Introducing children to myths and legends is an excellent way to expose them to stories from around the world. Using one of the most famous Irish tales, The Children of Lir, learn about the significance of teaching myths and legends and explore engaging activities that can help deepen children’s understanding and appreciation of this timeless tale.
Why Teach Myths and Legends?
- Myths and legends are portals to understanding different cultures. They teach children about historical events, geographical landscapes, beliefs, and traditions.
- These stories often incorporate valuable life lessons and moral teachings, fostering character development and empathy in children.
- Myths and legends connect us to the ancestral past and allow children to appreciate the cultural heritage passed down through generations.
- Exploring myths and legends fuels children’s imaginations, encouraging them to think beyond the boundaries of reality and sparking their creative thinking abilities.
- By studying myths and legends, children develop critical thinking skills and learn to analyze texts, characters, plotlines, and underlying themes.
The Children of Lir – The Story
This classic Celtic tale tells the legend of the children of King Lir – Fionnula, Aed, Fiacra, and Conn – who were turned into swans by their wicked stepmother and cursed to wander across Ireland for 900 years until the toll of a bell broke the spell and freed them.
After sharing The Children of Lir with the class, engage your students in some fun learning activities listed below:
Freeze Frame (Drama Exercise)
In groups, have the students act as characters from the story, such as the swan-children or King Lir, and create a freeze frame (still image) depicting a scene or key moment. Have each group present their freeze frame to the class and ask them the following questions:
– What do you think this character is looking at?
– What do you think this character is doing?
– How do you think this character is reacting?
– Does any tension exist between the characters?
– What do you think will happen next?
Character Sketch (English Writing)
Have the children create a character profile of one of the story’s characters based on that character’s appearance, role, and interactions with other characters. (It may help to have the students close their eyes and visualize the character.) Have the children sketch their chosen character and write adjectives or vocabulary words that best describe the character.
Drawing Photographs Taken on a Journey to Ireland (Visual Arts)
After reading the story with the class, engage the children in a discussion about what they saw on their “visit” to Ireland. Ask them to identify significant moments from the story (e.g., the children swimming in the lake, King Lir listening to the swans, etc.) After providing children with coloring materials or a simple template, ask them to create a “photograph” to illustrate a pivotal moment observed during their visit.
As the children present their “photographs” to the class, encourage them to explain what key moment they chose to draw and why.
The Children of Lir, written by Dawn Casey and illustrated by Diana Mayo, is available in 19 bilingual editions. Click here for the complete lesson plan and activities from the teacher’s resource, Building Bridges with Bilingual Books and Multicultural Resources.