Literature: Introduction to The Odyssey


I developed this partial unit during the 2010-2011 school year for my 9th grade ELA students. I used these lessons with both my gifted and talented and my general population classes. The course was focused on themes in literature and connections to today, and this part of the unit was meant to help students start thinking about themes in The Odyssey. Our class periods were 43 minutes long.

Topic: This lesson is intended to introduce 9th grade students to the themes, historical context, and language of Homer’s The Odyssey. It is a short, one-week unit that would be part of a larger unit on The Odyssey as a whole.

Rationale: Students should be able to analyze literature for the theme of Heroism and connect it to our ideas of heroism today.

Content Standards based on Michigan High School Content Expectations: 

Strand 2: Reading, Listening, and Viewing

  • CE 2.2.2: Examine the ways in which prior knowledge and personal experience affect the understanding of written, spoken, or multimedia text.
  • CE  2.3.3: Critically read and interpret instructions for a variety of tasks (e.g., completing assignments, using software, writing college and job applications)

Strand 3: Literature and Culture

  • CE 3.1.4: Analyze characteristics of specific works and authors (e.g., voice, mood, time sequence, author vs. narrator, stated vs. implied author, intended audience and purpose, irony, parody, satire, propaganda, the use of archetypes and symbols) and identify basic beliefs, perspectives, and philosophical assumptions underlying an author’s work.
  • CE 3.1.7: Analyze the portrayal of various groups, societies, and cultures in literature and other texts.
  • CE 3.1.8: Demonstrate an understanding of historical, political, cultural, and philosophical themes and questions raised by literary and expository works.
  • CE 3.1.10: Demonstrate an understanding of the connections between literary and expository works, themes, and historical and contemporary contexts.

Goals: Social Studies High School Content Expectation 5.3.5-Europe Through the 18th Century

Students will be able to:

  • Participate actively in classroom discussions
  • Use a KWL to organize prior knowledge and learning
  • Compare and contrast historical and contemporary themes and cultures


  • PowerPoint
  • A projector or television that shows the teacher’s computer screen
  • The Odyssey by Homer
  • Note-taking handouts
  • Mythology PowerPoint Presentation
  • Heroism Discussion Questions
  • The article “NJ teen launches anti-bullying program
  • Pens or pencils
  • Lined paper

Opener: What do you know about myths and mythology?


        Day 1: Students will begin by answering the opener “What do you know about myths ans mythology?” for bellwork on lined paper. As they work, I will take attendance and handout the note-taking guide for the day’s lesson. Then, we will begin by completing the K and W sections of the KWL as a class, allowing me to assess what the students already know about mythology. We will then proceed through the notes so that all students will have the same contextual background for reading The Odyssey

Intro to Mythology Notes

Intro to Mythology PowerPoint

        Day 2: Students will begin by answering the opening questions “What is a hero? What are some examples of heroes you can think of?” As students work, I will take attendance and make sure that the discussion PowerPoint is set up correctly. Then, the students will share their examples of heroes to make a list on the board. Then, students will work on a think-pair-share to come up with the characteristics and qualities a person must have to be considered a hero. Finally, students will read the article “NJ teen launches anti-bullying program,” and respond to the question “Is she a hero? Why or why not?”

Heroism Discussion Questions

        Day 3: Students will begin by answering the opener “If we did not have TV, video games, books, or any other form of electronic entertainment, what do you think you would do for fun?” Once students are finished, we will discuss entertainment in the Greek Empire, and how that relates to the development of epic poems like The Odyssey. Then, students will take notes on the form of the epic and read background information from the textbook about Homer. We will conclude by watching clips from the movie Troy to finish establishing the background for reading The Odyssey

        Day 4: Students will begin by answering the opener “Heroes reflect the values of a society. Judging from some of the heroes we’ve talked about so far (Superman, The X-Men, Captain Underpants), what are some of the values of our society?” Then, students will take notes on a vocabulary lesson using challenging terms from The Odyssey Part I. We will then begin reading the prologue “Sailing from Troy” out loud as a class. I will model paraphrasing and breaking down long sentences, and we will also discuss the connections to the background we discussed in class yesterday.

        Day 5: Students will begin by answering the opener “In the Spiderman movie, Peter’s Uncle Ben tells him ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ Do you agree? Why or why not?” We will then discuss the responsibilities of heroes. Students will then read along with “The Lotus Eaters” while we listen to the book on tape to help them get a feel for the language and how the names are produced in The Odyssey Part I. We will then conclude the lesson by discussing how Odysseus compared to our ideas about heroes and heroism in this episode of the epic poem.

Connected Vocabulary Lesson

This vocabulary lesson specifically works on teaching students to use context clues at the sentence level to help determine the meaning of a word.