Homer s Odyssey: Teacher s Guide

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1 Homer s Odyssey: Teacher s Guide Grade Level: 9-12 Curriculum Focus: Literature Lesson Duration: Two class periods Program Description Artists have plundered Homer s epic poem for images and phrases for centuries. Its use of drama and plot twists prefigured the novel as a form of literature by 2,500 years. Join scholars and other professionals as they explore the timeless appeal of The Odyssey, woven from folktales into a riveting narrative that symbolizes the archetypal journey through life. Onscreen Questions Before watching the video What is an odyssey? As you watch the program, note the challenges Odysseus faces in his journey. How does Homer s epic story portray the human condition and timeless human challenges? What does The Odyssey reveal about ancient Greek culture? After watching the video Debate whether Odysseus was a hero. To support your position, give examples of how he responded to his challenges. How do you think the ancient Greeks might have regarded him? Why might your opinion be different from that of Homer s contemporaries? Lesson Plan Student Objectives Work in groups to choose a section from Books XVII-XX of The Odyssey and transform it into a dramatic scene. Write a scene and perform it for other students.

2 Homer s Odyssey: Teacher s Guide 2 Materials Books XVII-XX of The Odyssey Paper, pens, pencils Costumes and props as needed Procedures 1. Begin the lesson with a class discussion of The Odyssey, by Homer. How can students relate to Odysseus s journey? Are there similarities between circumstances and choices Odysseus faced and personal trials or national events students have experienced or read about? Are students familiar with any movies in which a hero or heroine is caught up in a struggle? (Examples may include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Saving Private Ryan, Patch Adams, Alien.) How did the director make students feel about the hero or heroine and about his or her adversaries, or opponents? Compare and contrast this treatment to that of characters in The Odyssey. 2. Tell students that they will work in small groups to convert a section from Books XVII through XX into a dramatic scene to perform. 3. Discuss what is involved in taking literature originally written in one genre, such as an epic poem, and adapting it to a drama. Review the following important elements of a dramatic scene. Write them on the board or poster paper and keep them on view for the class. The script must contain dialogue (conversations and asides of the characters) and stage directions (descriptions of setting, characters, and action). However, not all descriptions show up in stage directions; sometimes playwrights drop descriptions of setting and of characters right into characters dialogue. A scene usually deals with a single incident, which takes place in a single setting. The characters may not resolve a problem in a scene, but a scene must end in a satisfying way. 4. Divide the class into small groups. Teach or review how to proceed from making prewriting notes for a scene, through writing, to revising and editing. Suggest that students take notes. Throughout the writing process, give the groups time to apply what they ve learned. PREWRITING A scene must have at least two characters. The characters may be friends or enemies. Each group must select a text section with a clear beginning and end. The characters must have at least one issue to resolve. Students in each group should note the most important issue in their section of the epic. They should make notes about how to introduce the issue and how to move it along. Each group should imagine how the characters look (including how they dress), sound, and act; have them jot down notes for later use. Each group must make it clear where and when the scene takes place; students should jot down their thoughts on background scenery, furniture, and props.

3 Homer s Odyssey: Teacher s Guide 3 WRITING Let students figure out how multiple authors can work together to draft a scene. Have students decide if their characters will speak the same language as your edition of The Odyssey, or if they want to rewrite it as contemporary speech. If necessary, review the mechanics of listing characters and writing stage directions and dialogue. Advise students to follow Homer s order of events and their prewriting notes to unfold the scene: introduce characters and the issue, build suspense, and end at a satisfactory point. Tell students they may rethink dramatizing a scene if their prewriting notes take them to a dead end. If they have not done so already, students should give their scene a title. REVISING AND EDITING Allow students enough time to revise their work so they can answer yes to the questions in the checklist below. Content: Do the dialogue and stage directions clearly show the characters contemplating an issue? Does the scene end naturally? Style: Is the dialogue realistic? Is it easy for an actor to perform? Grammar, usage, mechanics: Have you checked to make sure punctuation, spelling, and grammar are correct? 5. Give each group a chance to perform its scene for the class. Below are pointers for how the groups should proceed. Each student in a group should get a copy of the group s final manuscript. Each group should have a spokesperson to announce to the class the section the group has adapted. The group members should use their scripts to perform their scene. They may bring in props or wear costumes. Actors should read or perform stage directions as appropriate. 6. If time permits, allow the audience to offer comments after each performance. Comments should focus on the strengths of the adaptation, as well as areas that were unclear or could use improvement. 7. If the students are willing, invite other classes to see the presentations. Ask for volunteers to explain what the class has done and to introduce The Odyssey. Assessment Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students work during this lesson. 3 points: Students actively participated in class discussions, worked cooperatively and efficiently in their groups to choose a section of The Odyssey to transform to a dramatic scene, and gave a clear and well-paced performance of their group's adaptation.

4 Homer s Odyssey: Teacher s Guide 4 Vocabulary 2 points: Students participated somewhat in class discussions, worked somewhat cooperatively and efficiently in their groups to choose a section of The Odyssey to transform to a scene, and gave an adequate performance of their group s adaptation. 1 point: Students did not participate in class discussions, had trouble working cooperatively and efficiently in their groups to choose a section of The Odyssey to transform to a dramatic scene, and had difficulty contributing to their group's performance of its adaptation. archetypal Definition: Typical of an original model or pattern from which succeeding representations are copied Context: A reader of The Odyssey always picks up something archetypal, something that is always with us and wonderfully generalized. primordial Definition: Primitive, primeval, or fundamental Context: Homer created the first novel a primordial one. template Definition: A mold that establishes or serves as a pattern for future copies Context: Homer s works served as templates for Western literary tradition. wily Definition: Crafty, tricky, or sly Context: Indiana Jones is like a wily Odysseus. Academic Standards National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE ) The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association have developed national standards to provide guidelines for teaching the English language arts. To view the standards online, go to This lesson plan addresses the following standards: Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.

5 Homer s Odyssey: Teacher s Guide 5 Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit link: This lesson plan addresses the following national standards: Language Arts Writing: Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing, Gathers and uses information for research purposes; Reading: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go to This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards: Time, Continuity, and Change Individual Development and Identity Support Materials Develop custom worksheets, educational puzzles, online quizzes, and more with the free teaching tools offered on the Discoveryschool.com Web site. Create and print support materials, or save them to a Custom Classroom account for future use. To learn more, visit

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