Writing Myths

How can myths help to explain nature and science?


Key Skills

Making Art: Composing and Planning, Producing, Executing and Performing, Analyzing Assessing and Revising
Developing Arts Literacies: Understanding Genres, Applying Vocabulary, Analyzing and Evaluating - Critique
Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture, Connecting with Other Arts


Students will explore how myths provide explanations for nature and science. They will read and analyze the Native American myth "Giants and Mosquitoes." They will relate the myth to other creation myths and their own experiences. Afterwards, they will write their own original myth using the writing process.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Explore how myths provide explanations for nature and science
  • Read and analyze the Native American myth “Giants and Mosquitoes”
  • Relate “Giants and Mosquitoes” to other creation myths and their own experiences
  • Write their own original myth using the writing process

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Discussion
  • Information Organization
  • Group or Individual Instruction
  • Guided Practice
  • Independent Practice

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • Projector
  • Video Camera
Required Plugins
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

It may be helpful to read several myths to familiarize yourself with identifying common elements. Visit Scholastic's Myths, Folktales, and Fairy Tales for examples of myths.

Teachers may also wish to review this book before beginning the lesson.


  • Mallet, Jerry and Keith Polette. World Folktales. Fort Atkinson: Alleyside Press, 1994.

Prior Student Knowledge

Students should have some knowledge of creation myths.

Students should possess a basic concept of story/fantasy elements (even if they are unable to name them) including:

  • Characters
  • Characterization
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Dialogue
  • Metaphor (including personification and simile)

If students need a refresher, have them visit Literary Elements


Arrange handouts in the order the class will address them. Post content vocabulary words for easy reference.

Accessibility Notes

  • Arrange seating so that deaf/hard of hearing students are close to where instruction will be delivered.
  • English Language Learners may benefit from supplemental vocabulary sheets that define literary terms and difficult words.
  • An adjusted workload (brief examples of characterization, shorter stories) will help struggling/striving readers.
  • Interpersonal and Intrapersonal learners likely excel at characterization and its components. They may be able to assist students who favor other intelligences.
  • Naturalist learners may benefit from myths that have animals for characters.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.



1. Review the Myth Vocabulary handout located within the Resource Carousel.

2. Have students number a sheet of paper 1-10. Explain that you will state 10 objects. For each object named, they should write the color or colors associated with the object. Encourage specificity. Remind students that colors come in many shades. Mauve, puce, cat's eye green, and banana yellow are examples. List of objects:

  1. Rain drops
  2. Ocean
  3. Sun
  4. Hair
  5. Rainbow
  6. House
  7. Horse
  8. Tree
  9. Cloud
  10. Mountain

3. As a group, discuss the students' color choices. Accept all logical answers and encourage students to explain their choices.

4. Now ask students the following questions: What would happen if…

  • Every rain drop was a different color?
  • The ocean was orange?
  • The sun was pink?
  • People had rainbow-colored hair?
  • Every living creature was purple?
  • Everything in our world was gray?
  • The rainbow was silver?

5 . Tell students you'd like them to stretch their imaginations a bit and complete the following story using wild, imaginative, untypical colors.

This morning, I looked out my bedroom window to watch the __________ sun rise. It crept above the __________ horizon and soon the entire sky was __________. Watching the sun light up the world, I noticed the __________ trees with their __________, __________, and __________ leaves. I noticed __________ butterflies floating across the sky and __________ birds flapping their __________ wings across the morning sky.

5 . Ask for a volunteer to share his or her colorful story. As the student reads, have his or her classmates close their eyes to envision the magical story.

6. Discuss how the wild colors affected their visualizations.

Build Knowledge

Now that you've played a bit with the concept of color in a story, explain to students that myths are traditional stories accepted as history. Point out the tendency of myths to employ fantastic mysterious and magical elements.

1. Have students read the first two paragraphs of the myth “Giants and Mosquitoes.”

2. Ask students why they think unusual colors are used to describe the sky, sun, moon, mountains, grass, owls, and trees.

  • Explore how the colors impact the story
  • Question the purpose of the colors
  • Elicit from students that this Native American story - like myths of other cultures - is set in a distant time, a time when magic and mysterious people and events were possible.

3. Allow students time to read the rest of “ Giants and Mosquitoes. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. If time permits, you may want to present it as a shared reading, stopping throughout to assess understanding and explain ideas. Otherwise, paired or independent readings of the text will allow for a more intimate comprehension.

4. Once reading is complete, answer all questions and have students summarize the text. The summaries will allow students to practice reading strategies. You can also check for understanding. Then discuss how “Giants and Mosquitoes” compares to other creation myths.


1. Ask students to choose which of the following statements best fits the story, "Giants and Mosquitoes." Have them write or verbally explain the reasons for their choices. Ask students to determine which statements do not fit the story. They should explain their choices.

  • "Oh, it is excellent to have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant."
  • "There were giants in the earth in those days and they have not left us yet."
  • "Whoever excels in what we prize becomes a hero in our eyes."
  • "We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves."
  • "We are easily fooled by the one thing we want most of all."
  • "It is always darkest before the storm."
  • "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
  • "Instead of complaining about the darkness, light a candle."
  • "Every time you win, you lose a little."
  • “There’s a giant inside everyone just waiting to get out.”

2. Have students brainstorm a list of giant things that actually exist (i.e., the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Arch in St. Louis, the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China, a redwood tree, etc.).

3. Have students complete the writing assignment outlined on the accompanying Writing a Myth handout located within the Resource Carousel. You may want to show students prints of famous works of art to use as the basis for a setting of an original myth. Create a rubric and checklist with the students to use for evaluation purposes. See the sample Sample Checklist for Writing About Literature and Assessment Rubric for reference. Both handouts are available within the Resource Carousel.

Additional Story Starter Ideas:

In addition to the writing assignment, you could motivate students to write myths using some of the following ideas:

  • Work with a partner to write a myth to explain rain, snow, or wind.
  • Write your own myth, explaining some occurrence in nature. Describe what the earth was like before the events you will relate; then, tell how the earth had changed. Either make up your own characters or use Greek gods and goddesses.
  • After reading the Greek myth, "Poseidon," write your own myth explaining the origin of the horse and other animals.
  • Rewrite the story of Arachne from her point of view. To be sure that your composition is "in character," review the myth, noting examples of Arachne's speech and actions. End your composition with Arachne's reaction to her fate. Is she angry, sorry, outraged, ashamed?
  • Invent a metamorphosis by writing about a person or an object that changes into something completely different, such as a person changed into a tree. Be specific in describing the person or object as it changes. Invent a myth explaining why the change takes place.

Create a character whose weakness is too much of one particular quality, such as humility, carelessness, or vanity. First, describe the character briefly, and explain the character's weakness. Then tell one specific event that is caused by that weakness. Tell the outcome of that event. Finally, incorporate all of these ideas into a complete myth with additional events centered around that weakness.


1. Have students make a video log that evaluates the myth “Giants and Mosquitoes.” Students should first prepare a written evaluation that analyzes the effectiveness of the myth “Giants and Mosquitoes.” Then they can practice reading it aloud several times. Finally, they should read their evaluation for the camera.


1. Have students write their own version of “Giants and Mosquitoes.” Students may be as creative as possible as long as their myths adhere to the genre's characteristics.

2. Have students share their myths. Students can share in small groups or with the entire class.

3. Students will be evaluated on the completion of their original myth. The 'Assessment Rubric' and the 'Sample Checklist for Writing About Literature' will be used to determine their success.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
Visual Art

Grade 5-8 Visual Arts Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

Language Arts Standard 2: Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing

Language Arts Standard 3: Uses grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions

Language Arts Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes



Andria Cole

Kathy Cook
Original Writer

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