If you have been following me for a while, you know how I love to tie in diverse and global perspectives whenever I can. During this time of the year, I love to include activities that are not religious, but still have a little holiday fun. With this post, I will cover four ways I like to do this in my high school English classes:
The Norse myth of why we kiss under mistletoe
Analyzing and debating on the lyrics of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”
Hearing the original Nutcracker story from the Myths and Legends podcast
A multi-modal approach to the Green Knight
Norse Mythology- The Death of Baldur
You can introduce students to the tradition of kissing under mistletoe by covering the myth of The Death of Balder from the Norse Mythology cannon. I personally love the Neil Gaiman version, but if you don’t have access to it- check out .
In this tale, Odin is plagued with terrible dreams of his son Balder dying. To try an keep this from happening, his wife (Freya) goes to every single living thing in all the realms and asks them to pledge that they will never harm Balder. Since Balder is so beloved everyone readily agrees.
However, she overlooks the unassuming mistletoe.
She realizes her mistake but also sees no way that this plant can ever bring harm to her son and leaves it alone. But, Loki figures out this oversight and fashions a weapon out of mistletoe. Through the events of the tale, Balder is killed with the mistletoe.
In their grief, mistletoe ended up becoming a symbol of love. To always remember Balder, everyone would then kiss when they saw mistletoe.
These specific versions may not go into the actual tradition, but this story leads to it. You can find out more about the tradition of honoring Balder’s death by kissing under mistletoe .
It’s also worth noting that this is the story that ends up being the catalyst for Ragnorok!
Baby It’s Cold Outside Analysis and Debate
Want to have fun analyzing and debating with your students? The song Baby It’s Cold outside is the perfect opportunity!
Having my students has been wildly successful in my classroom for several years now! I can’t wait to do this again next week with my 10th graders.
This activity is fun but great for also discussing context, connotation, denotation, and much more.
My students really got into this debate and had amazing discussions. Some of the observations made that I loved seeing where little nuances that I was not expecting. For example, one student said she questioned the age of the woman in the song due to her living at home with her family still.
This lead to us discussing the original date of the song (1949) and the fact that women largely did not leave home unless it was to marry.
We also take the time to look up certain terms used in Baby It’s Cold outside to see what they meant in the 1940’s versus today. For example, the phrase. “Say, what’s in this drink?”. In the 40’s this was a way of playfully say that they were thinking of doing something they shouldn’t. Now, our minds automatically go towards someone’s drink being drugged.
If you want to check out a more detailed look at how this looks in my classroom, check out this !
You know how all of our favorite Disney movies are based off some much darker fairytales? Well, the same is pretty true for The Nutcracker.
Yes, the ballet/music/movies we all love had some… interesting… aspects in the original tale that were changed over the years.
With this podcast episode, students will learn how the Nutcracker became a Nutcracker as well as the backstory of the Mouse King. An interesting fun fact from this is the age of Clara when she goes to the Nutcracker’s world and agrees to marry him!
Want some extra fun? Pair it with scenes from ballet performances or the Disney movie that came out a couple of years ago and discuss how it compares with the original!
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
My FAVORITE Arthurian legend of all time is . Sadly, I usually don’t have the time to read through the entire tale with students.
I recently problemed-solved this issue and created a multimodal approach to cover this amazing story in just 3-4 days!
With this, students:
- read and annotate passages from the original tale’s opening scene
- go into detail with The Green Knight’s appearance and characterization of the others present
- have a little fun making a one-pager in-between modes
- finish out by switching over to a podcast episode from my favorite- Myths and Legends!
If you like this 21st century approach to this classic, you can grab it here!
If you are looking for an extension to this activity, you can share the graphic essay version of Neil Gaimon’s article on why we need libraries . Discuss how the images created melded with the words and enhanced the mood and tone. Then challenge them to create a graphic paragraph that depicted the theme of the story with a piece of evidence and draw an image that connecting the two!
I can’t wait for you to start using these with your students. I would to connect with you on Instagram if we are not already! You can follow me here.
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