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If you have a child aged 7-11 going through Key Stage 2 (KS2) English, they will most likely have to learn about myths and legends.
Whether you are home-schooling or they have asked for your help, you might want a refresher on the subject of myths and legends. You might also be wondering how to get your KS2 child interested in a topic so far-removed from our current world; in fact, it is a great opportunity to get them into writing and telling stories, as well as exposing them to different cultures.
Below are a few reminders and some tips to help you navigate the topic and make learning about it fun and interactive.
What Are The Main Features of Myths and Legends?
So, what is a legend? These are some of the features you can expect kids to learn within this KS2 topic:
- Myths and legends are traditional tales which are passed down from one generation to the next, generally orally (by word-of-mouth).
- Most of them are hundreds if not thousands of years old, and vary from one culture to the next.
- They often follow a strong main character who undertakes quests and adventures.
- They often feature elements of fantasy and magic.
- They often give insights into the values, beliefs and traditions of the time they were created in.
What Is The Difference Between a Myth and a Legend?
A legend is a story believed to be inspired by true events, which reflects a civilisation's beliefs and values. The legend of King Arthur is one of the most famous examples of a legend. Whilst he is widely assumed to have really existed, many aspects of the stories surrounding him are quite likely to be false, for example, the fact that he became King by extracting Excalibur from a stone anvil.
Myths are stories which are derived from a civilisation's traditions or legends; they often have a symbolic meaning and include a moral or a lesson to be learnt by the audience. Fantasy elements are often more prominent in myths than in legends: think beasts and creatures, spells, curses and unnatural phenomena. Myths are sometimes used to explain the origin of a natural phenomenon such as thunder and rain. Some popular myths include Hercules and the Minotaur (Greek), Thor's Hammer (Viking), The Dullahan (Irish) or the story of Icarus (Greek).
How Are Children Tested on Myths and Legends (KS2)?
Children in Years 3 and 4 are taught about myths and legends as part of reading comprehension. At KS2 level, they are expected to read and discuss various texts and to be familiar with a range of myths and legends. Children should be able to identify themes and character types, use dictionaries to check the meaning of words and perform poems and stories aloud.
Myths and Legends Activities
Build on your child's KS2 knowledge of legends and myths with these fun activities!
Your children will have been encouraged to read various myths and legends from different cultures and resources. You could ask them to list which stories they know of, and to recount them to you. This in itself is an exercise in story-telling which will help them understand how these stories were passed on in the first place.
Part of the curriculum involves learning the difference between myths and legends. In order to help your child memorise this, you could use a Venn diagram template which your child can complete with the similarities and differences between the two. You can prompt them by asking questions such as "What are the main features of a legend? And of a myth?".
Going to a library or bookshop to find anthologies of myths and legends will be useful to identify new stories for your children to learn about: make sure to consider civilisations other than just Greek and Roman (Egyptians, Vikings, Welsh, Native Americans, Aboriginal Australian, etc).
There are great resources online such as learning packs to help you supplement your children's home learning: Twinkl is an example of those.
How To Write A Myth
Ever wondered how to write a myth? You can also encourage your child to produce their own myths and legends so they can familiarise themselves with the genre. Ask them to choose a topic or character from their everyday life and to write a story based on it, including some fantasy elements and perhaps a moral/lesson (if they are writing a myth). If they need inspiration, you could provide them with a prompt. To help them develop their story, encourage them to think about these four steps:
- Introducing the character(s) and the setting
- Introduce the problem/issue/adventure/quest
- Developing the storyline, and explain how the character is going to solve the problem
- Concluding the story, finding a resolution to the problem
Once children are done writing their myth or legend, you could engage in a story-telling game where kids privately recount their story to a member of the household, who passes it on to someone else, and so on and so forth. When everyone has heard it, ask the last person who has heard it to tell it again to everyone, and spot the differences with the original story. A bit like Chinese whispers, but making it mythology-related!
There are some great child-friendly films and animation movies featuring myths and legends. Here are a few suggestions:
- Disney's Hercules
- Jason and the Argonauts (the 1963 feature film)
- The Percy Jackson series (rated PG, suitable for teens)
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