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Greek Mythology

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

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Student Activities for Greek Mythology Include:

Have you ever wondered where some of these sayings came from: "He has the Midas touch", "You have to find their Achilles heel", or "Don't be fooled by a Trojan horse!" Well, all these sayings, and many more, come from ancient Greek myths. Ancient Greek is the root of many English words and phrases, and their culture has famous portrayals of themes and stories that are still relevant today. No matter how much time has passed, the lessons of these literary works remain important in today's age.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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What is Mythology?

Mythology is, first and foremost, a collection of stories - stories that describe the lives and exploits of the gods and preternatural forces before the time of recorded history. As a genre, mythology typically explains unknown origins, the reason for natural occurrences, or human nature. The stories reflect the values and issues of communities and to some extant, of society as a whole. Greek mythology is not the only type in the genre; many cultures from around the world have exquisite mythologies.

Greek Mythology consists of the ancient Greeks' polytheistic beliefs. It begins with a creation myth, explaining how the earth was formed. Later Greek mythology deal with the origins and life of Greek heroes, and explanations of the natural world. Many are familiar with the particular Greek gods as they pertain to domains such as love, war, and trade, but may not know the origins of these gods.


Why Do We Study Greek Myths?

Greek myths have endured for thousands of years. Many of the Greek gods, heroes, and monsters represent ideals or certain traits. Mythical characters were the subjects of various art: sculpture adorning architecture, wall paintings, mosaics, free-standing sculpture, pottery, and so much more. The stories persisted partly because there were physical reminders of the stories in stone everywhere. Beyond the various physical remnants, Greek myths are old tales rich in plot, character, theme, and symbolism.

Romans appropriated many Greek myths as their own, but made significant alterations to them. The Roman Empire was a dominant force for hundreds of years and brought Roman culture to conquered lands throughout Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. The Renaissance and the Neoclassical eras in history saw a resurgence of Greco-Roman influences in art, literature, and science. As Western Civilization expanded across the world, the Greek stories remained! (For an interesting take on this idea, be sure to check out The Lightning Thief and the rest of the Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan.)

Greek mythology has a great deal of variation, because the stories were traditionally told and retold orally. Even ancient sources differ on the order of events and characters! When stories are passed down through the generations and translated into other languages, some of the details do not always stay the same. "Pandora's Box" is an excellent example of how details can morph from one thing to another. Pandora actually had a jar and not a box, but the popular use of Pandora's Box has remained.

Greek myths have pervaded our culture and literature. Many English words come from Greek roots, but there are also words that evolved directly from Greek mythology, such as narcissist, herculean, echo, and nemesis. Authors and artists have referred to Greek mythology for hundreds of years, either as direct subject matter or to represent something symbolically. In order to understand these various allusions, students need exposure to Greek mythology.



Essential Questions for a Mythology Unit

  1. What role can myths and beliefs from the past have in today’s world?
  2. How does the definition of a hero change? Why?
  3. How do we use stories to explain the world around us?
  4. What lessons can we learn from mythology?

Greek Mythology Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Create a Plot Diagram of a Greek Myth


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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a story with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. This activity is great for use with the creation myth, nature myths, and biography stories of the Greek gods and goddesses.



Example Plot Diagram of the Greek Creation Myth

Exposition

In the beginning, there was only Chaos. Then, out of Chaos appeared Erebus (the unknowable darkness, where death dwells), Nyx (Night), and Eros (Love) were born, bringing a start of order. From Eros came Aether (Light), and Hemera (Day). Once there was Aether and Hemera, Gaea (the earth) appeared. Gaea alone gave birth to Uranus (the heavens), who became Gaea's husband. Together they produced the three Cyclopes, the three Hecatoncheires, and twelve Titans.


Conflict

Uranus was not a good father, or husband. He hated the Hecatoncheires and imprisoned them in Gaea's womb. This angered Gaea, and she plotted against Uranus by getting the youngest Titan, Cronus to overthrow him.


Rising Action

Cronus became the next ruler, and he too imprisoned the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires. He then married his sister Rhea. He ruled for many ages, and the Titans had many offspring. However, he became paranoid that one of his children would overthrow him, like his father before him, so he ate them. Rhea, angry with him, concealed a baby (Zeus) by switching him with a stone in a swaddling cloth. She was able to pass off the rock as the baby; Cronus was fooled and swallowed it.


Climax

Zeus overthrew Cronus with the help of all his imprisoned brothers and sisters. After defeating Cronus and his siblings, they became rulers of the gods.


Falling Action

Zeus exiled the Titans who had fought against them, except for Atlas, who was forced to hold the world on his shoulders for eternity.


Resolution

Zeus now rules as king of the gods, who reside on Mount Olympus.


Greek Mythology - Creation Myth Plot Diagram

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of a Greek myth.


  1. Choose one of the Greek myths you have read.
  2. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  3. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  4. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



Story Outline Storyboard Template

Example

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Key Symbols Themes Motifs in Greek Mythology


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Valuable aspects of any literary work are its themes, symbols, and motifs. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to anatomize without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

In the classroom, students can track the rich symbolism that occurs in the stories of the gods.


Themes, Motifs, and Symbols in Greek Mythology

Human Flaws

A fascinating theme throughout Greek mythology is the manifestation of vices, or flaws, in the Greek gods and goddesses. This may startle many people, because when they think of a 'god', the term is synonymous with ideal perfection. However, the gods of old were tempted by pity, jealousy, and adultery, like their human counterparts.


Temptation

Temptation is a related theme with deep roots in Greek myths. Many stories hinge on a temptation that a god or goddess must overcome. An archetypal example is Pandora's Box. In the story, Pandora is given a special box, with instructions not to open it. She is overtaken by the temptation, and unleashes evil into the world!


Payback and Reward

The gods believed that every action had a consequence. Good actions were always rewarded, whereas evil actions required punishment. The gods loved to banish, or eternally punish humans who disobeyed them!


Brains over Brawn

Although, many of the gods were powerful and mighty, possessing powers beyond human ability, they cherished a stable mind more than their strength. Many Greek myths incorporate the theme of brains over brawn, with protagonists outsmarting their opponents to achieve their objectives.


War

The gods love war! In the eyes of the Greeks, war was a part of their existence. They thought it was an honor to die in battle, and that cowards and deserters were not to be given a proper burial. They believed in an eye for an eye, and that bloodshed deserved bloodshed. Many of the gods involved themselves in mortal affairs, and would often choose sides. Battles were won by larger than life warriors like Odysseus or Achilles.


Love

Love in Greek Mythology is often one-sided and not returned, usually leading to tragedy and abandonment for one of the parties involved. Love between gods and humans seldom works out well. Selfish love often ends in suffering for one or both of the people involved.


Fate

The Greeks firmly believed that a person's life is predetermined, at least to some extent. They relied heavily on the gods' ability to change a mortal's fate, although it might not always be for the better!


Beauty

The Greeks valued beauty very much, in both women and men.


Greek Mythology - Pandora's Box Themes

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in Greek mythology. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Greek mythology you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. While working, save periodically.
  5. Write a description of each of the examples.
  6. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  7. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.



Template: Theme

Example

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Greek Gods Character Map


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Prior to or while reading, it is helpful for students to grasp the knowledge of important Greek gods and goddesses. If starting this assignment while reading students can complete this character map to help keep track of important attributes of each god. If completing before reading, internet research may be helpful to establish domains, and characteristics of particular gods that play a significant role in mythology.


Important Greek Gods

GREEK NAMEROMAN NAMEDESCRIPTION
AresMarsKnown as the god of war, son of Zeus and Hera. He is fierce, and the bringer of chaos.
ArtemisDianaTwin sister of Apollo, goddess of the hunt, and represented by the moon.
AthenaMinervaAthena is the goddess of skill, peace, warfare, and wisdom. She was born, fully grown, from Zeus' head.
ApolloApolloThe god of music and arts, knowledge, healing, plague, prophecy, manly beauty, and archery. He is the son of Zeus and Leto and has a twin sister named Artemis. He is identified with the sun.
AphroditeVenusThe goddess of love, beauty, and desire. She is said to be the most beautiful of all the goddesses. She is married to Hephaestus, but had affairs with Ares, Adonis, and Anchises.
DemeterCeresZeus's sister, she is goddess of the harvest and agriculture, responsible for growth. Her symbol is the cornucopia.
HadesPlutoMore than just a god, Hades is King of the Underworld. He is Zeus's brother, and known for his three-headed dog, Cerberus!
HermesMercuryGod of travel, trade, and communication. He is more commonly referred to as the messenger god. He is the son of Zeus and Maia. His symbol is the caduceus, a herald's wand.
Hephaestus VulcanThe god of fire and smithing. He is known for the tools and crafts he creates. He is the son of Hera and the husband to Aphrodite. His symbol is the hammer.
HeraJunoHera is Queen of the Gods, wife of Zeus, and is the goddess of marriage, women, childbirth, heirs, kings, and empires. Her husband's numerous affairs often drive her to vengeful jealousy.
HestiaVestaGoddess of the home and chastity, she is Zeus's sister, and is the symbol of modesty, with her hearth and kettle. Although she plays few roles in Greek mythology, she was a major deity of the Romans.
PoseidonNeptuneBrother to Zeus, king of all the water and its creatures. This Trident waving God is responsible for making many of the animals on land and in the sea.
Zeus JupiterThe king of the Greek gods. He overthrew his father Chronos, rescued his siblings, clashed with the Titans, and settled on top of Mount Olympus. He is the god of thunder, throwing lighting bolts from the sky. Many of the Greek gods and heroes were fathered by Zeus.

Greek Mythology - Character Map

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Fill out the character map for the Greek gods and goddesses.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Title each cell with the names of the Greek gods and goddesses.
  3. Choose characters from the Greek Mythology or Classical Era character tabs to represent each god.
  4. Choose an appropriate background to show the gods in their domains.
  5. Add items if applicable.
  6. Fill out each box: Domain, Symbol, Associated Myth, & Roman Name.
  7. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  8. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.



Olympian Character Map Template

Example

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Hero’s Journey - Perseus


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Related to both plot diagram and types of literary conflict, the ”Hero’s Journey” is a recurring pattern of stages many heroes undergo over the course of their stories. Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, writer, and lecturer, articulated this cycle after researching and reviewing numerous myths and stories from a variety of time periods and regions of the world. He found that they all share fundamental principles. This spawned the Hero’s Journey, also known as the Monomyth. The most basic version has 12 steps, while more detailed versions can have up to 17.


The Legend of Perseus: An Example of the Monomyth Structure

Stage Summary
Ordinary world The story begins on the island of Seriphus, the home of Perseus and his mother, Danae. Polydectes, the king of Seriphus, wishes to marry Danae, and plots to get rid of Perseus, because he may object.
Call to Adventure King Polydectes tricks Perseus into promising to bring back the head of Medusa, one of the dreaded Gorgons. It is an impossible task that will almost certainly get Perseus killed.
Refusal He does not want to leave his mother, but he must keep his promise.
Mentor/Helper Athena and Hermes guide Perseus to the home of the Graeae. The two gods often give him advice along the way.
Crossing the Threshold The pressure of the task forces Perseus to blackmail Graeae into telling him how to find the Hesperides.
Test/Allies/Enemies Perseus' first task is finding The Hesperides. Having done so, they give Perseus a magic bag that can safely carry Medusa's head. Perseus receives several other items from the gods such as Hermes' winged sandals, Hades' helmet of invisibility, and a reflective shield. Athena offers Perseus some knowledge on how to defeat Medusa. Anyone who looks directly at Medusa turns to stone, so Athena tells Perseus to only look at the monster in the reflection of his shield.
Approach When Perseus reaches the Gorgons' lair, he's has reached the point of no return. From here out dangerous and adventure await him.
Ordeal Perseus finds Medusa, and beheads her. Two Gorgons chase him, but Perseus escapes with the help of the helmet of invisibility.
Reward Perseus has Medusa's head.
Road back Perseus flies back home with Medusa's head. (On the way, he rescues a princess from a sea dragon)
Atonement When Perseus arrives home, he confronts King Polydectes, who's been trying to force Danae to marry him. Perseus kills Polydectes, using Medusa's head to turn him into stone.
Return Perseus has saved his mother, and his journey has concluded. He returns the magical items he borrowed, and gives Medusa's head to Athena. All is restored to its rightful state.
Greek Mythology - Hero's Journey of Perseus

Example

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Student Instructions

Use the story of one of the great ancient heroes and map it to the narrative structure of the Hero's Journey. Choose from Hercules, Perseus, Theseus, Odysseus, Achilles, Jason, or other approved hero.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Depict and describe how the hero's story fits (or does not fit ) into each of the stages of the Hero's Journey.
  3. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  4. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.



TEMPLATE - HERO'S JOURNEY

Example

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TP-CASTT A Greek Poem


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The TP-CASTT method of poetry analysis is a great way to teach students to dissect a poem and understand its parts. It helps students to uncover the deeper meanings within poems while giving them the confidence to be self-educators. TP-CASTT Poetry Analysis is an order of operations similar to PEMDAS for math. It asks students to list items in sequential order and answer questions based on their reading of the poem.



In class, it is an excellent idea to look at poets who have been inspired by the Greeks. For this example, I have chosen “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats, a poem inspired by works like The Odyssey by Homer.

TP-CASTT for "Ode on a Grecian Urn"

T

TITLE

The title is about someone famous in Greek history who has died.
P

PARAPHRASE

The speaker is looking at all the pictures on the urn, and discussing them.
C

CONNOTATION

The speaker is daydreaming and thinking back on life. It seems like the urn brings back memories of a good life, but also some regrets.
A

ATTITUDE/TONE

You can't get everything in life the way you want it. It's not perfection that matters.
S

SHIFTS

A shift occurs right after the third stanza. The speaker is no longer talking about chasing women, and has moved on to wondering where this urn might have come from.
T

TITLE

The initial title evaluation was partially correct. The poem was deeper than expected, and it seemed more about how strong memories are.
T

THEME

Life is the same as it was centuries ago. The urn is immortal as are the images and messages on the sides.


This is a great activity to have students do in a small group!

Ode on a Grecian Urn TPCASTT

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Perform a TPCASTT analysis of a poem inspired by Greek mythology. Remember that TPCASTT stands for Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude/Tone, Shift, Title, Theme.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Choose any combination of scenes, characters, items, and text to represent each letter of TPCASTT.
  3. Write a few sentences describing the importance or meaning of the images.
  4. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  5. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.



TPCASTT Template

Example

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Make a Modern Greek God


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Parodies, Satires, and Modern Day Adaptation are rich with literary elements. They are valuable assets for teaching students about literature. Through creative writing, students learn to use literary elements in context, committing them to memory.

During a unit on Greek mythology, you can have students create their own Greek god. They can turn themselves, someone they know, or even a celebrity into a god. For this assignment, have students go over the elements of a Greek god in order to create their own:

Elements of a Greek god:

  • Domain:
  • What do they rule? What do they have power and influence over. For example, Apollo is the god of the sun, poetry, and healing.

  • Symbol:
  • What is their power item? Examples: Zeus’s lightning bolts, Poseidon's trident, Athena’s spear.

  • Connection with the real world:
  • What natural occurrence do they control? For example, Aeolus controls the winds, and Demeter, the seasons.

Students can create amazing storyboards depicting their person as a Greek god! Check out this example below:

Greek Mythology - Modern Adaptation

Example

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Student Instructions

Create your own Greek god! Write a story involving this new Greek god, keeping in mind the typical character traits and themes you have read about in Greek mythology.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Choose a character to represent your new god.
  3. Depict the character and attributes. Include a creative name, domain, symbols, power, and any weaknesses.
  4. Create a teaser or micro-summary of a backstory, birth/origin story, or significant involvement with a hero's quest.
  5. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  6. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.



Make a Modern Greek God

Example

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Other Ideas for Greek Mythology Lesson Plans

  1. Storyboard the life of your favorite god or goddess.
  2. Complete a storyboard showing Zeus being overthrown like Cronus or Uranus before him! Choose a god who will defeat Zeus, and tell how it happens.
  3. Make a storyboard that describes the individual traits of a few gods and goddess.
  4. Add a presentation to any storyboard project.

Greek myths weave an intriguing web of war, love, lies, and heroes. Every story is engaging and more often than not, bizarre. Many tales are used as the basis for modern day works. Classics include: Pandora's Box, Persephone & Hades, Midas, and many others.

  • Personal Favorite: The gods and creatures of Grecian myth are fascinating! Their unique attributes and attire make for fun and interesting characters.
  • Pro Tip: Use items! Many of the myths include specific tools, weapons and accessories that are important to the plot.
  • Search Tip: Make sure to search for keyword: Greek

For more information about Greek Mythology and its influences, be sure to check out the following Teacher Resources.




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