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The Odyssey


Topic: The Odyssey 

Materials: Role On The Wall poster(outline of Penelope’s body) , Markers, Object for going into role 


§117.315. Theatre, Level I High School

Foundations: inquiry and understanding. The student develops concepts about self, human relationships, and the environment using elements of drama and conventions of theatre. The student is expected to: 

(A)  understand the value and purpose of using listening, observation, concentration, cooperation, and emotional and sensory recall; 

(D)  develop and practice effective voice and diction to express thoughts and feelings; 

(E)  analyze characters by describing attributes such as physical, intellectual, emotional, and social dimensions through reading scripts of published plays;


Creative expression: performance. The student interprets characters using the voice and body expressively and creates dramatizations. The student is expected to: 

(A)  demonstrate safe use of the voice and body; 

(C)  employ effective voice and diction to express thoughts and feelings;

(D)  use physical, intellectual, emotional, and social awareness to portray believable characters and convey a story when applying acting concepts, skills, and techniques;

§110.31. English Language Arts and Reading, Grade 9

Listening and Speaking/Listening. Students will use comprehension skills to listen attentively to others in formal and informal settings. Students will continue to apply earlier standards with greater complexity. Students are expected to:

(A)  listen responsively to a speaker by taking notes that summarize, synthesize, or highlight the speaker's ideas for critical reflection and by asking questions related to the content for clarification and elaboration; 

(B)  follow and give complex oral instructions to perform specific tasks, answer questions, solve problems, and complete processes; 


Listening and Speaking. Students are expected to give presentations using informal, formal, and technical language effectively to meet the needs of audience, purpose, and occasion, employing eye contact, speaking rate (e.g., pauses for effect), volume, enunciation, purposeful gestures, and conventions of language to communicate ideas effectively.

Listening and Speaking/Teamwork. Students work productively with others in teams. Students are expected to participate productively in teams, building on the ideas of others, contributing relevant information, developing a plan for consensus-building, and setting ground rules for decision-making.

§113.41. United States History Studies Since 1877, Social Studies Grade 9

Social studies skills. The student uses problem-solving and decision-making skills, working independently and with others, in a variety of settings. The student is expected to:

(A)  use a problem-solving process to identify a problem, gather information, list and consider options, consider advantages and disadvantages, choose and implement a solution, and evaluate the effectiveness of the solution; and 

(B)  use a decision-making process to identify a situation that requires a decision, gather information, identify options, predict consequences, and take action to implement a decision.

Focus Questions: How can we relate to themes in the odyssey?  Who were some of the stakeholders in Penelope's life and how did they impact her choices? 


INTRODUCE: What does the word loyalty mean to you? If two people were in a committed relationship and agreed to remain loyal to each other what might that mean? Talk about various definitions of loyalty; scribe answers on the board. Invite students to join you in an open area of the classroom to think more personally about some of these questions. 

In this activity we will say that one end of the room is "agree" and the other end is "disagree". After I have read each statement, you are going to stand on this continuum according to what you believe.

EXPLODING ATOM: (10min)            

  1. I know what it’s like to be away from someone I care about.

  2. It’s hard for a teenager to be away from someone they care about for an extended period of time.

  3. If a teenager had to be away from the person they cared most about for a month, (this could be a boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend) without any contact (no email, no phone calls, no letters) they would remain loyal.

  4. If a teenager had to be away from the person they care about most for 1 year, they would remain loyal.

  5. If a teenager had to be away from the person they care about most for 5 years, they would remain loyal.

  6. If a teenager had to be away from the person they care about most for 10 years, they would remain loyal.

Invite students to return to their seats for the processing of the activity.

Processing activity:

  • What did you notice about yourself during this activity?

  • What did you notice about the group during this activity? 

  • Why do you think someone may or may not remain loyal over a long period of time?

  • The story we are going to explore today is about a King and Queen who were separated for TWENTY years. 

Transition: The next book we are going to be reading in class is the epic poem The Odyssey, by Homer, which was written over 2,500 years ago. The Odyssey is the sequel to The Iliad which we read last semester. If you remember from The Iliad the story takes place in ancient Greece. Odysseus—King of Ithaca and many other men had left to fight in the Trojan War. Odysseus helped lead the charge in the Trojan horse that brings about the fall of Troy. When Odysseus leaves to fight the war he leaves his wife Penelope and his children at home. The Odyssey tells two stories: it is the story of Odysseus’s journey home to his wife, Penelope in Ithaca; and it is the story of Penelope, Odysseus’s wife and queen, who has been waiting 20 years for her husband to return. For our work together today we are going to think about both of these stories, what might have happened to Odysseus to keep him away from twenty years and what happened to his wife, Penelope who was left waiting for him at home. Let’s start by imagining what might be happening with Penelope over the long time she is waiting.


ROLE ON THE WALL – What’s happening with Penelope? (10min) 

Draw a very simple outline of the body on the board, label it Penelope. What do you think the people around Penelope might have been saying to her as she loyally waited for her husband?  Brainstorm phrases that might have been said to Penelope, write these around the outside of P.’s body. Who might be saying these things? After each phrase, brainstorm who might have said it to her and write those names beside the phrases. How does hearing these things make Penelope feel? Write down P.’s feelings inside the outline of her body. Connect certain statements to certain feelings and people. What are some of Penelope’s character traits? (e.g., the factors about who she is that motivates her decisions)

Transition: It sounds like there were certainly people around Penelope who were having an effect on her. (Note this response may change depending on what students say!) She could interpret these statements in many different ways. Let’s explore these situations a little bit further.


PAIRED IMPROVISATION (10min)                         

Split class into groups of two by counting around the circle. Ask each pair to sit together. In just a moment, you will engage in a brief improvisation. Each pair needs to make a decision. One person will play Penelope and the other will play a character who is invested in Penelope waiting or not waiting for her husband to return. (Refer to Role on the Wall notes.) I remind you that we can play across race/ethnicity and gender in our improvisation. Will all the Penelope’s raise their hands? Terrific. Before you begin, please agree on who the secondary character will be. If there is a name (real or made up) for the other character please decide on this as well. 

Once this is done, Penelope will find a place in our room to sit and work at her loom. Penelope, you are weaving a tapestry. Second character you enter and offer the first line to start the scene. I encourage you to use the dialogue we created on the board to get you started. Any questions? When I clap my hands please stop talking and give me your attention. I will do this several times during the improvisation.  Students move to places and begin. The improvisation is facilitated through parallel play with all the scenes unfolding at the same time. The facilitator freezes the action and “spotlights” certain groups’ conversation then asks all the groups to resume their conversation. CLAP As I move around the room, if I put my hand on your shoulder please complete the phrase “I feel...”  

Transition: It sounds like Penelope was under a lot of pressure to change her mind during the time her husband was away. In a moment, we’re going to participate in a Town Hall meeting where the people of Ithaca can share their concerns for Penelope. We’ll also find out a little bit more about how all this pressure felt for Penelope and what she is thinking about. I will be going into role as the Leader of the Town Assembly to help facilitate the Town Hall. You will be playing the same characters you just played in the Paired Improvisation. When I put on this scarf and countdown from 3-2-1, I will be in role. 


TOWN HALL MEETING (10min)     

Facilitator in Role: Here Ye Here Ye people of Ithaca, do I have news for you. I have here all the people who visited Queen Penelope today. We all know Penelope is lonely waiting all these years for Odysseus to come home, but we are dying to know: How is she doing? What’s going? Let’s have each person introduce themselves and tell us a bit about what you talked to Queen Penelope about. 

Invite any person to speak who cares to talk. 

Ask all of the Penelopes to come to the front of the room to answer some questions about what has been happening with them. I hear that a lot of people have come to see you. Who has come to see you and what did they have to say? How have the visitors affected your choice to wait for your husband? Take a few questions from the others in the Townhall for the character of Penelope. Scribe some of the key information we learned about the character on the board.

Ask all of the Suitor/Servants/Family to come to front of the room. Invite each character to introduce who they are before they talk. Who are you and why did you decide to go talk to Penelope about her missing husband? How did the conversation go? Did you get what you wanted? Why or why not? Take questions from the others in the Townhall if there is time and interest. Thank the characters and discuss/scribe some of key information we learned from the folks around/serving the Queen.

Transition: We will all step out of characters, now. In 3-2-1 Let’s return to our seats and reflect on all the exploration we did today as participants.



Describe: As we look at the information we generated about Penelope, what are the key character traits that drive Penelope’s decision to remain loyal to her husband? (If needed: these might be a word/phrase listed here or something that summarizes these ideas) As we look at the information we generated about the people around Penelope, what motivates the people around Penelope to tell her certain things?

Analyze: Which characters around Penelope do you predict might have the most influence on her choice to remain loyal to her husband? Why? What’s another answer to this question?

Relate: We started our class today thinking about our personal relationship to loyalty. Think now about who has influence on the decisions that teenagers make to remain loyal to someone. As you think about your own decisions to remain loyal to friends, to family, or even to yourself I invite you to consider what motivates your decisions? Who puts pressure on you to make a certain decision? And why they might be putting this pressure on you? 

*This could just be a hook for the reading, could journal about it, or think pair if the group is close.*

Tonight we’ll begin by reading the first two chapters of the story. Read closely. Let’s see if any of our predictions about Penelope and whom we think SHE MIGHT BE and the people around her are true.

Extensions/Applications : 

Activity: Stage Pictures - Where in the World is Odysseus?

What happened to him?

  • Generate predictions as a group; make a large master list on the board. Encourage all ideas.

  • Break students into groups of three and have them pick one idea and ask them to explore that idea through the creation of three stage pictures that tell the beginning, middle, and end of the story. 

Activity: Journal Entry

Write a journal as if you are Penelope or one of the stakeholders based on some of the ideas that came up in the improvisation.

Students will make predictions about some of the themes in the Odyssey and find connections to their own lives.