• A Story of Epic Proportions: What makes a Poem an Epic?

    Priam, King of Troy

    Some of the most well known, and most important, works of literature in the world are examples of epic poetry. This lesson will introduce students to the epic poem form and to its roots in oral tradition.

  • Thomas Hart Benton: The Sources of Country Music

    Thomas Hart Benton (1889—1975), The Sources of Country Music, 1975. Acrylic on  canvas, 72 x 120 in. (182.9 x 304.8 cm.).

    By analyzing The Sources of Country Music, students will discover the musical legacy of Thomas Hart Benton’s story of America and learn how the processes of modernity changed American life in the early decades of the twentieth century. By listening to country music, they will understand how advances in audio recording both captured and changed folk music.

  • Cinderella Folk Tales: Variations in Plot and Setting


    This lesson plan compares the plot and setting characteristics of several versions of the Cinderella tale to teach students about universal and culturally specific literary elements.

  • Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before? Samsara and Karma in the Jataka Tales

    Malaysian Buddha figurine.

    Many English speakers are familiar with the Sanskrit word karma, which made its way into the language during the first half of the nineteenth century. It is often used in English to encapsulate the idea that “what goes around comes around.” This lesson plan is designed to bring the meaning of karma and the related concept of samsara to life through the reading of the Jataka Tales.

  • Tales of King Arthur

    Arthur Draws the Sword from the Stone

    In this lesson, students will discover how historical events gradually merged with fantasy to create the colorful tales we enjoy today.

  • Mexican Culture and History through Its National Holidays

    A celebration of the Day of the Dead in Guanajuato, Mexico.

    In this lesson students will study four popular Mexican holidays and examine images to see how these particular celebrations represent Mexico's colorful history.

  • Aesop and Ananse: Animal Fables and Trickster Tales

    Selections From Aesop's Fables, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.

    In this unit, students will become familiar with fables and trickster tales from different cultural traditions and will see how stories change when transferred orally between generations and cultures. They will learn how both types of folktales employ various animals in different ways to portray human strengths and weaknesses and to pass down wisdom from one generation to the next.

  • Aztecs Find a Home: The Eagle Has Landed

    Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec God of War.

    This lesson introduces students to the Aztec Empire and people and to the legend of their founding of Tenochtitlan, the city that later became the capital of Mexico.

  • Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

    Animals of the Chinese Zodiac image

    In this lesson plan, students will learn about the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. In the process, they will learn about Chinese culture, as well as improve reading, writing, and researching skills.

  • Morality "Tails" East and West: European Fables and Buddhist Jataka Tales

    Malaysian Buddha figurine.

    Fables, such as those attributed to Aesop, are short narratives populated by animals who behave like humans, and which convey lessons to the listener. Jataka Tales are often short narratives which tell the stories of the lives of the Buddha before he reached Enlightenment. In this lesson students will be introduced to both Aesop’s fables and to a few of the Jataka Tales, and through these stories will gain an understanding of one genre of storytelling: morality tales.