The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Teacher Guide by Becky Harvey and Anna Warfield

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The Lightning Thief Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Lightning Thief Include:

Percy spent his childhood being kicked from one school to the next, but now it is clear to the adults in his life that he needs to know the truth: he is the son of a god. Percy goes to a camp for demigods so he can learn about his divine heritage and how to defend himself against the dangers of the mythological world. Along with his friends, Annabeth and Grover, Percy has to save the world of humans. The ancient gods of Olympus are poised to wage war, and Percy might be the only person who can stop them. As the first book of the Percy Jackson series, The Lightning Thief is sure to encourage students to read on and on.

The Lightning Thief Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Lightning Thief Character Map Graphic Organizer

Learning about characters’ backgrounds and motivations can help students better understand why characters behave the way they do and make connections to other books they have read, or to their own lives. Characters are often what make the story, and Rick Riordan does an amazing job of staying true to the traditional mythological characters while updating them to fit our modern world.

Storyboards can be used as students are reading to keep a character reference log. A character map allows students to recall important information on characters. When reading a novel, little attributes often return to become an important plot details. Through the use of character mapping, students will catch this information and will be able to follow the fine points which make reading more enjoyable.

Have students create the characters and fill in the information from a template, or you can make the characters on a blank map and print it out for students to complete. Alternatively, assign different characters to different students or groups to go into greater detail. Students or groups can present their information to the rest of the class.

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Plot Diagram | The Lightning Thief Summary

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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. Sometimes students will really have to think carefully about which events are major turning points in the plot.

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 book in sequence using Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Example The Lightning Thief Plot Diagram


Percy Jackson, a kid who always finds trouble in school, learns that his father is actually a Greek god, and he is a demi-god. He travels to Camp Half-Blood to seek refuge from the monsters that are always after him.


At Camp Half-Blood, he meets many other half-bloods, born of the Olympian gods. Percy trains with the other campers and the main conflict soon comes to light. He learns that someone has stolen Zeus' lightning bolt, and as the son of Poseidon, he is blamed for it!

Rising Action

Percy begins a quest with Annabeth, daughter of Athena, and his satyr friend Grover, to recover the lost master bolt and prevent war between Zeus and Poseidon. Percy has only had a few days of training, but he has to save the world.


The trio travel far and wide and battle against many monsters. They reach the Underworld in Hollywood and confront Hades about the missing master bolt. Hades does not have it and accuses Percy of stealing his own helm of darkness!

Falling Action

Our young heroes escape the mighty Hades and discover Ares on the beach. Ares had stolen the helm of darkness and master bolt from the original thief. Percy wounds Ares and wins the helm of darkness. Percy and friends return the helm and bolt to their owners.


Luke confesses to Percy that he stole the master bolt and helm of darkness back at Camp Half-Blood. Luke actually works for the titan Kronos, who is planning to start a war between the Olympian gods. The mystery of the "lightning thief" has been solved, but a greater threat remains.

(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 The Lightning Thief.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  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.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.

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

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Traditional Mythology vs. The Lightning Thief

Many of the characters in The Lightning Thief are immortal and have been alive (or reincarnated) for thousands of years. Read about some of the characters in traditional mythology, then create a T-Chart that compares the traditional representation of the characters. In the description box below each picture, identify important symbols or attributes of the character; what are the similarities and differences?

In the example below, only two characters are represented. There are many characters to choose from:

  • Ares
  • Dionysus
  • Zeus
  • Poseidon
  • Hades
  • Furies
  • Charon
  • Echidna
  • Chimera
  • Medusa
  • Procrustes
  • Chiron

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Foreshadowing is a literary device that hints at what is to come later in the story. Foreshadowing is often in the thoughts or dialogue of the characters, but can also be presented in the actions or events of the story. Have your students find instances of foreshadowing in the book. Using a spider map, create a cell for each instance and place a relevant quote in the description box. Use the cell to illustrate what might happen with the foreshadowing.

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Hero's Journey Graphic Organizer | The Lightning Thief

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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 led to the Hero’s Journey, also known as the Monomyth.

Percy Jackson has his own Hero’s Journey, just like the great heroes of old. He is, after all, a demigod born of Poseidon. Have students work together to discover the important events that fit into each category. This activity may be very challenging, so consider breaking up the Hero’s Journey components among groups of students, or working together as a class to identify them. There are different interpretations, depending on whether you focus on Percy’s main quest or his entire journey in his new world.

My example focuses on Percy's main quest. How would his entire journey be different?

Example Hero's Journey for The Lightning Thief

Ordinary World Percy Jackson is a regular trouble-making kid with ADHD and dyslexia going to school for troubled kids in New York.
Call to Adventure Percy’s identity has been discovered and he is in danger from monster attacks. His mother and protector bring him to Camp Half-Blood, through a hurricane, with monsters on their heels.
Refusal Poseidon claims Percy as his son. Percy is suspected of being the thief who stole the master bolt. Percy resents being accused of something he didn’t do, but takes the quest to prove himself.
Mentor/Helpers Chiron advises Percy before he leaves. Grover Underwood and Annabeth Chase go with Percy on his quest.
Cross Threshold Argus drops the three off at the bus station. They are now alone, with no protection from Camp Half-Blood.
Allies/Tests/Enemies The heroic trio undergo many trials and face many enemies on their journey from New York to Los Angeles.
Approach Percy, Annabeth, and Grover bribe Charon to take them to the Underworld, in order to retrieve the master bolt from Hades.
Ordeal The three heroes discover that Hades' own helm of darkness is missing, and the master bolt magically appeared inside the pack given by Ares! After escaping Hades’ wrath by using the pearls, Percy battles Ares on the beach.
Reward Percy is able to wound Ares in his heel. Ares refrains from killing him, but because Percy won, he wins the master bolt and the helm of darkness.
Road Back A son of Poseidon in the air is dangerous, but Percy flies in an airplane to get to Mount Olympus in time. Percy meets his father and Zeus for the first time.
Atonement Zeus considers whether or not to obliterate Percy. Percy returns the master bolt to Zeus and reports about the darkness in Tartarus that influenced Ares.
Return The three heroes return to Camp Half-Blood in triumph.

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

Student Instructions

Use the story of The Lightning Thief and map it to the narrative structure of the Hero's Journey.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Depict and describe how the chosen character'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.

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

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A Quick Synopsis of The Lightning Thief (Contains Plot Spoilers)

Percy Jackson is not exceptional. He suffers from ADHD and dyslexia, which make school difficult. He is expelled from school repeatedly and seems to attend a new school every year. Percy doesn’t understand all the strange and weird things that happen around him on a regular basis. It isn’t until he goes on a field trip to a museum filled with ancient Greek artifacts that he begins to discover his own secret. His math teacher transforms into a terrifying monster and Percy slays her with a sword.

His mom, Sally, and Grover (who is actually a satyr and Percy’s protector) explain some of the basics. Percy is in grave danger because he is a demigod and monsters continually seek to destroy demigods. Sally and Grover take Percy to Camp Half-Blood so that he can train. Just as they are arriving, a livid minotaur charges Percy. He is able to kill it, but not before it dissolves Sally into a shimmering, gold dust. Percy and Grover run for the entrance of the camp, where Percy will be safe. At camp, Percy works with teams of other demigods learning to fight with ancient weapons and being taught the traditional ways of the Greek gods. Percy starts hearing about “the one” and “Big Three material”. He also meets other demigods: Annabeth (daughter of Athena), Clarisse (daughter of Ares), and Luke (son of Hermes).

Percy learns that water is his ally, and he is stronger when he is near it. Clarisse, the bully of Camp Half-Blood, tries to dunk Percy’s head in the toilet. She quickly regrets it when, without his even knowing he’s doing it, Percy wills all of the water to attack her. During a game of capture the flag, Percy is injured, but heals and becomes refreshed after going into the water. Percy is then claimed by Poseidon, one of the “Big Three”.

Zeus’ lightning bolt, the crux of his power, has been stolen, and Percy is the suspected thief. The brother gods, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades have all been on the brink of battle for millennia. If Percy doesn’t “return” the stolen bolt, it will mean all-out war that will endanger the mortal world. Zeus has issued a deadline for its return: the summer solstice. Percy is given an ultimatum. He must go on a quest (something many half-bloods want to do) or be turned into a dolphin. Before leaving on the quest, Percy visits an oracle who gives him a prophecy. Though the oracle makes it seem Percy is destined to fail, Chiron assures him that oracles often have double meanings and not to worry. Annabeth is excited to go on Percy’s quest, because she’s been told she cannot go on one of her own.

Percy, Grover, and Annabeth set out from New York to Los Angeles and the entrance to the Underworld. They face many obstacles as they travel that parallel mythical tales. They trick and/or defeat the Furies, Medusa, Echidna and the Chimera, a trap set by Hephaestus for Ares, the Lotus Casino, Procrustes, and Charon. They also learn that Percy’s mother isn’t dead, but being held captive by Hades in order to control Percy. Somehow along his travels, Zeus’ bolt appears in Percy’s pack. Hades finds the bolt and thinks that Percy must have also stolen his helm, the source of his power, because it too has gone missing.

The three must run for their lives. Upon reentering the world of the living, they learn that the war is all but started, and Ares is behind it all. He stole both the bolt and Hades’ helm from the original thief to create a war between the “big three” gods, at the urgings of an unknown force. After an epic battle between Ares and Percy, the Furies return Hades’ helm to him, saying Percy hadn’t stolen it.

Percy, Annabeth and Grover make it back to New York, just in time to take the magical elevator to Mount Olympus where Percy returns Zeus’ bolt and meets his father, Poseidon. Percy learns that his mother is alive, safe, and has escaped her horrible, mortal husband. Percy returns to camp and continues life as a demigod in training, only to discover the identity of the true lightning thief and the dangers that await him.

Essential Questions for The Lightning Thief

  1. What lasting impact has Greek Mythology had on our society today?
  2. What constitutes a hero?
  3. What is a myth?

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•   (English) The Lightning Thief   •   (Español) El Ladrón del Rayo   •   (Français) Le Voleur de Foudre   •   (Deutsch) Diebe im Olymp   •   (Italiana) Il Ladro Fulmineo   •   (Nederlands) De Bliksem Dief   •   (Português) O Ladrão de Raios   •   (עברית) גנב הברק   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) اللص البرق   •   (हिन्दी) बिजली चोर   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Молниеносный вор   •   (Dansk) Lyntyven   •   (Svenska) Blixttjuven   •   (Suomi) Salamavaras   •   (Norsk) Lyntyven   •   (Türkçe) Şimşek Hırsızı   •   (Polski) Złodziej Pioruna   •   (Româna) Lightning Thief   •   (Ceština) Zloděj Blesku   •   (Slovenský) The Thief Blesk   •   (Magyar) A Villámtolvaj   •   (Hrvatski) Kradljivac Munje   •   (български) Светкавият Крадец   •   (Lietuvos) Žaibas Vagis   •   (Slovenščina) Kradljivec Strele   •   (Latvijas) Zibens Nolaupītājs   •   (eesti) Välguvaras