Are you looking for activities for teaching The Odyssey? Today we’re going to show you some pre-reading, while-reading, and after-reading activities for teaching Homer’s epic.
And because we know you need to claw back your time any way you can, we’ll also look at a few The Odyssey full unit products.
Pre-reading activities for teaching The Odyssey
One of my favorite ways to begin any unit of study is to watch a Crash Course video. I’ve raved about them before, and I’ll do it again. Their videos are funny, fun, and free.
Plus they’re short enough to keep students’ attention. (But long enough for you to check homework, take attendance, or whichever other menial administrivia task is the bane of your teacherly existence).
1. Crash Course Literature The Odyessy worksheet
Again, there are plot spoilers in Crash Course videos. But if you are teaching The Odyssey to struggling readers, you (like me) may be more concerned with your students understanding the story than revealing the plot.
If that’s the case, these videos are great. And if you want to keep those reveals intact, you can always watch the videos after reading the text.
When I use Crash Course videos, I like to use a worksheet that doesn’t require too much writing. Because John Green talks fast. Really fast. So, I generally use my own visual note-taking worksheets, which have the main ideas, some room for drawing, and don’t require students to write more than they want or are capable of in the time.
Sometimes I like to set the movies as homework – they sure beat solving binomial equations. Plus students can watch them a few times if they don’t quite understand the video the first time.
Often, when teaching The Odyssey to low level students (or any complex and culturally unfamiliar text), knowing the story from the start improves their ability to comprehend and analyze the text.
2. Escape room and digital breakout
Another great activity for introducing The Odyssey is this escape room and digital breakout by Nouvelle ELA. The activity can be done as a digital breakout, paper-based escape room, or a combination of the two.
- Greek gods and goddesses
- the characters in The Odyssey using ten core texts that give an overview
- life and customs on Ithaca
- a complete teacher’s guide (set-up, printing checklist, differentiation)
- Homer’s Greece fact sheet
- supplementary activities and research extensions
- a poster for your door
- a quiz and an answer key
3. 10 minute Trojan War pre-reading activity
If you are looking for fun activities for teaching The Odyssey, this activity will familiarize your students with the events of the Trojan War.
The pre-reading activity by The Crazy English Teacher reenacts the ten-year Trojan War in ten minutes.
The activity comes as printable kit that gets students to do a ‘woosh’, a storytelling technique where students act out short scenes in a text.
4. Agree or Disagree
Another great way to begin The Odyssey is to get students to choose a side on various issues raised in the text.
This agree or disagree pre-reading activity by The Lit Guy has ten key issues that students need to choose sides on.
Students then need to be prepared to defend why they chose that side. The activity also includes tips on how to use it in your classroom.
5. Opening activity for The Odyssey
Another of the fun activities for teaching The Odyssey on our list is this opening activity by The Practical English Teacher. The activity includes a set of nine funny multiple-choice questions that ask students what they would do if they were stuck in some of the same situations as Odysseus.
The funny activity mimics the personality-style quizzes often found in magazines. While reviewing the answers, students learn more about the sort of person Odysseus is before reading the text, as well as the major plot elements.
The activity is quick, taking 10-15 minutes, but two bonus activities are also included. Firstly, a list of creative writing prompts for The Odyssey, with a simple grading rubric. Secondly, a graphic organizer to compare The Odyssey to The Spongebob Squarepants Movie.
While reading activities for teaching The Odyssey
Once you’ve finished doing pre-reading or anticipation activities for The Odyssey, you’ll need some activities up your sleeve so that you can keep students engaged and on-task while reading.
1. Reading guide and Greek mythology flip book
This reading guide and Greek mythology flipbook by Danielle Knight is a great tool to use while teaching The Odyssey in high school. Topics covered in the resource are
- literary terms (such as epic, epic hero, epithet…)
- a character map and answer key
- a study guide and answer key
- a hero’s journey visual, chart, and answer key
- a map of Odysseus’ voyage
- a Greek mythology chart and answer key.
The activities enable students to not only learn content, but also practice skills such as reading and summarizing, recalling details, writing, and making inferences.
2. Body biography
Another one of the fun activities for teaching The Odyssey on our list was also created by Danielle Knight. This body biography and characterization activity is a fun way for students to better understand the characters in the text.
The project bundle includes six characters: Odysseus, Penelope, Calypso, Anticlea, Telemachus, and Athena. Students work in groups to complete a collaborative poster on a character.
Students color in and decorate the posters, while also providing information about the characters’
- values and beliefs
- direct quotes
- thoughts about themselves
- things they want to control
- how they changed or stayed the same over the text
- main conflict
- best accomplishments
In discussing these aspects of the characters, students need to comprehend the text. But they must also find textual evidence to support their ideas, research their characters, and practice making inferences.
3. The Odyssey activities bundle
Another great option for activities while teaching The Odyssey is this bundle of activities by The Daring English Teacher. The bundle includes the following seven activities
- board game project – students work in groups to create a board game of Odysseus’ journey using their understanding of the text
- group research project – students work in groups to produce a five-paragraph essay with citation in MLA format as well as a PowerPoint that is presented in class
- character analysis essay – students write a character analysis essay about Odysseus as an epic hero
- differentiated writing response – students complete four paragraph-length responses, each response has two versions – a version for English-speaking students and a version for ESL students
- vocabulary packet – two units of vocabulary for The Odyssey with 15 words each, word lists with and without the definitions, a three-coloumn vocabulary chart, a table sort activity, a crossword puzzle, a bingo review game, a 15-question matching quiz and answer key
- character analysis graphic organizers – students analyze the characters from the text, as well as citing evidence from the text to support their ideas,
- comic strip creative assignment – students use the comic strip template to re-tell the
4. The Odyssey map activity
After reading book 13 of The Odyssey, students can do this activity by Love and Let Lit to better understand Odysseus’ travels. Students need to unscramble the events from the text and create a detailed, visually-appealing map with seventeen destinations.
The activity lasts for 2-3 lessons and can be completed individually or in groups. A lesson plan and student instructions are included, as well as a marking rubric. It also has a print version and a digital Google slides version.
5. The Odyssey bellringers
Also by Love and Let Lit, these entry tasks or bell ringers are great for getting students in the door and engaged in learning. Included are twenty slides covering topics such as
- Greek mythology
- gods and goddesses
- parallel plots
- epic similes
- Margaret Atwood’s Siren Song
A link is included for a student version in Google Slides. And answers are included where appropriate.
6. The Odyssey plot map graphic organizer
Because The Odyssey is mostly told through flashbacks, it can be hard for students to understand the chronological order of events.
A great activity for teaching The Odyssey is this plot map/graphic organizer by Bayering with Freshmen helps students understand where and when major plot points happen.
As well as establishing chronological order, this map also includes
- character recognition
- a death tracker
- and reading comprehension
7. Supplements and updates to make the text more inclusive
While not actually an activity to do with students, this supplemental resource by Nouvelle ELA and Teaching Literacy has ideas on how to make The Odyssey more inclusive.
The resource includes more than 30 inclusive text suggestions and annotated ideas organized by teaching topic.
Suggestions and annotations include ideas such as
- paired texts to incorporate into the study
- future substitutions to request if possible
- text suggestions and annotated ideas about the following topics: what is a hero?, xenia and hospitality, what stories teach about culture, characterization, imagery, and similes/odes
The resource also includes a guide for rethinking the classics including affirmations for rethinking the classics and how to audit your texts.
After reading activities for teaching The Odyssey
Once you’ve read the text, you’ll probably want some of these The Odyssey teaching resources to either review the text or assess student learning.
1. Does Odysseus have PTSD? review activity
This review activity by Laura Randazzo asks students to decide if Odysseus has post-traumatic stress disorder. In doing so, students have to review the text and decide whether or not Odysseus would meet the criteria psychiatrists use to diagnose PTSD.
The activity works with abridged and full-text versions of the play. The activity includes
- A detailed, step-by-step lesson procedure sheet
- a short video clip that provides an overview of PTSD symptoms
- Realistic-looking mental health form to be completed by your class of newly trained psychiatrists
- Completed key with suggested answers
Not only will this activity encourage close analysis of the character of Odysseus, but it will also help students better understand life for returned soldiers.
2. Digital breakout activity
This digital breakout activity by The Literary Maven can be used to introduce or review The Odyssey.
To complete the game, students need to interact with media such as Google slides presentations, videos, and a tour of Odysseus’s journey home. While doing that students find codes to unlock a series of locks.
Topics covered include
- invocation of muse
- in media res
- epic similes
- dactylic hexameter
- stock epithets
- epic heroes
3. Digital escape room review
Another digital escape room activity for The Odyssey is this one by English Bulldog. The entire game is digital and no prep.
In the activity, students work in small groups to solve puzzles to escape the room. The game includes a self-checking Google Form and students get a congratulations message once they complete the game, so you know who has finished.
Also included is a teacher guide with visuals and hints so you can coach students who are finding the game difficult.
Taking approximately forty minutes, the game covers the following topics
- Gods and goddesses in The Odyssey – Athena, Poseidon, Zeus, Aeolus, Hermes, Circe, Calypso, and Helios
- Characteristics of an epic hero (as opposed to a tragic hero)
- Review of plot events and characters
- Literary terms such as – tone, Homeric simile, epic, alliteration, dramatic irony, foreshadowing, epithet
4. Theme park end of unit project
Another of The Odyssey teaching resources on our list is this theme park project by Exceptional ELA.
To complete the project, students work in groups to create and market a theme park using the events and characters from The Odyssey. The project can be created on paper, digitally, or a combination of both.
To complete the project, students must create a theme park map, brochure, and pitch presentation.
5. Final exam with answer key
Finally, this exam with the answer key by Love and Let Lit is a great end-of-unit activity for The Odyssey to assess student learning. It can be used on paper or on Google Forms.
The exam covers the following topics/skills
- match 15 important characters to descriptions
- demonstrate background knowledge with 10 fill in the blank questions
- answer 21 multiple choice questions that cover the entire novel
- complete one short essay question
The exam is editable, so you can tweak the exam to suit what you specifically have covered in class, to change the spelling, or to suit different abilities. There is also an answer key provided so you can mark quickly if you are using a paper-based exam.
Whole unit activities for teaching The Odyssey
The final two activities for teaching The Odyssey are actually full-unit bundles of activities for teaching Homer’s epic poem.
We know teachers are always short on time, so if you don’t want individual activities to round out a unit, these full-unit bundles might be exactly what you need.
1. Unit plan bundle and literature guide by Love and Let Lit
The first of our full-unit bundle of activities for teaching The Odyssey is this 4.5-week unit plan and literature guide by Love and Let Lit.
Some of the activities for teaching The Odyssey that are included in this bundle have been mentioned above. So if you think you would use a few of the activities, this bundle may be a better deal for you.
Included in the bundle are lesson plans and activities for the epic poem. It can also be used in print or digital versions using Google slides and forms.
The activities for teaching The Odyssey include
- 22 detailed lesson plans and unit calendar
- alignment with common core standards
- judgement of Paris background activity and task cards
- reading guides and analysis for all 24 books in The Odyssey
- 20 entry tasks/bell ringers
- map activity
- introduction activity including background information and storyboard
- Socratic seminar discussion activity
- task card activity pack
- final exam with answer key
- discussion activity
- character activity
2. Home classics literature unit by S J Brull
This bundle of activities is a The Odyssey teaching unit that also includes activities for teaching The Illiad. So if you are required to teach both, this bundle may be a better fit for you.
The unit plans include
- The Odyssey teaching guide and The Illiad teaching guide
- anticipation guides and reflections for both texts, which includes quotes that relate to the texts’ themes
- quote analysis and reading quizzes
- text and film essays
- character review project
- after reading discussion using the Socratic method
- author profile and social media
- theme and quote posters
Want more activities for teaching literature?
If you teach literature and want more activities, you might be interested in the following blog posts
- 12 excellent teaching resources for Macbeth – make Macbeth easy
- Teaching Lord of the Flies: 12 awesome activities & wonderful worksheets
- 13 easy, engaging lessons for Romeo and Juliet
- Worried about teaching Shakespeare? How to make it fun + easy
- Teaching Oedipus Rex: 14 fun and engaging activities
- 5 awesome free resources to teach Shakespeare
- Teaching Pride and Prejudice: 10 easy resources
- Fun, engaging, and easy Shakespearean insults lesson you have to try