Note: If time is a constraint, and the teacher would like only a single myth to read and analyze and to discuss with the class, then listed below are a few single story suggestions for the teacher to use with the class. Please note that any single myth from the entire collection could be read and studied in such a manner. The following suggestions are appropriate for all age groups.
Goals: The overall goal of these lesson plans is for students to gain an appreciation and interest in history, in ancient history in particular, through the medium of myth as well as to develop an enjoyment for literature from cultures different from their own.
Objectives: For each separate Lesson Plan as suggested there will be topic-specific objectives to be achieved, but in general benefits realized from this set of lessons will be:
- To broaden students’ reading horizons along with their vocabulary skills.
- To allow students to become familiar with devices such as metaphors, similes, allegory, and personification.
- To give students a greater understanding of moral issues and central themes.
- To allow students to better understand mythology; to explore a myth’s deeper purpose as well as its meaning in the context of a given culture.
- To gain knowledge of other cultures. Not only will they learn about the differences between cultures, but in the course of their reading they will also discover that there are very basic yet important similarities that we share with people everywhere.
- To permit students to explore their own creativity by letting them express their own ideas in writing.
- And ultimately to encourage students to engage in critical thinking.
- Inanna, Goddess of Love: Great Myths & Legends from Sumer by Marcella Kampman is the main resource to be used throughout. To purchase a copy of this book, please check out my Web Store on the above menu.
- A great story to use for a Social Studies Class, in particular regards to Civics, would be to assign the students to read on their own, or out loud as a group, the myth from Inanna, Goddess of Love, “How Inanna Tricked the God of Wisdom”, from pages 62-75. Don’t forget to read and discuss the commentary after the story. Discuss how such a myth was used to explain how man became civilized and the role of good government (kingship). Why would civilization require laws? Could man have become civilized without these laws, which were supposedly given him by the gods? What would become of our own civilization if we ignored our current laws?
- For another Social Studies topic read the myth “The Warrior King”, pages 77-89 from Inanna, Goddess of Love. Don’t forget to discuss the commentary after the story. From this myth we can learn more about the Sumerian culture, for we can read here what the Sumerians felt was important, like responsibility. Discuss the role of a good leader or politician. What happens when Ninurta stops being a show-off and a glory seeker? Does he take his job as a farmer seriously in the end? What does Ninurta do in order to rescue the starving gods (people)? Does he deserve to be declared their rightful king?
- A pair of great stories for the students to read on their own, or out loud as a group, are the myths from Inanna, Goddess of Love, “The Queen of the Dead”, pages 27-34, and “The Lord of the Underworld”, pages 106-118. These stories work well in Social Studies either under Ancient History or even as a discussion in World Religion. Read and discuss the commentaries after each story. Discuss how these myths were used to explain the Sumerians concept of life and death. Did the Sumerians believe in the concept of hell? Or an afterlife? These stories also show how the Sumerians themselves would have lived. Why would the gods be portrayed to exist within a hierarchy and class system?
These assessments will all be age dependant. The teacher will know best how to grade the class. Class assignments will be evaluated in the following areas:
- Students will use complete sentences, vary their sentence length, use proper English, and correctly spell any unfamiliar words or phrases when writing essays or reports on the various topics given. Grades will correspond directly with effort.
- Students may be given a quiz at the end of a given lesson plan to assess their understanding of various concepts ranging from areas of general knowledge of the history and culture of the Sumerians; to understanding the differences between the various figures of speech such as metaphor, simile, or personification; to more complex concepts such as the power of symbolism and allegory in mythology.
Note: For all of the above, stress the importance of symbolism in these myths and legends. Virtually everything in the stories has more than one meaning as the stories of the ancients were meant to work on many different levels. For instance, the fact that people (as personified by the gods) were starving might suggest the fragility of the economy or the environment in those early times in Mesopotamia. For each myth studied, have the students compile a list of metaphors , similes, and/or personifications from the chosen story along with their meanings. A metaphor uses symbolism such as flowing water to represent something else such as wisdom. A simile suggests that something is ‘like’ something else, for example, Asag, the demon, charged up from the depths like a boiling lava pit. And personification means that a thing or abstraction is represented as actually being a person, as in the forces of nature being represented as gods (in human form), as shown in Ninurta, the God of the Spring Flood, which meant that plants would grow, food would be produced, and the people would survive and be cared for.