Homer's “The Odyssey” is an epic poem frequently read and studied in high school. After fighting in the Trojan War, the main character, Odysseus, has been trying for 10 years to return home only to meet with disaster and disappointment at every turn. The frequent adventures and characters allow students to create timelines, maps, games and character studies to exhibit their understanding of the story.
Map or Timeline
Although scholars debate whether many of the places talked about in the Odyssey are real, assign students to reconstruct a map of the adventures between Troy, where Odysseus served in the Trojan War, and his home in Ithaca. Have students plot locations on their maps beginning with Troy in what is now Northwestern Turkey and ending in the Greek Ionian Islands with illustrations or brief paragraphs about the story. Students can add their presumed locations of the islands of Calypso, the Phoenicians, the Laestrygonians and Circe. The action in “The Odyssey” is not perfectly linear, so have students create an illustrated timeline to help clarify the order of events.
Evaluating the characters along with their motives and relationships is an important part of following the story. Have students demonstrate their understanding of the characters by creating a set of trading cards in the style of baseball cards. On a blank index card, ask each student to design a trading card that gives a picture of a character along with some basic information. On the back, have students add a brief biography of the character. Students can also create digital versions of trading cards using a computer. Include Odysseus's wife, Penelope, his son, Telemachus, or one of Penelope's main suitors, Antinous.
Mock Social Media Site
Have students create a mock-up of a social media Web page for one of the characters from “The Odyssey.” Students need to design a profile page with a picture and basic information. Students should create posts, add pictures, feature product advertisements and include lists of friends and followers for their character. This project could be completed digitally or on poster board. Penelope's profile page might list her relationship status as "complicated," since her husband is presumed dead. Her hobbies might include weaving, weeping and devising impossible tasks for potential suitors. She might post that she's made great progress on her father-in-law's burial shroud, followed by another post saying, "Oops. Those stitches came out. Back to square one." Advertisements on the sidebars could include sewing supplies, bed linens or bow repair shops.
Odyssey Board Game
Assign “The Odyssey” board game as an individual or group project. Make the city of Troy the beginning of the game board and Ithaca, Odysseus's home, the end. Create a long series of square spaces linking the two. On the spaces between these two locations, fill in other places Odysseus visited along with an action to take on the board. Add a space that says “Imprisoned 7 years on Calypso's island: Go back 7 spaces” or “The Lotus Eaters share their fruit: Go back 5 spaces.” Another space might say “Aeolus gives you a bag with the winds in it: Go forward 5 spaces.” Continue to fill in half of the spaces with plot elements from the story and a corresponding action to take on the game board. Add pictures and illustrations around the edges and interior of the spaces.
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