Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Locating Archetypes in Pop Culture, Literature, and Life


K20 Center, Gage Jeter, Stephany Kash | Published: May 16th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 3-4 class period(s)
  • Duration More 180 minutes


Using pictures related to pop culture as mentor texts, students will identify the archetypal figures represented. They will then be broken into small groups where they will choose a figure not previously identified to represent the archetype assigned to them and be asked to justify this choice to the whole group. Students will also create their own character to represent a particular archetype. Through a Gallery Walk/Carousel and reflective quickwrite exit ticket, students to make a real world application as to why people act/are the way they do/are and will integrate an attitude of tolerance for the differences among people.

Essential Question(s)

It has been said, "The faces and names change, but the people don't." How does this affect the ways in which our culture defines us and those around us? How does the media shape our view of the world and of ourselves. Does this allow our personal archetype to change? 



Students will examine pictures of pop culture to identify archetypal representations.


Students will be assigned an archetype and then locate, through research, a pop culture representation of that archetype.


Students will create an original character to depict a specific archetype.


Students will engage in a Gallery Walk/Carousel, viewing and providing feedback for their peers' original characters.


In addition to the original character creation, students will metacognitively reflect on what they know of the tolerance of differences among people through an exit ticket.


  • Writing materials: pen, pencil, paper, etc.

  • Computers and/or iPads

  • Art supplies: paper, markers, colored pencils, etc.

  • Post-it notes


Going into this lesson, students should have prior knowledge concerning archetypes. At the minimum, students should know the definition of archetype.

As a class, students will view a picture related to pop culture. (The teacher should choose a figure with which most students are familiar. An example would be Harry Potter, a version of the hero archetype.) Students will be asked to complete a 5-minute Quick Write explaining what archetype that figure is representing and why. Students will share with an Elbow Partner, then volunteers will be asked to share their Quick Write with the class.

Students will then repeat this activity individually with another picture provided to them by the teacher.

A whole-class discussion should center on not just who these people are, but also why they act they way they do. It is important during this activity to focus, too, on how the media portrays these pop culture icons and whether or not that affects how we perceive them. Students should discuss how archetypes are not only present in pop culture, but also in our everyday lives. Students should be encouraged to make connections from pop culture to their own lives.


Students should form (or be placed in) groups of 5 (or fewer). Each group will be assigned an archetype. Options include the innocent, the orphan, the hero, the caregiver, the explorer, the rebel, the lover, the creator, the jester, the sage, the magician, the ruler, etc.

Collectively, students will use an iPad or computer to research a figure in pop culture who fits that particular archetype. Students should make a list of reasons why that figure is an example of that archetype and prepare to defend their example to the class as a whole.

Each group member should serve in a particular role (facilitator, scribe, reporter, timekeeper, etc.), although all students should work collaboratively on each part of the assignment. The roles are flexible and fluid, so students have autonomy during this activity.

After approximately 15 minutes, each group will share out. Other groups will ask questions to help each group clarify their initial response and reasoning. Again, ask students to focus on the why (Why do certain people behave a certain way?) in addition the the how (How do they behave?) and the what (What are their physical and personality traits?) .


Each student (either individually or collaboratively with a partner) will choose one archetype and create an original character to represent that archetype. The student should consider both the outer and the inner traits of the character during this process. The student should rely on their prior knowledge and experiences as they design their original character.

Archetypal traits could include some or all of the following:

  • Strengths

  • Weaknesses

  • Goals

  • Talents

  • Personality

  • Skin/hair/eye color

  • Physical attributes

  • Dreams/desires

  • Words

  • Thoughts

Students will be required to provide evidence and reasoning for whom their characters are and how their characters represent the particular archetype they chose. As they design their characters on a piece of paper, students should keep a running list on the back of traits related to that particular archetype. Students should be as creative as possible and use plenty of color to create a visually appealing piece.


Students can take turns presenting their character to a group or the whole class (depending on time constraints). If time allows, students could engage in a Gallery Walk/Carousel in order to encourage student reflection and feedback.

During the Gallery Walk/Carousel activity, students should write questions and comments on Post-it notes and leave them next to the character. Ask students to think deeply about how each character/archetype could apply to people in real-world settings and leave comments/feedback centered on this connection.

Students should be encouraged to go back to their character and reflectively revise their traits and reasoning based on feedback from their classmates.


Group work and individual characters will be evaluated. Characters could be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Neatness

  • Effort

  • Creativity

  • List of traits

  • Explanation of traits/supporting evidence

In addition, students should metacognitively reflect on what they learned not only about archetypes, but also about differences among people in the real world. Students should answer the essential question in a brief, reflective Quick Write.

This reflective writing piece could come in the form of an Exit Ticket, allowing the learners to analyze, summarize, apply, synthesize, and predict based on this lesson.