Elementary students are exposed to folktales, myths and legends starting in kindergarten. In fourth grade, they begin to apply information gained from reading and respond to the text in imaginative ways. The exaggerated characters and settings in legends engage fourth-graders, who are old enough to understand that legends have a basis in fact and include a natural element such as a river or mountain range.
Introduce legends to your students by reading the classics: Paul Bunyan, Casey Jones or Johnny Appleseed. After reading, discuss the elements that legends share. Have students create a chart with the headings "facts," "hero" and "natural element." Reread the legend to students and have them fill in the chart with elements they hear. Give students the opportunity to discuss their findings in groups. Work with students to create a class anchor chart of legend elements.
Two Legends Meet
Read and discuss two different legends with students. Identify the main characters of each. Instruct students that they will write a new legend in cartoon strip form -- with text and pictures -- based on these two main characters. Have students make a graphic organizer that contains these two characters in a new, original legend. Their new legend must include traditional legend elements. Have students share the new legends in an author’s reading or on a bulletin board.
Modern Legend Heroes
The classic legends take place in the past. Have students identify the main characters from several classic legends such as Casey Jones or Daniel Boone as you read them. Have students keep a character description chart for these characters, or keep a class chart. After reading several of the original legends and charting descriptions of the heroes, have students create updated character descriptions of them. Have students imagine that the story takes place today. Ask them to consider how this would change the characters’ descriptions. Instruct students to create a miniature book titled “Modern Day Legend Heroes” inside which they draw and describe the updated characters in detail.
Solving Today's Problems
Have a discussion with students about the way that legendary characters sometimes solve a problem or create a better way of doing things. Ask students if they can think of a modern problem that a real-life legendary character might be able to solve. Instruct students to come up with a modern problem the world is facing and write a legend that solves it. Students should prewrite to come up with the character, setting, plot, problem and solution before writing. The legend must contain all the necessary legend elements but be completely original and modern. Make copies of the students' updated legends and create a class book so students can share them.
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