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Lesson Plan

Weaving the Old into the New: Pairing The Odyssey with Contemporary Works

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Weaving the Old into the New: Pairing The Odyssey with Contemporary Works

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Patsy Hamby

Patsy Hamby

Dallas, Georgia


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



After reading and discussing The Odyssey and a contemporary epic such as Running Out of Summer—a story that follows the protagonist's journey from Atlanta to Santa Monica to attend school—students select one character from each work as the basis for a comparison-contrast graphic organizer. Then, given a handout with five hypothetical contemporary situations, students determine which of the options best suits both characters. Students must justify the specific reasoning behind their decisions through their use of exact quotations and proper documentation. As an alternative or extension, students can complete the same activities with the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? or another work from the Contemporary Epic Booklist.

This lesson plan was developed as part of a collaborative professional writing initiative sponsored by the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project (KMWP) at Kennesaw State University.

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The Hero's Journey: Using this online tool, students learn about the elements of the hero’s journey, analyze a text that follows the hero’s journey pattern, or start creating a hero story of their own.

Interactive Venn Diagram: Students use this online tool to compare and contrast two works of literature.

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"The first purpose of an epic poem," notes Carol Jago in With Rigor For All: Teaching the Classics to Contemporary Students, "is to entertain, to tell a story" (13). And while the excitement, adventure, and heroics inherent in reading an epic might provide substantial engagement for some students, Jago argues that teachers should not stop there. She notes that "close at heels of pleasure is the message that...we [like heroes in classical epics] must define and contest the 'issues of importance' for our own society" (13).

Jago recommends using contemporary texts to bridge the gap between the themes of a classical epic and the issues that are more immediately familiar to students. This lesson offers a creative way to make such connections between the classic and the contemporary while enhancing students' understanding and appreciation of each.

Further Reading

Jago, Carol. 2000. With Rigor For All: Teaching the Classics to Contemporary Students. Portland, ME: Calendar Islands.


Webb, Allen. "Digital Texts and the New Literacies." English Journal 97.1 (September 2007): 83-88

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