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Teaching the Epic through Ghost Stories
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Four 50-minute sessions|
Our oral tradition of telling ghost stories, with which most students are familiar, builds a useful bridge to the oral tradition of the ancient epic narrators. Students begin by examining ghost stories and brainstorming a list of qualities that make the stories vivid and interesting. They then use a literary elements map as they write a ghost story they have heard, but have never seen written, and then share their stories orally with the class. Finally, students explore the genre of epics and how they are related to oral storytelling. This lesson also includes support for English language learners.
Literary Elements Mapping: This online tool can be used by students to create a character map, conflict map, resolution map, or setting map, for stories they are reading or writing.
At a time when television and reading were unheard of, ancient epics entertained, they passed on the history of a place and people, and they taught behavior. Students with a sense of these goals in their own oral histories have a context for understanding such ancient epic writings. To feel that link even more powerfully, they need to hear the words of the epics. As Beowulf translator Kevin Crossley-Holland writes, an epic "should be read out loud-an epic in the oral tradition is never going to sit very easily on the printed page" (Miller 8). Enjoying ghost stores, particularly stories about a place that they know, helps students to picture ancient storytellers and their listeners as they gather around a fire to hear an epic. Hearing ghost stories also helps them to appreciate a good storyteller. With the connections between ghost stories and epics still strong in students' minds, you and your students can move directly to reading The Odyssey, Beowulf, or another epic after completing this activity.
This lesson is based on: Broderick, Vincent J. "Odysseus and the Hook Man: Teaching the Epic through Ghost Stories." English Journal 86.6 (October 1997): 94-96.
Miller, James E. Jr. et al., eds. 1976. England in Literature: Macbeth Edition. New York: Scott, Foresman.