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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


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • explore the characteristics of an epic.

  • analyze characters from multiple texts.

  • create contemporary situations involving characters from two different texts.

  • demonstrate proper documentation of sources.

  • reflect upon their peers' choices of characters and situation.

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Session One

  1. Display the definition of epic poem.

  2. Work through the characteristics of the definition by discussing how it connects to the features of The Odyssey.

  3. Ask students to discuss whether Running Out of Summer is an epic.

  4. Encourage specific comparisons between the definition and the characteristics of Running Out of Summer.

  5. Explain that students will compare one character from The Odyssey with one from Running Out of Summer, based on their understanding of the characters and epics.

  6. Have pairs or small groups of students use The Hero's Journey interactive to begin comparing the two texts. They should create a printout of the hero's journey of the main character of both works for use in the next session. Because they may choose to focus on a character other than the hero, however, be sure to remind them to include specific references to other characters' involvement in the texts.

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Session Two

  1. If necessary, provide additional time and access to The Hero's Journey interactive to allow students to complete their initial analysis of the two texts.

  2. When students have completed their work with The Hero's Journey interactive, have them brainstorm similar characters from the two texts, and list their responses on the board. If students have difficulty, suggest a character from one text and ask them if there is a similar character in the other text.

  3. Ask students to choose the characters that they will focus on for this activity, referring to the class list for choices.

  4. Provide students access to the ReadWriteThink Interactive Venn Diagram tool or give them the H-Chart Graphic Organizer handout.

  5. Demonstrate how to use the tool or handout. To use the H-Chart Graphic Organizer, students list individual characteristics in the vertical columns and similarities in the horizontal space.

  6. Ask students to compare the two selected characters using the Interactive Venn Diagram or H-Chart Graphic Organizer.

  7. Allow the remainder of the session for students to complete their comparison.

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Session Three

  1. Review students’ comparisons, asking them to share any unexpected similarities or differences that they discovered as they worked.

  2. Explain that students will now place the characters they have chosen in hypothetical contemporary situations.

  3. Introduce the following hypothetical situation as a model for the class orally, or using the Model Situation handout:
    You are the producer for a Survivor television program starring both Odysseus and Nick from Running Out of Summer. It’s your job to choose a setting that would provide challenges for both characters. Support your choice of setting with examples from the texts.
  4. Invite the class to offer suggestions for possible settings. Encourage students to provide details from the texts that back up their suggestions.

  5. Share a model response to the situation, focusing on a shipwreck as the setting. Write the following response on the board or refer to the Model Situation handout:
    The best setting for a Survivor series for both Odysseus and Nick would be a shipwreck. Odysseus survives a shipwreck, as Homer states: “Zeus let fly/ a bolt against the ship, a direct hit. . . . All that night I drifted” (12. 340-46). In a similar way, Nick survives the rapids of Badger Creek. As he and Maria ride the rapids, “Their knuckles and fingers were white as they clung to the ropes” (Morgan 245).
  6. Ask students to identify how the model response provides support from the text.

  7. Invite students to share additional support for the setting, as appropriate.

  8. Referring to your class grammar text or MLA Formatting and Style Guide, discuss the use of parenthetical MLA documentation of quotations. Point to the examples in the Model Situation to demonstrate the technique.

  9. Pass out the Writing Situations handout and the Writing Situations Rubric and then review the expectations for students’ work.

  10. Allow students to begin their work in response to the situations during the remainder of class. If additional work time is needed, ask students to complete their responses for homework.

  11. After students have responded to all of the hypothetical situations, invite them to share one situation of their choice with the class.

  12. Allow class members the opportunity for verbal responses to the shared situations.

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  • If students need more background on the characteristics of an epic, tap the resources in the EDSITEment lesson plan A Story of Epic Proportions: What makes a Poem an Epic?.

  • Following a viewing of the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? discuss similarities among the film, The Odyssey, and Running Out of Summer. Have students complete the Genre Comparison Graphic Organizer to explore the comparisons among the three texts in more detail.

  • As an alternative to Running Out of Summer, show the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and have students complete the same activities focusing on the movie and The Odyssey, using these alternate handouts:

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