History Through Literature, 6th Grade

See our follow-up web site: Hero's Journey

Our 1999 6th grade History Through Literature Project (introduced in the Fall newsletter) was a great success.  Once a month from January through May, sixth grade teachers from Oakland's Core Values program and five other local districts met on the Berkeley campus to explore methods of teaching ancient and medieval world history though stories of epic heroes and villains. Below is a brief summary of the class topics. Thoughout the year teachers participating in the class brought in resources and ideas that greatly enriched our overall experience. Working with such a creative and enthusiastic group of teachers made the class a joy for all the presenters.

Edan Dekel, a comparative epic scholar from UCB's Classics Department and instructor for ORIAS, led the first session on January 9th with an introductory talk on heroic legend as the act of accumulating and transmitting cultural knowledge and interpreting the past through the eyes of the present.  Dekel also introduced the class to Joseph Campbell's model of the monomyth and suggested ways of helping students realize how much they already know about the basic elements of heroic stories. The afternoon was devoted to classroom strategies for integrating literature into the history curriculum.  Sixth grade teachers Laura Townsend and Elliot Barenbaum shared their resources and experiences and the class reviewed some of the primary and secondary sources available on the world wide web.

The February 6th class focused on the Mesopotamian hero-king Gilgamesh.  John Hayes from UCB's Near Eastern Studies Department introduced the class to the Mesopotamian culture that produced Gilgamesh.  His colleague, archeologist Jenni Ross, discussed the ancient story of the ruler whose education in the ways of kingship and what it means to be human seems remarkably contemporary.  Carol Marquis, from the Bay Area Global Education Project (BAGEP), brought in examples of materials on Mesopotamia available from the BAGEP lending library and conducted a class activity to explore ways of evaluating resources.

Check out the lesson plan ideas at  http://orias.berkeley.edu/gilgamesh.html

On March 6th Edan Dekel reviewed the complex history of Chinese mythology and the underlying goals of balance and harmony in the earliest Chinese philosophies at work in six popular myths.  Carol Murphey, from BAGEP, used the same myths as a basis for a small group lesson activity emphasizing cooperative learning, reading for content and critical thinking.

On April 10th, Professor Robert Goldman of UCB's Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies led a class on India's heroic epic, the Ramayana.  Edan Dekel discussed the Indian epic in a comparative context with the other stories we have been reading.  Robin Davis from the Bay Area Writing Project conducted a workshop with hands-on lessons for integrating literature and history in the middle school classroom.

The final class on May 1st was devoted to looking at the common threads and differences in the material from the previous sessions and to curriculum presentations by class participants. By popular demand, Edan Dekel showed the class how Campbell's journey of the hero can be illustrated through Lucas film Star Wars. Donna Leary from the California History and Social Science Project conducted a workshop on using visual in the core curriculum with examples from Chinese New Year's prints and illustrations from the Ramayana.

Check out our Ramayana web resources at  http://orias.berkeley.edu/hero/ramayana/index.html

Back to ORIAS Home Page