While the fall of the Roman Empire may have lead to Latin’s demise, this classical language, long a staple of our World Languages program, is far from dead. From imaginative adolescents working to master the names of Harry Potter’s spells to college-bound students aspiring to increase their SAT scores, the “language of the scholars and educated” has made a resurgence across the country in recent years. Even Facebook, which for many could be considered the antithesis of learned culture, is available in Latin for users who prefer to statum renovare their daily activities.
While most of us have never formally studied Latin, we’ve still felt its influence on modern language and popular culture. Scores of books and films, including Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Disney’s animated Hercules, and the upcoming feature Wrath of the Titans are based on Greco-Roman mythology. In retelling these tales, the legacy of the ancient world lives on.
In this spirit, our seventh grade Latin students recently completed a mini-unit on mythology for which they created short digital stories based on well known Roman and Greek myths. Using NoodleTools, Photostory, books, and Internet sources, they crafted a script, collected images, and produced a final product that captured the essence of the myth and honored the culture from which it came.
Manageable and Meaningful
To make the process manageable and meaningful, a simple project wiki was used to communicate background information, required elements, and deadlines. Having everything in one place improved the students’ organization and enabled the teacher to better monitor their progress over the course of this endeavor. Equally as important, it also served as a central repository for the completed stories, allowing the students to view and learn from each other’s work.
Because myths are based on oral tradition, there is no one official version of any story. Consequently, the first major task after selecting a topic was to locate at least two renditions of the myth. Based on their findings, students used Google Docs to write a condensed, common storyline in their own words and shared their drafts via NoodleTools. For those not familiar with this resource, NoodleTools helps students search intelligently, assess the quality of results, record information using online notecards, and properly format their bibliography. We use a paid version of the service that integrates with Google Apps for Education, but they also offer a suite of free tools that are extremely useful.
Digital storytelling is an art form that requires careful attention to the selection and pairing of words and images. And as any screenwriter knows, having a well written story is one thing; having a well written script is quite another. To make the transformation, students used a storyboard to chunk their prose into narrations, then sketched representations of the main ideas in the story before looking for actual images from these sites:
- Flickr Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons
- Quality Image Search: http://qualityimagesearch.com/
- Encyclopedia Mythica: http://www.pantheon.org/areas/gallery/
To evaluate the projects, we developed a rubric that focused on three main areas: the research process, the storytelling process, and the final product itself. By emphasizing the thinking processes, not just the tangible product, students received feedback that could shape as opposed to judge their learning.
If you have a favorite Greco-Roman myth and/or would like to use some of these resources with your students, feel free to visit the project page for more information. Gratias visitando!