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Lesson Plan

Audience & Purpose: Evaluating Disney's Changes to the Hercules Myth

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Audience & Purpose: Evaluating Disney's Changes to the Hercules Myth

Grades 5 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Rachel R. Kimrey

Arlington, Tennessee

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will:

  • sequence elements of plot through the creation of a plot diagram.
  • compare and contrast two different types of media.
  • analyze how audience and purpose drive media decisions.
  • evaluate changes across media by writing a summary and critique.

 

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Session One

  1. Explain to students that they will be learning a bit about Hercules.  Get a show of hands for how many students have seen the Disney animated movie Hercules.  Then, survey how many students have ever read a written version of the myth.  You will then want to show the first 15 – 20 minutes of the film; make sure that you either show or discuss the film up to the point that baby Hercules is turned partly human.  If time permits and students need more background, you can have students use a plot diagram to graphically organize the aspects of the film that you didn’t watch as a class.  (See the Plot Synopsis of Disney’s Hercules if necessary.)  However, most of the critical differences occur within the first 20 minutes.
  2. Share with students that they will now read a written version of the myth of Hercules.  Since there is no “real” myth, use this as a teachable moment to briefly discuss the ways in which a myth is adapted over time.  If you would like to use an Internet component, have students access the story online.  You could also print a hard copy for students. 
  3. Either as a paired activity or as a class, have students create a plot diagram for the written myth.  Consider using the Interactive Plot Diagram Tool to add a technology component.  Whether you have students create a plot diagram on paper or on the Interactive Tool, make sure students have a hard copy of their diagram for your next session.

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Session Two

  1. Have students get out their plot diagrams.  Students are now ready to compare and contrast the written and animated versions.  Give each student a copy of the Compare & Contrast Guiding Questions and discuss what kinds of things they should be comparing between the film version and written version.
  2. Either in pairs or as a class, have students complete a Venn diagram of similarities and differences.  Consider using the Interactive Venn Diagram Tool (if computers are not avaiable, use the Venn Diagram printout).  Remind students that they did not view the entire animated version, so they should stick to comparing the premise of the film with the premise of the written myth.
  3. Once students have completed the Venn Diagram, begin a Think-Pair-Share over reasons why Disney must have decided to change critical portions of the myth.  If you would like to vary the Think-Pair-Share strategy, consider partnering students in heterogeneous pairs where one person prefers the film and one prefers the written myth; this will provide a balanced viewpoint.  You can also simply pair students in terms of classroom proximity.  Students will quickly point out differences such as the antagonist (Hera in myth, Hades in film), Pegasus’s presence, unique changes to the 12 Labors, timing of when Hercules became part mortal, and Hercules’s relationships (widower in myth, in love with Meg in the film).
  4. Gently guide students towards the key words of audience and purpose if necessary as you monitor the “pair” and “share” portions.  Students should begin to realize how Disney’s audience (young children and value-oriented parents) and purpose (to sell tickets and entertain) drove the changes in the film.  Take time to brainstorm with students who the audience may have been for the original myth of" Hercules."  Point out to students that while myths are designed for entertaining children in our society, in Greek society, myths would have been geared toward entertaining all ages, including adults.  You may also want to discuss how “childhood” is more of a modern idea; parents in Greek society would be less concerned with sheltering their kids or focusing on cute, furry sidekicks such as Pegasus.
  5. Finally, take time to have students analyze the difference in forms of entertainment in modern times and Greek times (movies vs. oral storytelling).
  6. If students become heated in their opinions over Disney’s changes, encourage them to look forward to voicing their opinions in a written assignment in Session Three.

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Session Three

  1. Either through photocopies or projection on a Whiteboard, give students the Summary & Critique Tips.  Discuss with students the differences between the two writing styles.  Just as Disney had a purpose in the animated film that differed from the written myth, writers' summaries and critiques are also written for different purposes.
  2. Model the creation of a summary and critique about something all your students are familiar with such as the school’s lunches or homework policy.  You might have a section of each already written, but take time to add to both with the students’ help.  They learn through hearing your thought process as a writer.  Consider using the samples provided as a starting point.
  3. Purposely use the third person point of view in the writing samples; this creates a more professional tone (see Third Person Subjective Point of View for more information).  Once you have created a model as a class, pass out the Summary & Critique Rubric.  As a class, go over the rubric and determine whether the model meets the requirements.  Allow time for students to ask questions about the assignment and the rubric.
  4. Students should now create two paragraphs; one should be a summary of the differences between the original myth and the animated film while the other should be a critique of the changes.  Encourage students to speak in the third person and to constantly refer to their rubric.  You will also want to encourage students to mention both a positive change and negative change in their critiques to provide a balanced analysis.
  5. Students should use the remainder of the class time (and time out-of-class, if necessary) to complete their summaries and critiques.  Remind students to refer to the rubric often for guidelines and revise their work as necessary.
  6. Allow time for stents to share their summaries and critiques with a partner or a small group and encourage students to share feedback with each other based on the rubric.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Depending on the writing experience and ability of your students, consider extending the summary and critique paragraphs into a full literary analysis essay.
  • Many Greek myths include topics and characters that might not be considered appropriate for today’s children; this is also true of fables by authors such as Hans Christian Anderson.  Have students choose another myth or fable to read; they could then create an iMovie or picture book version that addresses the new audience of young children.
  • Many students may be particularly interested in the labors of Hercules.  They may enjoy comparing the ways Disney represents some of the specific labors as opposed to the written myth.  Consider using this as an extra credit assignment where individuals or small groups could investigate differences in specific labors and present to the class.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • Although teachers are welcome to assess both the plot diagram and Venn diagram for evidence of understanding, the main assessment in this lesson is the written summary and critique.  Use the Summary & Critique Rubric to aid in evaluation.

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