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Myths & Monsters: Real or Imaginary?

Did Ulysses really encounter a one-eyed giant or see his men turned into pigs while sailing home from Troy? Explore the line between fact and fiction with students as they read and illustrate stories from Homer’s “Odyssey.”

  • Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Introduce the lesson with a modified “Whisper Down the Lane” activity. Write the same short message on several different cards. Seat students in rows and hand a card to the first person in each row. Ask each to silently read the card, return it to you, and whisper the message to the next person in the row. Have students continue to pass the message down the row until the last person has heard it. Ask the last person in each row to write down the message and read it to the class. How different are the final messages? Read the original message aloud. Encourage discussion. What are some reasons the message may have changed?
    2. Discuss the oral tradition of storytelling, especially Greek myths and legends. Has anyone heard of Homer? What were the subjects of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”? Are those stories fiction or nonfiction? Who was Heinrich Schliemann and what did he contribute to our understanding of “The Iliad?”
    3. Provide students with a selection of stories from “The Odyssey.” Ask each to select one and read it independently. Discuss the stories as a class. What parts of the stories may be real? What parts may be fictional?
    4. Display a map of the travels of Ulysses (Odysseus) and have students pinpoint the places where the stories took place.
    5. Have students discuss the mental images they have of their stories. What kinds of illustrations do they envision? What colors and media would best communicate the mood of the story? How might strong light/dark contrasts add drama to an illustration? Discuss techniques for texturing and collage.
    6. Provide a variety of well illustrated books for students to study. (Do not include illustrations of “The Odyssey.”) Encourage observations and discussion of the illustrations. Which are most appealing and why? Talk about focus, point of view, and the use of lines, shapes, colors, and textures.
    7. Set out Crayola® Colored Pencils, markers, watercolors, and an assortment of papers and other art materials. Encourage students to select media and colors most appropriate for their individual stories.
    8. Demonstrate special art techniques such as using a spray bottle to create the effect of watercolors with colored markers and water color pencils. Show students how to create watercolor textures with salt, small sponges, or bubble wrap. Also encourage them to rub colored pencils or crayons on paper laid across rough surfaces such as sandpaper or screening.
    9. When student illustrations are complete, display them near the map of Ulysses’ travels. If several students have illustrated the same story, compare the illustrations. What similarities and differences do classmates observe? Ask students to explain their approach to the assignment and the reasons for their choices.
  • Standards

    LA: Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text.

    LA: Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.

    LA: Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.

    LA: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grade level text complexity both independently and proficiently.

    SS: Demonstrate an understanding that different people may describe the same event or situation in diverse ways, citing reasons for the differences in views.

    SS: Compare and contrast different stories or accounts about past events, people, places, or situations, identifying how they contribute to our understanding of the past.

    SS: Identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others.

    VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

    VA: Students will intentionally select and analyze their artwork and the work of others when deciding what artwork to present.

    VA: Students demonstrate an understanding of how art communicates about and helps viewers understand the natural and constructed world.

    VA: Students experience, analyze and interpret art and other aspects of the visual world.

  • Adaptations

    Encourage students to think of a trip they have taken. It need not be to a far off place; even a trip to the grocery store could yield adventure. What were some things they saw or experienced on the trip? How might the story of their trip change if it were passed from person to person over a period of time and became exaggerated? Invite students to tell their stories to one another. Some students may enjoy making illustrated maps to document their journeys.

    Suggest that students interview older family members to discover stories that have been passed down through the generations. Encourage them to write down the stories to preserve them for the future.

    Using a modern map of the Mediterranean area, calculate the number of miles Ulysses may have traveled to get from Troy to his home in Ithaca, Greece.

    Provide an opportunity for students to view a movie about the adventures of Ulysses or the work of Heinrich Schliemann.


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