actually see what they were choosing, but they didn’t know why they were choosing it.  Some of the objects were a small stuffed animal, a paperclip, rubber bands, a pen… all random things.  The idea was that their figure had to incorporate this object in some way.
  2. The second choice to find out what kind of trait their mythical figure would have.  They had to randomly draw a small slip of paper from a basket.  On this paper were the words  “shares a trait with  <insert famous mythical character>”.   With this ingredient, students used their knowledge of traditional mythology to design their figure.  Additionally, this showed that they truly understood that character from classical mythology.
  3. The third ingredient for their mythical figure was “special power is <insert a power from classical mythology>”.  Again, students randomly chose the power on a small slip of paper.  Now students had 3 out of the 4 ideas or characteristics of their creation.
  4. Lastly, the ingredient that pushed these kids over the edge.  Once again, they randomly chose this on a slip of paper.  Good or Evil.

They set out to draw a poster of their mythical creature, including these four aspects.  Randomly choosing the ingredients to include in this creation turned out to be just right as they had to synthesize their knowledge and understanding to create something new.  Their drawings were interesting, creative, and innovative!

With drawing complete, the next step was to write a script that a TV news anchor might read about this creature.  Writing a script typically engages students in a more meaningful way.  A script implies an audience bigger than just the teacher and focuses the writing in a way a “paragraph” never does.

Putting it all together in front of the green screen with the DoInk App was the perfect finish.  Imagine the student sitting at the anchor desk with their poster of their mythical figure inserted behind them reading the evening news.  The scripts described their creations perfectly, including the 4 main ingredients and even more.

Sometimes you have to take a project to an extreme – this was definitely an extreme, creating Chopped Mythology Projects.  I think that when you ask my students what they learned in 4th grade, this might actually be something they recall!

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