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Myth March Madness hustles reasoning for Bob Jones students

Kristi Combs, at left, compares brackets for Myth March Madness with Isaiah Walker, from left, Whee Nyghen, Ethan Smyth and Sammy Shin. (CONTRIBUTED/MARIAH ENFINGER)
Kristi Combs, at left, compares brackets for Myth March Madness with Isaiah Walker, from left, Whee Nyghen, Ethan Smyth and Sammy Shin. (CONTRIBUTED/MARIAH ENFINGER)

MADISON – ‘March Madness’ took a break from the courts with a different twist for Kristi Combs’ students.

At Bob Jones High School, Combs is capitalizing on students’ interest for collegiate basketball’s March Madness playoff with an exercise in mythology. “I thought it would be a high-interest, critical-thinking activity for students to use this idea of a bracket system to determine which god (in mythology) is the best in their eyes,” Combs said.

Combs’ honors English 9 students recently finished a Greek mythology unit, Homer’s “The Odyssey” and parts of “The Iliad.” On March 1, Combs distributed Myth March Madness brackets with most major gods/goddess at left and demigods at right.

Matching gods of similar strengths and weaknesses, Combs led students to research “gods and use persuasive techniques to reason … who could beat all other gods. I wanted my students to draw their own conclusions.” Along with Homer’s works, students referenced Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology.”

On March 11, students will identify their winning god. Combs will assign groups based on conflicting winners. In a group, one student may have selected Zeus, another Achilles, Hercules or Athena. The groups will debate their brackets.

Each group will select an overall winner, and the class will hear arguments for the best debate for their bracket. The next day, students will write argumentative papers for their selected gods.

Combs chose this activity “not solely to research Greek mythology, one of the most alluded (subjects) in literature. I wanted them … to justify their ideas and thoughts.” Combs intends to create problem-solvers. Along with knowledge of 36 Greek deities, her students applied higher-order and critical-thinking skills, reasoning and drawing conclusions.

“With new Common Core (standards), education is taking a turn toward skill-based learning. State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice himself said that there’s no need to ‘teach to tests’ or have students memorize facts,” Combs said.

“I truly believe this and embrace this in my assignments and assessments for students. These things will stay with them forever,” Combs said.

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