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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs are valuable aspects of any literary work, and they add richness to stories. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to analyze 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 supplementary 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.



Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



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 "Start 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. Click "Save & Exit" when done.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/W/9-10/2] Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content
  • [ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/2] Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Rubric

(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)


Themes, Symbols, and Motifs (Grades 9-12)
Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and/or motifs in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Identification of Theme(s), Symbol(s), and/or Motif(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story. Symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story. Motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Most themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete. Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or incomplete. Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete.
Most themes are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most symbols are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most motifs are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.
No themes, symbols, or motifs are correctly identified.
Examples and Descriptions
Quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motifs that are being identified. Descriptions mostly accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s), and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are minimal, incorrect, or unrelated to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions contain inaccuracies in their explanations, or do not highlight their significance to the story.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depiction
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are accurate to the story and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are mostly accurate to the story. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are inaccurate to the story. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the story.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the story and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the story.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.


Frequently Asked Questions about Greek Mythology Symbols

What are the symbols of the Greek gods and goddesses?

Each Greek god and goddess has their own symbol that represents them; these symbols are often items, plants, animals, or all three. Some examples of these symbols are:

  • Zeus: Thunderbolt or an eagle
  • Hera: Peacock
  • Poseidon: Trident

Why did the Greek gods have symbols?

The symbols of the Greek gods and goddesses are important because they identify who they are, what they represent, and their domain of power. Along with their physical attributes, the symbols of the gods and goddesses are the most important way to depict how they fit into Greek mythology.

What do the Twelve Olympians Symbolize?

  • Zeus: King of the gods; god of the sky
  • Hera: Goddess of women and marriage
  • Poseidon: God of the sea
  • Demeter: Goddess of agriculture
  • Hephaistos: God of the forge
  • Aphrodite: Goddess of love and beauty
  • Apollo: God of the sun and music
  • Artemis: Goddess of the moon and the hunt
  • Hermes: God of travelers
  • Ares: God of war
  • Athena: Goddess of wisdom
  • Dionysos: God of wine




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