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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 themes, symbols, and motifs that Homer uses throughout The Odyssey, analyzing examples and the significance of themes.


Themes to Discuss

Greek Hospitality

Throughout his journey, Odysseus and his men are continually tossed into different settings. On each island, they believe that they are entitled to the custom of Greek hospitality. Hosts are expected to provide food, shelter, and protection to any traveler, and guests are expected to be respectful and grateful in return. In The Odyssey, breaking these rules brings misfortune and the disfavor of the Gods.


Temptation

During the epic journey not only is Odysseus tempted, but his men are as well. Each time they approach a new land, the temptations become stronger. Giving in to these temptations prevent Odysseus and his crew from reaching Ithaca for many years. Temptations they encounter include seduction, immorality, greed, and food.


Brains over Brawn

A prominent theme in ancient stories is the use of wit over brute strength. In Odysseus’ case, although he possesses the strength to win battles, the ability to outsmart his enemy is his most valuable asset. A great example is his escape from Polyphemus’ cave.


Motifs and Imagery to Look For

Loyalty

Odysseus continually struggles with his men's disobedience. They show their loyalty to Odysseus much of the time, but, especially when they are faced with temptations, they disobey his direct orders.


Seduction

Over and over again, the men and Odysseus are seduced by various temptations. Examples include Circe, Calypso, the Sirens, and the Lotus-eaters. All these seductions tempt the men to stay, rather than return to Ithaca.


Disguises

Disguises play a significant role in concealing the characters' identities. The particular act of disguising comes primarily in the form of magical help from the gods, or from the enchantment of a spell.


Tests/Trickery

Epics commonly include trickery or a test of the hero and his followers. This shows the mental strength of the hero, and allows them to earn the rewards needed to reach their goal.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-10

Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual or Partner

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

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/RL/9-10/5] Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/9-10/5] Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest


Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



Student Instructions

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


  1. Identify the theme(s) from The Odyssey you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  2. Create an image for examples that represent this theme.
  3. Write a description of each of the examples.



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.




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