Heroes: Sandwiches or People--Introduction to the Odyssey

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SWBAT analyze how complex characters interact with other characters and advance the plot by examining characteristics of a hero and reading Books 1 and 9 of the Odyssey

Big Idea

A hero is more than a sandwich in today's lesson as students examine the characteristics of heroes.


Today we will begin our unit on the Odyssey. I have chosen the Odyssey by Homer, as our next reading because our unit theme is Crossing Boundaries, and our essential question is "How does learning about the actions and experiences of others help us learn more about ourselves?" This text is a great text for reflecting on this question and theme as we will learn about the actions and experiences of Odysseus and his men as the go on their epic journey.

Do Now: Who are our heroes?

10 minutes

For this first part of the text, I am using materials developed by Jim Burke. I am choosing to use these materials because Jim Burke is a respected educator and author, and I have found his materials to be helpful in the past. We are starting on pg 3 of his packet. My students will do the web to generate ideas about heroes.(I am hoping that none of my students include the hero sandwich in their web, but if they do, I can relate.) Then, I will ask them to complete the questions in the boxes at the bottom of the web. These questions will help them understand why they chose a particular person as a hero. At the bottom of the sheet there is a prompt that asks students to interview an adult using the same questions and form. I am giving this as an extra credit assignment.

I am offering this extra credit assignment because it is a great way to involve parents and other members of the school community in our work in the classroom. I also think this is a great way to align to our unit theme, Crossing Boundaries, and to examine how learning about others helps us learn about ourselves.

Building Knowledge

10 minutes

After students have had time to share information about their heroes, I will provide a list of characteristics of an Epic hero. I will ask my students to take the following notes about Epic heroes:

  1. larger than life
  2. embodies the values of a society
  3. travels or journeys
  4. superhuman strength or power
  5. faces supernatural enemies and/or receives supernatural help
  6. has some flaw or weakness that may be revealed during his journey

This list comes from the 9th grade McDougal Littell Language of Literature text book glossary of literary terms on pg. 1221. I will ask my students to write the notes at the top of the hero web, and we may add to them as we are reading the Odyssey. I am sharing it with students this way because with the introduction to the Common Core State Standards, we do a lot less background building before diving into the reading. It is more important that my students begin reading The Odyssey than spend a lot of time building background. This time, I'm giving them the notes, and we'll discuss how Odysseus fits the mold of an epic hero as we read.

For a few minutes, I will talk to my students to access any prior knowledge about Odysseus, Cyclops, the Trojan War, etc. I will allow students to share what they know about these people/topics so that I can segue into our reading (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1.c). Before we begin our reading, I will tell my students that the Odyssey is an epic poem, and Odysseus is an epic hero.

Shared Reading

15 minutes

For this part of the lesson, I will read the first couple of pages of the Odyssey aloud to my students in a shared reading of the beginning (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10). In a shared reading, the teacher or a student reads the texts aloud while the rest of the group reads silently. The person reading may stop and share their thoughts about characters, events, etc. to aid in everyone's understanding of the texts. We'll begin our shared reading from the 9th grade McDougal and Littell Language of Literature text (pp. 895-897). There are other versions of the text, but this is the one to which we have access, and it provides vocabulary and "stop and think" questions to guide students as they read.

I am doing it this way to get students interested in the text and to show them how I think about and question the text as I am reading. I am also doing it this way because there is some challenging vocabulary in this text, and I don't want students to be turned off at the beginning. I need to keep them interested so that we can get to the great parts of the story.

Visualizing the Cyclops Incident

16 minutes

After reading pages 898-911 of Book Nine of the Odyssey in the McDougal Littell text, I will tell my students that I want them to view a clip of the incident with the Cyclops. I am using this version of the text because it provides a vivid image of the Cyclops with challenging, but not too difficult diction. We will watch only the first 13 minutes of the clip. As they are viewing the clip, I want my students to see if they can point out differences in the video and the events that we read in our version of the video.

We are doing this because it allows them to compare the treatment of the same scene in two different artistic mediums (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7). We can also discuss why the clip may have been different and which version was more effective for them.

An alternate version of the text can be found here.

Silent Reading

20 minutes

During silent reading time, my students have two options:

  1. They can read their self-selected reading books in order to be prepared to complete the SSR_Book_Jacket_Project that will be due in a few weeks.
  2. They can read the rest of Book 9 of the Odyssey.

I am giving them in-class reading time because I think reading is important, and we had gotten away from self-selected reading time due to snow days. Now that we are in the home stretch (4th quarter) we are back to our schedule of reading (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10). If they choose to read The Odyssey, they should focus on reading for comprehension of the plot and the characters. We'll do more with the reading when we re-read to find examples of problems.


Closure: Problems

10 minutes

For the closure activity today, I will ask my students to work with a partner to list some of the problems that Odysseus and his men faced (in the order that they faced them) at the bottom of pg. 4 and on pg. 5 of the Odyssey packet (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1) and (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2). We are charting these problems with partners in order to help us keep track of the conflicts that Odysseus and his men are facing. This is also a great way to preview the next lesson in which we will focus on the problems and solutions that they experience. Check out this video of my students searching through the text to find the problems that Odysseus faced in the part of the story that we read today.

Homework: Finishing Book 9

For homework, I am asking students to complete the rest of Book 9 (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10) and to be prepared for a comprehension quiz on the plot in this part of the poem. I need to give them this type of quiz to make sure they have read before we move on to analysis of the text. Sometimes I feel like I have to tell them that there will be a quiz in order to make sure that they read. Yes, as teachers we hope that they will just love reading so much that they will read just for the sake of it, but sometimes students need a tangible reminder that reading is important. Nothing says reading is important like a quiz!

Lesson Image Attribution

BillyTFried at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons