The Cyclops’s Cave

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SWBAT demonstrate understanding of a myth by applying comprehension strategies and identify the common characteristics in a myth by citing specific details.

Big Idea

Ulysses and his crew are trapped on the island of the Cyclopes. Will they escape?


10 minutes

Today’s class starts by reviewing the homework assigned the previous day: complete the Greek Gods and Goddesses packet. The purpose is to review the identity of the 12 Olympian gods and to introduce students to their Roman names. That information is contained in a this document, which was distributed in an earlier lesson. The more familiar students become with this information the easier it will be for them to keep the characters straight when we begin reading a variety of myths. An answer sheet is available here.

Then it is time for a pop quiz on the common characteristics of myths. On a small sheet of scrap paper, they number 1-8 and write as many of the facts that they remember. Answers include that myths often:

  • teach a lesson/ explain a natural phenomena
  • contain many gods and goddesses
  • gods and goddesses possess superhuman qualities
  • gods and goddesses have human emotions
  • contain magic
  • gods and goddesses often appear in disguises
  • good is rewarded/ evil is punished
  • contain violence


Time to Read

25 minutes

Most of the remainder of today’s class is spent reading, annotating and searching for evidence of the common characteristics of myths in The Cyclops's Cave by Bernard Evslin.

I read it aloud to students with great feeling and inflection, pausing at just the right the places to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.  The action, suspense and even humor are attention grabbers. I stop along the way to check for comprehension, address questions and make connections.

Since I also teach social studies, I plan this unit to coincide with our study of ancient Greece so everything from the geography of the region to the influence of religion comes up for discussion. I find it particularly gratifying when the students use newly acquired knowledge in their comments, such as the reference to the fact that island of the Cyclops must be somewhere in the Aegean Sea because Ulysses had departed from Troy and was headed back to Greece. Another example is when a student remarks that Ulysses should have known that “the gods considered hubris to be the worst offense, deserving of the worst punishment.”

Common Characteristics Chart

20 minutes

I give the students 5-10 minutes to go back through the story and mark up the examples of the common characteristics of myths using this graphic organizer.

Then I lead a class discussion of the their findings. I require a specific text reference when they complete the chart or share with the class so, that they get used to doing so. An example of how a student marked up the text appears here and two versions of completed characteristics charts appear here and here (this one includes some direct quotes). Some thoughts on the difficulties students had in identifying the characteristics appears here: