Building Background Knowledge: A lesson in Oedipus and Greek Theatre (1 of 2)

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SWBAT: Identify key ideas and details of Greek Theatre by viewing films, taking notes and writing an argument.

Big Idea

If a Hero is Tragic, is he still a hero?

Warm Up

10 minutes

I'm so excited about this new unit!  To begin our study of Greek Theatre and Antigone, I need to know what my students know and understand about theatre.  Students are told to write for two minutes to this prompt (W.9-10.10):

Today we begin a new unit.  For two minutes write about your exposure to theater.  Have you ever seen a play?  What plays have you read?  

At the end of two minutes, I direct them to the next part of the prompt:

Now write all of the theater terms that you know.  Even if you think it might be a term to describe something with theater, write it down.  Try to define those terms.  

I ask them about terms because I want them to realize what they already know.  Reading drama can be intimidating, especially when the language of the drama doesn't sound like them. When they start thinking about what they already know, the task of reading and understanding an ancient, classic text becomes less daunting.  

Next, I direct them to the third part of the prompt:

Write everything you know about tragedy and comedy.  You can think in terms of movies if that makes it easier.  

Again, students gain confidence by accessing prior knowledge.  This video is an Explanation of dividing prompts into three tasks


Finally, I want to be able to see what the students know.  I will draw three columns on the white board.  

1. exposure to theater

2. theater terms  

3. tragedy and comedy    

Students will collaborate and discuss for two minutes at their table.  They will discuss the answers that everyone has, and will come up with some group answers (SL.9-10.1).  Each group will send a member to the board and will write an answer for each group.  



Mini Lesson

20 minutes

Before students can understand Antigone, they must have a basic understanding of Oedipus and Greek History.  First, students will watch a video by National Theatre Discover. While watching this film, I will simply ask students to listen.  


When the film is over, students will return to their warm ups and add information to their columns.  Students add to their columns so the can document their "reading" of the film.  While watching the film they are "reading" it to find textual evidence to support what they already know (RI.9-10.1) then they will write their newly acquired information on their 3 column note sheet they began in warmups (W.9-10.9)


Next, students will watch another short film which focuses on the Tragic Hero, which is important for students to understand before we begin reading Antigone.  During this film, I will pause often so they can take notes during the actual clip.  I will do this because the terms presented in this short film, like Tragic Hero, Catharsis, and Hamartia are important to our study of the play.  When I pause the film, students will add notes to their columns.  I chose these films because they are quick and informative.  Some of my students have an understanding of Greek History and some have no prior exposure to it.  These films are a nice reminder and/or a nice introduction. 


When we are finished with both films, I will divide the class into thirds and make each group responsible for one of the columns on the board.  Each group will add their collective notes to the class board. 


10 minutes

It's important for students to know about the theater and many of the technical terms, but most importantly is their beginning understanding of a tragic hero.  For closure, students will get out a piece of paper and will write a response to this prompt:


Today you have learned what a Tragic Hero is.  Think about your favorite TV showsand/or movies.  Write a minimum one paragraph argument which claims that one of your favorite characters is a Tragic Hero (W.9-10.10).  Make sure you look back at your notes and identify which specific traits make him/her a Tragic Hero (W.9-10.1).