No, You’re Probably Not Smarter Than a 1912-Era 8th Grader

Well, this is an eye opener. Has the US gotten stoopider, or are we just focusing more on other areas of study? Discuss.


All hail the almighty quote burger!


An oldie but a goodie. Using a burger as a symbol for how to effectively integrate a direct quote in an essay, we discussed today how to:

  1. give context to a quote (top bun),
  2. quote the original work (burger patty),
  3. cite correctly (bacon, because it ain’t worth nuttin without the bacon!),
  4. and relate the quote back to the topic sentence of the paragraph and thesis statement of the paper (bottom bun, without which the whole thing falls apart).

I stole a thesis statement from SparkNotes, and paired it with a quote from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (which they recently read), and we put the two together as a class.

It took some prodding but we got a nice end product:

Initially a means of alleviating the pain of war and private grief, their affair continues to serve the very practical purpose of masking life’s difficulties. As Henry and Catherine are in the Milan hospital, they discuss past relationships. Henry lies about it, but Catherine doesn’t mind. She says, “It’s all right. Keep right on lying to me. That’s what I want you to do. Were they pretty?” (91). She lets him lie to her in order to suppress memories of her late fiance and potentially harmful knowledge of her present lover.

Not perfect, but not bad for rising 8th and 9th graders, eh?

Student Project on Founding Figures

I’ve been looking more and more at comparative mythology lately – the similarities between the myths of various cultures. Many believe that most myths have at least an original basis in some form of truth, and for that reason many mythical archetypes transfer beyond one single mythology. This in turn expands to modern mythologies; we still look to gods, heroes and god-like heroes for inspiration.

In this assessment I created for a grad school project, students will explore the ancient-modern connection more thoroughly though an in-depth look at the Aeneas myth and mythical foundation figures in general. The Latin textbook Ecce Romani introduces the myth of Aeneas early on in the first text of the series, and many teachers love to bring in Vergil’s Aeneid for more advanced students to read in translation. For younger readers, a simplified version of the epic by Emily Frenkel and Simon Weller could be used.

In Part I of the project, they will compare two mythical founders to discover what traits are found in the archetype, and write up the similarities and differences in an essay form. I gave the following as choices for their comparisons:

  • Gilgamesh (Iraq)
  • Rurik (Russia)
  • Arthur (England)
  • Jimmu (Japan)

These of course could be added to as seen fit. The variety of cultures seen here, each with a founding figure that shares traits with the others, speaks to the power of this particular archetype.

In Part II of the project, they will create their own founding myth, putting a creative spin on it and making the archetype their own. Because I am based in Chicago, I ask them to create a founding figure for this troubled city.

By looking at Aeneas, the typified Roman hero, as well as other such figures from around the world, they will discover what traits they find in those they look up to. Downloads after the jump.

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Jason and the Golden Trivia

The 4-6th graders I’m working with were asked to read a condensed version of the Apollonius’ Argonautica. The book of choice was Jason and the Golden Fleece by James Riordan (no relation to Rick), with illustrations by Jason Cockcroft.

The book is well-written and the illustrations are gorgeous. Some liberties are taken with the myth, of course, particularly with Medea. According to the story, she and Jason live happily ever after until she dies peacefully of old age. Um, yeah… A bit off. But a good read for the 3-5th grade level.

To test their comprehension of the reading, we played a trivia game. Because these kids are obsessed with mythology, the questions are for the most part more advanced. A copy for the questions as well as a link to the book are after the jump.

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Medea’s Day Care – “We’ll love your kids to death!”

(Woo! Long time no post!)

This summer I’m working with a group of 4-6 graders who are complete classics nerds. It’s wonderful. I told them my favorite myth figure is Medea, and they came up with the title of this post: Medea’s Day Care – “We’ll love your kids to death!” They’ve been joking about it the past two days.

So, I decided to incorporate their natural gift for irony into an enrichment activity for their program! We came up with ironic business names for various mythological characters. They really got into it! Below are some examples of their excellent work:

Cyclops Glasses

Dionysus Rehab

Hestia Dance Club

Minotaur Corn Maze

Trojan Horse Used Cars

Zeus Migraine Medicine

I think the migraine medicine is my favorite…