Dragons And Unicorns And Trolls, Oh My!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Folktales And Fairy Tales (Mythical Creatures), Literature

Social Studies – Countries Around The World (Mythical Creatures), Geography

Mathematics – Geometry, Numbers (Nine)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Raphael’s “Saint George And The Dragon“,  “The Unicorn in Captivity” (From The Unicorn Tapestries), “The Nine Dragons Scroll

Paintings, Tapestries, Scrolls, Illustrations

Mythical creatures seem to be popping up all around. There are the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the Trolls and A Monster Calls movies. Soon there will be dragons dancing through the streets celebrating the Chinese New Year. I even saw a beasties scavenger hunt for kids at a recent visit to the Samurai Exhibit, at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville TN. (Samurai helmets and swords are embellished with fantastic creatures to inspire the warrior and invoke fear in the enemy.) Incorporating these mythical creatures into your lessons could just spark the interest of some otherwise ambivalent students. Different mythical creatures have been a part of folklore worldwide since ancient times. You can find lists of different mythical creatures here and here. For a Social Studies Map unit, students could use a mythical creatures interactive map found  here. Find more examples of mythical creatures on my Pinterest page.

 Raphael’s “Saint George and the Dragon”           Unicorn in Captivity” (from the  Unicorn                                                                                                Tapestries)                                                                                                             

In my teaching days, I often incorporated mythical creatures from the above two artworks and the “Nine Dragons”scroll found here. I always kept visuals of Saint George and the unicorn around while helping my third graders illustrate their original fairy tales. Raphael’s dragon was in the fourth graders Language Arts textbook and they studied Japan in Social Studies. So, for a few years I’d introduce Western and Eastern dragons. The two cultures view the creatures in very different ways. The Western culture sees dragons as evil, but the Eastern culture reveres the dragon. The two kinds of dragons also look very different.  Read more about them here. I would then have students invent their own dragons. I also included the study of mythical creature gargoyle sculptures when talking about an  “Extreme”  city wildlife theme. Check out more about this lesson here.

In my investigations for this post, I found some excellent lessons correlating with Language Arts and Mathematics. Eastern dragons are made up of many different animal parts. Look here and here to find lessons where mythical creatures can be made from an amalgamation of different animals. I read in the popup book, LEONARDO DA VINCI, by A.& M. Provensen that da Vinci actually built a creature out of the parts of lizards, toads, bats and other animals. He then used the creature as a model for a painted shield. Talk about an amalgamation creature! The excellent website, EDSITEment, has a comprehensive mythical beast lesson found here.  This teacher actually combines a mythology lesson with a math lesson. Love it!

Whether studying different cultures around the world or not, mythical creatures can also be shared at Literature time. Jan Brett, one of my all time favorite author/illustrators,  writes books set in different countries. The Trouble With Trolls was written after a trip to Norway. You can learn more about trolls and Norwegian architecture in Brett’s letter to her readers here. Even Eric Carl has written a book entitled Dragons, Dragons and Other Creatures That Never Were. The illustrations are perfect for primary students, but the text is more suitable for intermediate students. The EDSITEment lesson mentioned above also includes a nice list of mystical creature Literature books to share with your students.

So, whether in a Social Studies, Language Arts and/or Mathematics unit, I hope you will include these wonderful creatures somewhere in your teaching. A good time will be had by all!

Have you taught lessons including mystical/ mythical creatures? If so, I’d love to hear how. Simply click on the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and leave a message.

Hope to see you all again soon!


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