Ia 2 –Fighting Fate in

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Unit Assessment:

Given the complexity of assessment in ELA, there are three assessments intended to monitor student progress:

  • IA2 – on-demand assessment of independent reading ability, transfer of key skills, engagement with fresh prompts and pulse check on general performance with text based questions.

  • Seminar or passage research?

  • PBA Response: The unit will build to a culminating Performance-Based Assessment on the themes of fate and freewill. This will require students to adequately track the themes over the course of the novel and perform several close reading/seminar/passage identification activities with these themes in mind. The prompt is below:

PBA Prompt:

In Book I of Homer’s The Odyssey, Zeus states: “Ah, how shameless—the way the mortals blame the gods.  From us alone, they say, come all their miseries.” This statement establishes an underlying theme pertaining to the ideas of fate and free will and the degree to which men and women are in control of their future. Based upon Homer’s portrayal of Odysseus and his journey home to Ithaca, to what extent can we attribute Odysseus’ challenges, failures, and successes to the strengths and flaws in his character? To what extent are external forces (gods and goddesses, other people, the natural environment, etc.) responsible for these challenges, failures, and successes?

Flow of Unit:
Week 1 Focus: Who was Homer? Where did he come from?

  • How do the experiences, values, beliefs or cultural expectations of an author shape the nature of a literary work?

  • Texts: Internet resources, Greek Mythology, Introduction to The Odyssey, and Joseph Campbell’s interview

  • Skill Focus: Reading to Learn

  • Introducing: Ancient Greece, Oral Tradition, Heroism, and Gods and Goddesses

The unit begins with students acquiring critical content about the culture and values of Ancient Greece by reading selections from Edith Hamilton’s mythology and accompanying non-fiction texts. By reading selections about the Trojan War and other myths, students will gain the backstory that will make reading The Odyssey more relevant as well as underscore particular themes or values of life in Ancient Greece. During this first week, scholars will also gain valuable content about Homer and critical theories about his life and who he was by reading an introduction to The Odyssey that elaborates on his life and oral tradition. Next, students will grapple with defining heroism in Ancient Greek society by applying Campbell’s definition to a short passage from The Odyssey. Lastly, students will perform a close reading of the initial pages of the book in order to reinforce the idea of the gods and their ability to meddle in mortals’ lives. Please note that the content acquisition days involve summarizing; the rationale is that not only is summary an integral part of the Common Core Standards, it is also a unit goal and foundational for more complex close reading students will do later in the unit.

Week 2 Focus: Has the definition of heroism changed over time?

  • Defining the hero: How have heroes been defined throughout the course of literary history?

  • Texts: Book 9-10 of The Odyssey

  • Skill Focus: Reading for understanding; Characterizing Odysseus

  • Introducing: Odysseus as a flawed hero; strategies to read epic poetry

The following week, students return for the reading of the text with an extended reading phase. Since students will begin to grapple with the difficulties of ancient epic poetry, it makes sense to slow down for comprehension. Teacher should focus on modeling reading and tracking for understanding. Analysis will happen during an initial seminar where students will make connections between Odysseus’ heroism and larger themes of heroism and fate. During the analysis phase, it makes sense for teachers to highlight the conflicts in Odysseus’ character. He has traits of heroism that were noted in the previous week, but he is also deeply flawed. Most notably, be sure to highlight passages with Polyphemus at the end of Book IX.

Week 3 Focus: Reading The Odyssey with a focus on theme

  • Introduction to Theme: What ideas have recurred in The Odyssey so far?

  • Texts: Book 10

  • Skill Focus: Tracking and identifying theme; passage presentations

  • Introducing: Definition of theme and possible themes to track for reading; For PBA Prompt: External forces that get in the way of Odysseus’ return, namely his crew

Teachers should define theme and begin highlighting more explicitly big ideas and important passages for the PBA prompt during the third week of instruction. Teachers may want to introduce the PBA prompt this week, but could hold off until next week as well. The passage analysis work at the end of the week works to define passages that could be very useful for theme. Suggested passages are noted in weekly plans, but there may be other passages individual teachers wish to highlight.

Week 4 Focus: Reading The Odyssey with a focus on theme

  • Defining the quest: Can an individual overcome fate? Does man determine his life’s outcomes or do outside forces determine it for him?

  • Texts: Books 12

  • Skill Focus: Seminar/Fishbowl Discussion

  • Introducing: Highlighting the themes of the PBA prompt more specifically, connections between theme and other literary devices.

Although students have already engaged in seminars by this point in the year, introducing a fishbowl seminar has benefits to promote student critical thinking and discussion. Teachers can use this format more regularly throughout the year to prompt greater student participation, more thorough note taking, and even peer to peer evaluation by assigning students to track a particular peer throughout discussion. By week 4, it is encouraged to use this two day seminar format to promote analysis of literary devices, namely conflict and characterization, and their relationship to the PBA prompt of fate and freewill. Be sure to encourage students to name particular elements and devices as they come up and connect these devices to theme.

Week 5 Focus: Reading The Odyssey with a focus on theme

  • Author’s Craft: How does Homer structure his work? How does this inform theme?

  • Texts: Books 21-22 of The Odyssey

  • Skill Focus: Plot and Structure Analysis

  • Introducing: Plot structure; reintroducing a greater discussion around the significance of homecoming for the PBA prompt; highlights the suitors as an external obstacle that Odysseus must face

During week 5, it is important to note and review plot structure as we are nearing the climax of the novel. Analysis lessons during this week should prompt students to reflect on Homer’s choices in structuring the epic. After students identify plot structure for particular books and for the work as a whole, teacher asks students to connect the form of the epic to its function: how does this structure highlight particular themes?

Week 6 Focus: Why has The Odyssey stood the test of time?

Defining themes: What themes are most important in The Odyssey? What are the lasting impressions these themes leave on a modern reader?

Texts: Books 22-23 of The Odyssey

Skill Focus: Tracking Theme and meaning—how do particular themes develop throughout the text? Evaluation: Which themes resonate with modern readers?

Introducing: Whole text evaluation; highlights the importance of family and Odysseus and Penelope’s love
Week 6 marks the end of our reading and a summative seminar in which students end by evaluating thematic focuses. Be sure to build in time before the end of the unit to give students the PBA prompt On-Demand.

Week 7 Focus: Thematic Relevance and Allusion

Defining and Reading Literary Criticism: How do allusions and revisions to original works add new meaning?

Texts: “Homer’s Polytheism”; excerpts from the film O Brother Where Art Thou?

Skill Focus: Literary Criticism; Allusion; discussion of director’s choice in film critique

Introducing: Allusion; bridging a gap between ancient texts and modern interpretations
Week 7 introduces the ideas of allusion and an on-going discussion that happens when works as significant as The Odyssey spark other works of art.
Week 8 Focus: Feminist Readings and Close Readings

Defining and Reading Literary Criticism: How do allusions and revisions to original works add new meaning?

Texts: “Feminist Criticism in Departments of Literature”; “Sirens”; “An Ancient Gesture”

Skill Focus: Literary Criticism, Allusion

Introducing: Feminist Criticism
The final week closes with a closer look at the female characters in The Odyssey through close reading of poetry. Use this week to gain deeper understandings of themes tracked throughout the novel: fate and freewill, heroism, homecoming and family, honor and loyalty.

Goals to Mastery/Quality

By the conclusion of Unit 3, scholars should have mastered the following big ideas:

  • While art and literature are created under the constraints of specific cultural context (time and place), great works of art that stand the tests of time connect to the human experience.

  • Homecoming, heroism, and human purpose are three themes that appear in The Odyssey but also appear in other works of literature.

  • Specific authorial choices, such as the use of simile, epithets, and imagery contribute to the development of larger literary devices, including characterization, conflict, and ultimately theme.

  • There are multiple ways to interpret a work of literature, but interpretations must be backed up with accurate readings and logical inferences.

Annotation Focus

  • Thematic focus and its relationship to other devices and elements: Homecoming, Fate, Freewill, Heroism

  • Conflict

  • Character traits (Heroic Qualities of Odysseus)

  • Character development

  • Unpacking figurative language

IA Aligned Questions




The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles

  • Books 9, 10, 12, 21, 22, 23

Supplemental Texts by Genre


  • “The Trojan War” in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology

  • Readings on Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, and the Trojan War from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology

  • “Daedalus and Icarus”;

Historical Context:

  • Pericles Funeral Oration—values of Ancient Greece

  • Nonfiction articles about Life in Greece, The Battle of Marathon, Women in Ancient Greece

  • Podcast on the Trojan War: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01j6srl

Literary Criticism:

  • “Homer’s Polytheism” from the book All Things Shining by Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly. In attachment

    • This is a GREAT text for further teacher-reading, but sections of this are very applicable to the PBA prompt and could inform some very strong lesson

  • “Feminist Criticism in Departments of Literature”

  • Excerpts from Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces”

  • Visual text of the hero’s journey: http://www.thewritersjourney.com/graphictwo.gif

Works that references to Ancient Greece and The Odyssey:

  • Poetry

    • “Sirens” by Margaret Atwood: http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoem.do?poemId=98

    • “An Ancient Gesture” by Edna St Vincent Millay: http://allpoetry.com/poem/8476191-An-Ancient-Gesture-by-Edna_St._Vincent_Millay

    • “The Makers” by Howard Nemerov: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-makers/

    • Telemachus Poems by Louise Gluck (In attachment)

  • Films:

    • O Brother Where Art Thou?

Other Ancient Works that fit the theme of Fate:



Knowledge & Text:

  • Is Odysseus a quintessential hero? How have heroes been defined throughout the course of literary history?

  • Can an individual overcome fate? Does man determine his life’s outcomes or do outside forces determine it for him?

Transferable Skill:

  • What themes recur throughout literature’s history?

  • What makes a great story? What is the relationship between great stories and how they connect to the human experiences?

  • How do the experiences, values, beliefs or cultural expectations of an author shape the nature of a literary work?

  • How do an author’s choices create a central message or theme in a novel?



  • RI.9-10.2. (Central Idea) Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RI.9-10 3. (Whole text level analysis) Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

  • RI9.4. (Word, phrase level analysis) Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone)

  • RI.9-10.6. (POV & Culture) Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author’s cultural context influences his point of view or purpose.


Below are descriptions of the diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments for Unit 9. The formative assessments may be used daily, weekly, and in combination to measure scholars’ progress toward unit goals. The summative assessment should be delivered uniformly across the grade in order to accurately measure scholars’ achievement.




  • Do Nows, as deliberately linked to necessary world knowledge

  • Class work artifacts from reading notebooks, annotations, summaries, class or small-group discussions, etc.

  • Scholar-teacher conferences

  • Close reading performance

  • Weekly Quizzes, either about knowledge and the text, skills and the text, or both

  • Homework

  • Exit tickets

  • IA2

  • PBA 2A

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