English 9 Enriched: Homeric Similes

Now that The Odyssey is in full swing, as per the Common Core Standards, we are doing close reading of excerpts of the text.

The first thing we did was examine the prologue very carefully.  Once we went through it line by line, we looked at the function of the prologue.  It took a bit of pulling to get literary terms like “characterization” and “foreshadowing,” but we eventually got there.  One thing I don’t do is spoon feed the answers, so when they didn’t get it at first, I started singing television prologues.   Sadly, the older I get, the fewer kids get my TV allusions!  Nobody got my singing of The Brady Bunch, a couple recognized The Fresh Prince of BelAir, … and EVERYONE got Sponge Bob Squarepants!  Oy.

The students had read The Odyssey over the summer for plot, so now we can work on literary analysis…that’s what our class time is for!  Today I pulled seven Homeric similes from Chapters 5-8 and put the list on the board.  Each group had its choice of a different simile to work with (I have six groups in class).  For their chosen simile, they had to create a poster with the following:

  • identify the character in the simile;
  • draw a picture of whatever the character is being compared to;
  • use the simile as a caption (complete with quotation marks and parenthetical citation);
  • and explain the effectiveness of the comparison.

This actually went a lot better than the close reading of the prologue!  When each group presented its poster, students had to follow along in the book, and since these are their own texts that they purchased, I had them annotate each simile.  We then talked about how Homer’s use of the simile was more effective than simply saying, “Hermes flew quickly to Calypso’s island.”   The simile paints a picture of HOW FAST he was flying (Hermes was compared to a gull diving for fish).

The next step is for students to create their own Homeric similes and post them on their classroom website (I have a site for each of my five classes).   The only stipulation I have is that the similes must be school appropriate!

This exercise accomplished several tasks:

  • student choice from a controlled list (but still student choice)
  • close reading of the text
  • interpretation of the text
  • analytical writing
  • collaborative group work
  • creation of a Visible Thinking poster
  • proper citation of text
  • speaking in front of the class
  • several models given as exemplars from the text
  • annotation
  • mirroring an author’s style
  • creative writing
  • appropriate use of technology
  • online publishing

This is a collection of the final posters:

Homeric Similes


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Filed under Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Enriched

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