Greek Mythology - Explanation Stories

Teacher Guide by Anna Warfield

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Explanation Myths Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Greek Mythology - Explanation Stories Include:

Mythologies of many different cultures all seek to explain various natural phenomena with a story. Greek myths often attempt to explain the reason for hard to understand concepts like what happens after death, why it rains, or why people with extraordinary talents exist. They are often tools to teach moral or social lessons, explaining what might happen should you deviate from the right path.

Greek Mythology - Explanation Stories Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Hades and Persephone Myth Plot Diagram

Copy Assignment

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 helps students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work 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.

Example Hades and Persephone Myth Plot Diagram


Hades, god of the Underworld, abducted Persephone and brought her to his kingdom to be his wife.


Persephone's mother, Demeter, goddess of agriculture, was so distraught over the abduction of her daughter that she refused to let anything grow. Plants died and the the fields were cold and barren.

Rising Action

Persephone is miserable in the darkness and lifelessness of the Underworld. Very few things grow there, such as cypress trees and pomegranates.


Zeus appeals to Demeter to allow plants to grow again to avoid great loss of life. She denounces Zeus for his part in their daughter's abduction, and demands that Persephone be returned to her.

Falling Action

Zeus agrees that Persephone can return to her mother, but because she had eaten food from the Underworld, Persephone must spend half of the year with Hades.


When Persephone is in the Underworld, Demeter misses her and causes the cold of winter. When she returns above ground, Persephone, goddess of spring, brings warmth and brightness back to the world.

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

Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of one of the Greek Explanation Myths.

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

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Symbols of Persephone

Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify objects that are important symbols for the characters or bigger ideas, and support their choices with details from the text.

The example below uses the Persephone Abduction myth, but many Greek myths that attempt to explain something have important symbols.

Symbols to Look For and Discuss in the Myth of Hades and Persephone


The pomegranate is a symbol for life and abundance, but also for death. The many seeds show the capability of new life & new growth. However, the pomegranate seems to bleed if it is cut, and it is the one thing that ties Persephone to the world of the dead.


Winter represents the time that Persephone spends in the Underworld. The living world seems suspended because the plants "die", the weather becomes harsh, and the days are shorter and darker.


Spring is Persephone's time. She returns from the Underworld and is reunited with her mother. Days become longer and warmer, plants come alive, and animals become active.

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Recurring Themes Across Multiple Explanation Myths

Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes that pop up in multiple Greek myths, and support their choices with details from the text.

Themes to Look For and Discuss


  • Apollo chased after the nymph Daphne, but she did not love him. Artemis turned her into a tree so Apollo could not have her. Daphne became the laurel tree, whose leaves are still used today for Olympic crowns and represent victory.

  • Arachne boasted about her weaving abilities, saying she was greater than even Athena. After losing in a weaving contest to make a beautiful tapestry, Athena turned her into a spider. Spiders are great weavers of webs.

  • After being rejected by Narcissus, Echo prayed to the gods. Artemis caused Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection and ignored all else. At his death by another spurned lover, Narcissus became a flower that turned down to water, always gazing at its own face.

Additional themes include

  • Jealousy
  • Boastfulness
  • Anger/Retribution
  • Temptation
  • Natural Forces by Divine Will
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Myths for Explanation

An important part of the genre of mythology is the stories that explain occurrences in the natural world and in human nature. Most mythologies predate scientific discoveries and modern understanding. It may seem unrealistic to us now to ascribe a great thunderstorm to the anger of a god. However, it was far easier to explain thunder and lightning as divine punishment from a sky god rather than understanding the changes in temperature, pressure, static electricity and the water cycle.

In Greek mythology, the gods and goddesses are essentially humans (anthropomorphized beings) with varied and amazing supernatural powers. All the gods have personalities like humans, get angry like humans, show kindness like humans, and act spitefully like humans. The big difference is the gods and goddesses have power so great, that their personalities, anger, kindness, and actions all have an effect on people and nature. Natural occurrences are more relatable and easily understood when the causes are driven by the emotions by powerful gods.

Examples of Greek Myths That Attempt to Explain Something

Essential Questions for Greek Explanation Myths

  1. Why do we want to understand the unknown with a story?
  2. What other stories try to explain natural phenomena?
  3. What can Greek myths teach us today?

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•   (English) Greek Mythology: Explanation Stories   •   (Español) Mitología Griega: Explicación Historias   •   (Français) Mythologie Grecque: Histoires D'explication   •   (Deutsch) Griechische Mythologie: Erklärung Geschichten   •   (Italiana) Mitologia Greca: Storie Spiegazione   •   (Nederlands) Griekse Mythologie: Uitleg Stories   •   (Português) Mitologia Grega: Histórias de Explicação   •   (עברית) מיתולוגיה יוונית: סיפורי הסבר   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) الأساطير اليونانية: قصص الشرح   •   (हिन्दी) ग्रीक पौराणिक कथाएं: स्पष्टीकरण कहानियां   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Греческая Мифология: Пояснительные Истории   •   (Dansk) Græsk Mytologi: Forklaring Stories   •   (Svenska) Grekisk Mytologi: Förklaring Stories   •   (Suomi) Kreikkalainen Mytologia: Selitys Stories   •   (Norsk) Gresk Mytologi: Forklaring Stories   •   (Türkçe) Yunan Mitolojisi: Açıklama Öyküleri   •   (Polski) Mitologia Grecka: Wyjaśnienia   •   (Româna) Mitologia Greacă: Povestiri Explicație   •   (Ceština) Řecká Mytologie: Vysvětlení Stories   •   (Slovenský) Grécka Mytológia: Vysvetlenie Príbehy   •   (Magyar) Görög Mitológia: Magyarázat Stories   •   (Hrvatski) Grčka Mitologija: Objašnjenje Priča   •   (български) Гръцка Митология: Разяснения Истории   •   (Lietuvos) Graikų Mitologija: Paaiškinimas Istorijos   •   (Slovenščina) Grška Mitologija: Razlaga Zgodbe   •   (Latvijas) Grieķu Mitoloģija: Skaidrojums Stāsti   •   (eesti) Kreeka Mütoloogia: Selgitus Stories