Explain to students that myths are fictional stories that usually include a hero or god(s). It is often designed to teach a lesson or get across a point. Ask students if they are familiar with any myths, e.g. Greek myths such as Aesop’s fables. Explain myths come from many cultures Africa, China and they reveal that cultures’ values and beliefs. Native American myths often include animals and nature. Then ask: Does America have myths? The answer is yes, but unlike traditional Chinese, African or Celtic myths, they come in the form of American folklore such as Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox. A myth and folktale are different from a legend which is supposed to be based on actual events or people.
Tell students they now have the chance to write their own American myth, legend or folktale.
Ask students to choose a topic on which to build their tale. Students may choose to write a creation story or an explanation about something. They may want to teach a moral or lesson about something. Suggest that they take their ideas either from their own personal history or from United States history. They may want to use animals as characters. For examples from other cultures, you may want to read aloud some African folktales such as Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky.
Ask students to create an outline for their story that has a clear, understandable story line with a beginning, middle, and end.
Ask students to include at least one to two identifying characters and to use as much descriptive detail as possible.
Have students write a rough draft; then meet with a partner for peer review and editing.
Distribute the Handout: Myth, Legend, and Folklore. Ask students to write the final draft of their myths on the Handout. Give them more than one page if needed. Ask them to write their names on the back.
When everyone has finished, collect the papers and read the stories aloud keeping the author anonymous. Then post the stories in a bulletin board display in the room.
Wrap up Discussion
Conclude the lesson by discussing with students how myths, legends and folktales have been vehicles of cultural expression for Native Americans and other groups. Ask Why is it important for cultures to have these stories? How did it feel to express yourself this way? Was it easier or more difficult than a straightforward story? Finally, ask how these traditional stories, including Native American contributions, have enriched American culture in particular.