Taking on the task of teaching The Odyssey is a massive undertaking. One might even say it’s an epic undertaking. Although a popular Greek tale with tons of films and visual renditions, getting through the text can look overwhelming to students. That’s why I love keeping a list of interactive and engaging activities handy to help break up the monotony of reading through a long text and help students keep track of important details.
1. Character Analysis Activities
There are a multitude of characters to track and understand can become a long list that is hard to track. Give students a character analysis activity to help visualize relationships, keep track of important characters, and study later. I have a Character Analysis Interactive Notebook activity (this one is digital), and a Character Graphic Organizer (each character has 2 organizers). Top it off with an analysis essay that you can find here.
2. Comic Strip
A fun way to unleash artistic creativity, have students create comic strips to tell the various tales from Odyssey’s epic adventure. I personally love the Cyclops encounter so I have a premade resource available here that is already set up and aligned with common core curriculum standards. But this is such a fun assignment and can be adapted to cover any portion of the epic.
3. Game Board Project
This requires students to work together and utilize higher-level thinking skills. If you’re looking for a fun group project, this nails it. My resource has several requirements that must be fulfilled in order to demonstrate their understanding of the poem. Game pieces and detailed directions are included to make it a smooth process. You could make it your own by having students recreate classic games into the Odyssey, like Monopoly, Candyland, or card games.
4. Reading and Writing
Sometimes “classic” is the way to go. Even if you select a variety of interactive and creative activities, having study questions and reading guides can help students keep track of all the information. You can also refer back to it for studying for any written tests. Reading guides with line-by-line analysis and keeping questions in chronological order can help students comprehend and read deeper. I have a 14 page reading guide here, and writing responses here.
4. Study Ancient Greece
Use this as a prereading activity so students are introduced and familiarized with the culture and figures of Ancient Greece. If you’re looking to introduce research strategies and MLA formats, I have a perfect research assignment you can use here. It’s a great choice before reading “The Odyssey” but also any Ancient Greek related text like “Oedipus Rex” or “Antigone”.
5. Vocabulary Practice
Understanding vocabulary is part of the battle when undertaking longer works like “The Odyssey”. Comprehension can be overwhelming when students see a bunch of words they don’t readily recognize. I break apart vocabulary into two units for the play. My unit includes two word lists (one with definitions and one without), vocabulary charts, table sorts, puzzles and reviews as well as a quiz. It’s super beneficial and front-loading can help students tackle the difficult text with confidence.
6. Group Research Project
Working in groups helps divide the labor and make presenting easier. Students work together to create a research project. The final project is a research paper and presentation presented to the class. This group research project is a great intro to the epic and mythology before students get started reading the poem. Alternatively, you can make this an extension activity.
7. Class Timeline
Keeping a class timeline is another great way to track what is happening in the story. Either with a long piece of chart paper, or even digitally with Google Slides or Padlet, have students track 1-3 things that happen each day based on the readings for that day. Once you are finished, not only will students have an excellent review guide, but it will help students track Odysseus’ journey.
8. Create a Map of Odysseus’ Journey
Yes, I know there are many versions of the map available online, but have students work together in small groups to come up with a map that chronicles Odysseus’ adventure. To get started, have students keep track of quotes from the poem that depict the setting. Then, by using textual evidence, have students work collaboratively to create a map of his journey.
9. Rewrite a Section in Prose
At the start of teaching The Odyssey, some students struggle with it’s format. To help show students that narratives can take poetic form, have students work together to rewrite a small section from verse to prose. Not only will students be able to understand the stry more, but by translating the format of the story, they will eventually see that there is a story in the poem.
10. Keep a Journal
Journaling can look like many things. Students can track in a journal the chronological events. You can use sticky notes for important quotations and organize them in their journal. You can focus on visual journaling or “scrapbooking” the journey from Odysseus’ perspective. Journaling can be paired with interactive notebook activities. You can then read the text for literary element examples, organize vocabulary, or practice identifying parts of speech. It’s a very flexible option and all it requires is a notebook.
Bring some new life to the ancient epic with a few of these activities. What are your favorit activities to incorporate with longer works?