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Ancient Myths Retold

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Students will be introduced to mythology and will create modern versions of ancient myths based on figures represented on modern U.S. coins. This lesson is part of the Unit Plan “Ancient and Modern Coins.”

Coin Type(s)

  • Cent
  • Nickel
  • Dime
  • Quarter
  • Half dollar
  • Dollar

Coin Program(s)

  • Generic


  • Students will be introduced to mythology and gain an understanding of this literary form.
  • Students will create a modern version of an ancient myth based on figures represented on modern U.S. coins.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Language Arts

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies


  • Third grade
  • Fourth grade
  • Fifth grade
  • Sixth grade
  • Seventh grade
  • Eighth grade

Class Time

Sessions: One
Session Length: 90 minutes
Total Length: 46-90 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Individual work

Terms and Concepts

  • Coin History
  • Coins
  • Greece
  • Greek coins
  • Informational texts
  • Mythology
  • Roman coins
  • Rome
  • U.S. coins
  • Writing
  • Writing across the curriculum


  • Access to the Internet
  • Web pages that explain legends on Roman coins
  • Pencils
  • Paper
  • Books that give information on mythology, coins, and coin making, such as:
    • Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire
    • Roman History From Coins by Michael Grant
    • Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Hamilton Edith
    • North American Coins and Prices, 9th edition, edited by David C. Harper
    • Handbook of Ancient Greek and Roman Coins by Klawans, Zander
    • Official 2001 Blackbook Price Guide to United States Coins published by Random House, Inc.
    • Coins as Living History by Ted Schwarz
    • Art In Coinage by Carol H.V. Sutherland, Carol H.V
    • A Guidebook of United States Coins, 53rd edition, 2001 by R.S. Yeoman


Use the Internet to research information about Greek and Roman myths.

  1. If your students have already studied ancient Greek or Roman myths, then you can review several stories with them, and brainstorm a list of myths they are familiar with. If mythology is new to them, it is best to focus on just 2 or 3 stories so they can understand the main elements in these myths. Help the students to recognize symbols and people in myths and what they represent.
  2. Have the students brainstorm a list of symbols and people on modern U.S. coins. You could start by making groups and giving each group a set of circulating coins to examine. They will probably find there are more symbols than they would have thought. The coins of the 50 State Quarters® Program have many new symbols and figures.
  3. Direct the students to research a bit about the symbols on their coins so they can find correlations between ancient and modern symbols.
  4. Have each student pick an ancient myth to retell using symbols and figures from modern coins. If mythology is new to the class, they can all retell the same myth but use different symbols and figures. For example, Thomas Jefferson could become Hercules or Lady Liberty could become Athena.
  5. Have the students write their retelling of the myth and have them underline or highlight the modern symbol or person used in their story. They can illustrate their myth with drawings of the symbols and people they used.

Differentiated Learning Options

Students could create a coin with one side being the symbols and characters from the ancient myth and the other side being the symbols and characters of their retelling of the myth.

Use the student’s writing based on literary elements in myths and mechanical conventions to assess whether they have met the lesson objectives.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: L.1 Language
Grade(s): Grade 1
Cluster: Conventions of Standard English

  • L.1.1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    • Print all upper- and lowercase letters.
    • Use common, proper, and possessive nouns.
    • Use singular and plural nouns with matching verbs in basic sentences (e.g., He hops; We hop).
    • Use personal, possessive, and indefinite pronouns (e.g., I, me, my; they, them, their, anyone, everything).
    • Use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future (e.g., Yesterday I walked home; Today I walk home; Tomorrow I will walk home).
    • Use frequently occurring adjectives.
    • Use frequently occurring conjunctions (e.g., and, but, or, so, because).
    • Use determiners (e.g., articles, demonstratives).
    • Use frequently occurring prepositions (e.g., during, beyond, toward).
    • Produce and expand complete simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences in response to prompts.
  • L.1.2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
    • Capitalize dates and names of people.
    • Use end punctuation for sentences.
    • Use commas in dates and to separate single words in a series.
    • Use conventional spelling for words with common spelling patterns and for frequently occurring irregular words.
    • Spell untaught words phonetically, drawing on phonemic awareness and spelling conventions.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: RL.1 Reading: Literature
Grade(s): Grade 1
Cluster: Craft and Structure

  • RL.1.4. Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.
  • RL.1.5. Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types.
  • RL.1.6. Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: RL.1 Reading: Literature
Grade(s): Grade 1
Cluster: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • RL.1.7. Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.
  • RL.1.8. Not applicable to literature.
  • RL.1.9. Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: W.1 Writing
Grade(s): Grade 1
Cluster: Production and Distribution of Writing

  • W.1.4. begins in grade 3.
  • W.1.5. With guidance and support from adults, focus on a topic, respond to questions and suggestions from peers, and add details to strengthen writing as needed.
  • W.1.6. With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: All Language Arts Standards
Cluster: Literature
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience. 

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: All Language Arts Standards
Cluster: Using Technological Information
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: Time, Continuity, and Change
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • assist learners to understand that historical knowledge and the concept of time are socially influenced constructions that lead historians to be selective in the questions they seek to answer and the evidence they use
  • help learners apply key concepts such as time, chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity
  • enable learners to identify and describe significant historical periods and patterns of change within and across cultures, including but not limited to, the development of ancient cultures and civilizations, the emergence of religious belief systems, the rise of nation-states, and social, economic, and political revolutions
  • guide learners in using such processes of critical historical inquiry to reconstruct and interpret the past, such as using a variety of sources and checking their credibility, validating and weighing evidence for claims, searching for causality, and distinguishing between events and developments that are significant and those that are inconsequential
  • provide learners with opportunities to investigate, interpret, and analyze multiple historical and contemporary viewpoints within and across cultures related to important events, recurring dilemmas, and persistent issues, while employing empathy, skepticism, and critical judgment; and enable learners to apply ideas, theories, and modes of historical inquiry to analyze historical and contemporary developments, and to inform and evaluate actions concerning public policy issues.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: All Language Arts Standards
Cluster: Applying Strategies to Writing
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: People, Places, and Environment
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • Enable learners to use, interpret, and distinguish various representations of Earth such as maps, globes, and photographs, and to use appropriate geographic tools
  • Encourage learners to construct, use, and refine maps and mental maps, calculate distance, scale, area, and density, and organize information about people, places, regions, and environments in a spatial context
  • Help learners to locate, distinguish, and describe the relationships among varying regional and global patterns of physical systems such as landforms, climate, and natural resources, and explain changes in the physical systems
  • Guide learners in exploring characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth’s surface
  • Have learners describe how people create places that reflect culture, human needs, current values and ideals, and government policies
  • Provide opportunities for learners to examine, interpret, and analyze interactions of human beings and their physical environments, and to observe and analyze social and economic effects of environmental changes, both positive and negative
  • Challenge learners to consider, compare, and evaluate existing uses of resources and land in communities, regions, countries, and the world
  • Direct learners to explore ways in which Earth’s physical features have changed over time, and describe and assess ways historical events have influenced and been influenced by physical and human geographic features