The Hero’s Journey Unit

I love teaching Greek mythology! I incorporate a variety of texts across different genres in this unit including fiction, drama, informational texts, YouTube video and movie clips, poetry, and comic books.

Introducing the Hero’s Journey

We start with the hero’s journey plot pattern archetype. I like to introduce it with this TedTalk. CommonLit.org also has an article about the hero’s journey that thoroughly introduces this plot pattern and provides examples from the Hobbit and Hunger Games. Either one can be used to introduce this plot pattern before starting the Odyssey. As we read the about various Greek hero’s we will make connections to how they complete these stages of the hero’s journey. I start off with the story of Perseus since it’s short. There are various free and paid versions out there. Some textbooks have it. My favorite version is a play in the book Greek Mythology for Teens: Classic Myths in Today’s World (ISBN: 1593637179). I assign parts in class and students love reading their parts. Afterwards we compare it Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (I show the trailer and scenes from the movie that can be compared to Perseus).

To check for student’s understanding about the hero’s journey I have them do a presentation project. I put them in pairs or small groups. Each group picks a book or movie that has a hero in it. They create a Google Slide presentation showing how that hero completes each stage of the hero’s journey in that book or movie. I approve all book/movie choices before they begin and ensure that no group has the same one. It’s a multimedia presentation- they should include texts, images (or animated gifs), and video clips (or even add music). They present these to the class.

Before We Read The Odyssey

Before we read the Odyssey there is some background knowledge that students will need to know. Commonlit.org has a great article about Greek Society that explains how Greek society was structured covering: classes, women, children and adolescents, laborers, slaves, and foreigners. It was a provide background knowledge while practicing reading nonfiction skills with an informational texts. We apply this knowledge as we read the Odyssey, making connections between these texts from different genres. This is a great way to cover multiple standards in one unit! Would you rather show a video then have them read this informational text? This YouTube video also explains the basics of Greek Society.

I like to introduce and summarize the Trojan War with a fun play adaptation called Meet the Olympians by TPT seller ELA Alley. This play is a spoof about the Trojan War while poking fun at Twilight, American Idol, Michael Jackson, 300, and wrestling. It provides a great introduction to the Greek gods and goddesses, introduces the idea of don’t anger the gods, and sums up the Trojan War. I assign parts to students in class to read aloud. If we have time, we might act it out as well. Students love it! It’s hilarious and a great introduction to Greek mythology and story telling!

We continue our talk about the Trojan war by examining two poems written in different time periods about Helen of Troy. I introduce Helen of Troy with the Shmoop Video and students take notes in their Interactive Notebook. We compare her origin story to that of Perseus: like Perseus she is a demigod whose father is Zeus. Next we read over two poems about Helen of Troy written in different time periods by different authors: “To Helen” by Edgar Allan Poe (1845) and “Helen” by Hilda Doolittle (1924). We will annotate the poems, answer short answer questions comparing and contrasting the central theme in the poems, and analyze literary devices and figurative language.

This TedTalk, Everything you need to know to read Homer’s “Odyssey” – Jill Dash, explains important concepts before we read the Odyssey such as in medias res and xenia. It also introduces Homer and this tradition of Greek oral story telling. I have students take notes in their interactive notebook as we watch it.

As We Read The Odyssey

We read the graphic novel version by Gareth Hinds. They love it! It’s usually their favorite text our of everything we read. The illustrations really help them understand what’s happening and the time period it takes place in. As they read I have them take notes about the themes and the role of xenia throughout the story. They also take notes about how Odysseus completes the hero’s journey. I assign sections ahead of time that they read on their own and then we discuss it and their notes in class. We examine the images as well as the words. I will show sections of the 1997 TV miniseries so we can compare how it was adapted for film (I usually show the cyclops scene). We discuss the differences between the comic and film medium and how it impacts the story telling. We also discuss how this is an ancient story being retold in multiple mediums today and why we still relate to this story and it’s hero.

Unit 2: The Hero’s Journey (Greek Mythology)
Lesson / Text / Activity / ETC. TEKS (Texas State Standards for ENGLISH I)
What is mythology? Intro to Ancient Greek Society & The Hero’s Journey > with informational texts. Identify the author’s purpose, audience, and message within a text.  Make connections to our lives today. E1.4(G) evaluate details read to determine key ideas
E1.5(G) discuss and write about the explicit or implicit meanings of text
E1.7(D) analyze characteristics and structural elements of informational texts such as: (i) clear thesis, relevant supporting evidence, pertinent examples, and conclusion
E1.8(A) analyze the author’s purpose, audience, and message within a text
E1.8(B) analyze use of text structure to achieve the author’s purpose
E1.8(C) evaluate the author’s use of print and graphic features to achieve specific purposes
We will read a play about Perseus and Medusa and study how he completes all stages of the hero’s journey. Students will pick a part and we will read it as a class. We will talk about the roles of the gods in the play and how it fits into mythology. Students will answer questions about the play. Analyze how setting influences theme, characterization, and plot. Interactive notebook: How Perseus completes each stage of the Hero’s Journey. How the hero’s journey can be applied to our own lives.E1.4(H) synthesize information from two texts to create new understanding
E1.7(C) analyze the function of dramatic conventions such as asides, soliloquies, dramatic irony, and satire
Compare the Greek myth of Perseus and Medusa to parts of Percy Jackson (using clips). Examining how ancient myths are retold in 20th century literature and film. Analyze how setting influences theme, characterization, and plot.
Short answer questions over Perseus and Medusa analyzing the hero’s journey and the role of the gods in ancient myth. 
E1.7(F) analyze characteristics of multimodal and digital texts
Group project: Pick a film or book that has a hero in it. Create a multimedia presentation explaining how the hero completes each stage (12 total) of the hero’s journey. Using Google Slides and turning in on the Google Classroom. They have to outline their presentation for me before creating the Google Slide. Students will present this to the class.E1.7(F) analyze characteristics of multimodal and digital texts
E1.11(I) use an appropriate mode of delivery, whether written, oral, or multimodal, to present results
E1.1 Developing and sustaining foundational language skills: listening, speaking, discussion, and thinking–oral language. The student develops oral language through listening, speaking, and discussion. 
E1.8 Author’s purpose and craft: listening, speaking, reading, writing, and thinking using multiple texts. The student uses critical inquiry to analyze the authors’ choices and how they influence and communicate meaning within a variety of texts. The student analyzes and applies author’s craft purposefully in order to develop his or her own products and performances. 
E1.1(C) give a presentation using informal, formal, and technical language effectively to meet the needs of audience, purpose, and occasion, employing eye contact, speaking rate such as pauses for effect, volume, enunciation, purposeful gestures, and conventions of language to communicate ideas effectively
E1.1(D) participate collaboratively, building on the ideas of others, contributing relevant information, developing a plan for consensus building, and setting ground rules for decision making
Read the story “Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad” on our online textbook portal. Students will annotate with focused reading questions, do a vocabulary exercise, take a quiz, and answer an essay question with textual evidence. Students will learn how to login to the online textbook, use the assignment tools, and submit an assignment. 
E1.4(G) evaluate details read to determine key ideas
Introduce Helen of Troy with Shmoop Video and notes for Interactive Notebook. Info text about the Iliad War.
Read 2 poems over Helen of Troy written in different time periods by different authors. We will annotate the poems. Short answer questions comparing and contrasting the central theme in the poems. Analyze literary devices and figurative language.
E1.5(G) discuss and write about the explicit or implicit meanings of text
E1.7(B) analyze the structure, prosody, and graphic elements such as line length and word position in poems across a variety of poetic forms
An informational text introducing Homer and The Odyssey. Also a TedTalk introducing the Odyssey. Guided reading and analysis questions. E1.4(G) evaluate details read to determine key ideas
E1.8(A) analyze the author’s purpose, audience, and message within a text
E1.8(C) evaluate the author’s use of print and graphic features to achieve specific purposes
We will read the Odyssey graphic novel adaptation. Some of it we will read in class and parts of it students will read independently at home. We will go over how to read a graphic novel and the genre conventions. Discuss the non-linear plot of the story, how Odysseus completes the hero’s journey, the major themes, the role of mythology and xenia in the plot, and characterization. 
 Compare scenes in the graphic novel version to the movie version of that scene. Venn diagram of similarities and differences in interactive notebooks. We are examining how an ancient story is transformed into 21st century storytelling and how it is adapted for modern audiences while keeping the core of the story the same.
E1.5(B) write responses that demonstrate understanding of texts, including comparing texts within and across genres
E1.6(B) analyze how authors develop complex yet believable characters in works of fiction through a range of literary devices, including character foils
E1.6(C) analyze non-linear plot development such as flashbacks, foreshadowing, subplots, and parallel plot structures and compare it to linear plot development
E1.7(F) analyze characteristics of multimodal and digital texts
E1.8(C) evaluate the author’s use of print and graphic features to achieve specific purposes
Expository Essay :Define what makes someone a hero.E1.5(H), E1.7(D), E1.9(A),  E1.9(B),  E1.9(C), E1.9(D), E1.10(B), E1.11(C) (editing and writing related- see writing unit for details)
TEKS that apply to the unit across texts and activities:
E1.4(A) establish purpose for reading assigned and self-selected texts
E1.4(B) generate questions about text before, during, and after reading to deepen understanding and gain information
E1.4(C) make and correct or confirm predictions using text features, characteristics of genre, and structures
E1.4(D) create mental images to deepen understanding
E1.4(E) make connections to personal experiences, ideas in other texts, and society

E1.4(F) make inferences and use evidence to support understanding
E1.4(I) monitor comprehension and make adjustments such as re-reading, using background knowledge, asking questions, and annotating when understanding breaks down
E1.5(B) write responses that demonstrate understanding of texts, including comparing texts within and across genres
E1.5(C) use text evidence and original commentary to support a comprehensive response
E1.5(D) paraphrase and summarize texts in ways that maintain meaning and logical order
E1.5(F) respond using acquired content and academic vocabulary as appropriate
E1.5(H) respond orally or in writing with appropriate register, vocabulary, tone, and voice
E1.5(F) respond using acquired content and academic vocabulary as appropriate
E1.6(A) analyze how themes are developed through characterization and plot in a variety of literary texts
E1.6(D) analyze how the setting influences the theme
E1.7(A) read and respond to American, British, and world literature
E1.8(D) analyze how the author’s use of language achieves specific purposes
E1.8(F) analyze how the author’s diction and syntax contribute to the mood, voice, and tone of a text