Monthly Archives: January 2013

English 9 Regents: The Sirens

For this essay assignment, I have students RHA (read, highlight, and annotate) the song sung by the Sirens in The Odyssey and the Margaret Atwood poem “Siren Song” (I do not do this assignment with the Enriched students because “Siren Song” has been used as an AP poem in the past).   Students then have to look at the elements of persuasion used by the Sirens in each piece and then compare/contrast the attitudes and behaviors exhibited by the mythical creatures as part of their persuasive technique.

This fits in well with the PARCC framework and the Common Core Standards’ push toward examining persuasive writing and creating arguments.  The students have to explain how the Sirens attempted to persuade their victims in each piece.

As an opener, we also do a Visible Thinking Exercise using John Waterhouse’s painting, “Ulysses and The Sirens”:


Sirens Essay Assignment

Your Task: Select one point of comparison and two points of contrast regarding the behaviors and attitudes of the Sirens from the epic The Odyssey attributed to Homer and the poem “Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood.


  1. Introduction-  what it means to be tempted by beauty or by a call of distress.  What is a Siren? Build to thesis statement.
  2. Body (remember to focus on behaviors and attitudes of the Sirens in each piece)
    1. Point of comparison between the two pieces (use two chunks)
    2. Point of contrast between the two pieces (use two chunks)
    3. A different point of contrast between the two pieces (use two chunks)

III.       Conclusion

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Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Regents

English 9 Enriched: Elegies of The Odyssey

In a effort to continue with learning about lyric poetry, the students wrote elegies for characters in The Odyssey.

Your Task:  Write an elegy to one of the characters from Homer’s The Odyssey.  Remember that an elegy, like an ode, has no set stanza structure or rhyme scheme, but elegies ARE usually meant to be set to music.  That means that there must be some kind of rhythm to the poem.

You may choose your structure (quatrains, cinquains, etc…) and you may choose to have a rhyme scheme.  Things to keep in mind about elegies:

  • Although they have no set structure, elegies do contain three sections that address the three stages of grief:

The Lament

The Praise (ode-ish)

The Consolation

  • The elegy most often does not give the person’s name in the poem… it is usually found in the title.
  • The poem most often characterizes the person being elegized.
  • You must have either: a) a number of stanzas divisible by three for each of the stages of loss (see “Oh Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman), or b) three separate sections, each for the stages of loss (see “Elegy to W. B. Yeats” by W.H. Auden)

Student Examples 

“Elegy to Argos”  by Phoebe H.

I’m sorry, my dear companion!

For years you had no care.

Left in alone in manure with fleas in your hair,

Unfed, undeserving, tired and old

Unlike the companion I left long ago.

But now, companion, you’ve died of grief

Did you know? I’m sorry I could not greet you.

Just as my eyes met yours,

A final, last look,

And you’ve closed your eyes.

A final, last look,

I’ve said my goodbyes.

I remember, my dear ally!

You loved to run around.

Battle scars, memories, ever since you were young.

The best tracker, so quick and strong!

You followed me and never went wrong.

As others praised me, I would praise you.

Faithful, old friend, you knew me at once!

Forever my loyal ally,

You’d follow me,

To the ends of the earth.

You’d follow me,

Till your spirit fled earth.

Move on, my dear comrade!

The troubles are no more.

The careless maids and the haughty suitors,

Their lives were reaped, and set to roam.

Peace has now returned to our home.

You would have fought by my side.

We still will share the victory.

Let your spirit run free!

Rest in the afterlife,

You’ll be remembered.

Rest in the afterlife,

At peace, forever.


“Elegy to Agamemnon” by Jaime L.

A marriage should be filled with love, happiness, and compassion

And trust, above all, of any fashion

But instead, his was not meant to be

As the tale is here for all to see

A great victory beheld our lives in times of great sorrow

The men all eager to return home by tomorrow

But out great leader returns to doom

For his unfaithful wife has been wooed

Our great leader is dead, struck down by the lover of his unfaithful wife

No breath stirs his chest, his soul fleeing to the afterlife

A great warrior was he!

Fighting to the end, seeing the oncoming victory!

Aiding King Menelaus, his loving brother

He fought to end the war brought upon by the beautiful Helen’s lover

How strong was he, the great king of Argos!

But bear in mind

His great soul is fine

As it travels to Elysium

That great hero had done great deeds in life

A pity, for what happened with his wife

Though he will soon settle in an Eden

He was brave, cunning, and smart

And will live forever in our beating hearts

All right from the start.


“Elegy to Elpenor” by Trevor C.

For your death Princely Odysseus best accept the blame

As he unleashed Poseidon’s wrath that upon the crew trouble would rain

We know that you took the fall for Odysseus being big-headed

When we heard that the crew was to die, the journey home became dreaded

I will always mourn your powerful presence

But I hope the underworld will be for you, a great residence

You can be assured that you didn’t deserve this wicked plummet

Knowing that this could have been avoided makes me sick to my stomach

You were a loyal one to the crew as could be seen in your brotherly gaze

How were you to know your fate after being awoken and all a-dazed

The crew didn’t know what they had until they lost you, a major part of the crew’s puzzle

Why they tried to leave Circe’s island without you makes me befuddled

You were always a companion, a truly loyal fellow

But you had to fall to a death that was anything but mellow

We hope you rest easy, after all you have been selfless

But the death was partly your fault, no one is totally flawless

After your death, carrying on will be very hard to manage

We can try to push past all our emotional damage

Your crew will never be the same again, on them your personality was impressed

On the subject of your death the crew may also have to digress

Your family will eventually heal after being in total despair

Don’t feel grief about dying young, I know it may be unfair

Your body was treated and buried with great pride

As for the sea-god Poseidon, we all now greatly despise.


“Elegy to Anticlea” by Ryan H.

O Anticlea, beloved mother of mine

My heart swelled, dropped deep in decline

As I witnessed your being, unwhole

Dwelling in the land of dead souls

O what a terrible, unpleasant surprise

For still inside, my forsaken heart cries

For you, I  attempt so desperately to embrace

Yet, to no avail, I am without solace

Learning of your honorable demise, my morale upped

No matter that your demise was so abrupt

The fact that you perished of grief for me

Only heightens your unmitigated legacy

You were a providing, nurturing, and loving mother

In these traits you showed, you would never falter

You lived your life with honor and respect

Now that you’re gone, I must reflect

O father of mine, great Laertes

Hear me now, O hear me please

Do not grieve for too long

To do so would be so wrong

As our departed member would persist against it

Of that her humble soul would not permit

She would want us to be our boldest

And live our lives to their fullest


“Elegy to Achilles” by Alessandra P.

Our hearts are heavy

For we lost a great hero

All Achaeans mourn for you

You left us miserable and abandoned

The sky is now gray

The days are now dark

Now that you are gone we lost all hope

You led us through the battle of troy

You brought us victory and hope

You were brave and determined

You were a loyal friend

A fearless man and a strong leader

You were the greatest Greek warrior

and lived an honorable life

We know that you legacy will live on

What you did while alive will overcome your death

For not even death can conquer the hero that will live on forever

For you have given us the best of you

We are honored to have experienced what you had to offer

The hero that lived in you will spark the hero in all of us from generation to generation

It is time to lay down your sword and rest in peace

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Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Enriched

English 9 Enriched: Odes for The Odyssey

Because of the change in curriculum, we no longer have a formal full-length poetry unit at this time.  In an effort to build poetry into the PARCC framework, I added lyric poems to The Odyssey unit.  The following is an assignment I gave surrounding odes after we had done the following prep work:

1- defined Pindaric and Horatian odes and the purpose of an ode altogether

2- read and analyzed the structure of “Ode to Aphrodite” by Sappho (example of Pindaric Ode)

3- read and analyzed the structure of “The Ship of State” by Horace (example of Horatian Ode)

4- read and analyzed the structure and the content of several odes from T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (“Macavity the Mystery Cat”, “The Rum Tum Tugger”, and “Mungojerry and Rumpleteezer”)

5- compared student analyses of Eliot poems (speaker, tone, mood) with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s interpretation of the same poems in the musical Cats.  Analyzed Webber’s characterization of each cat (speaker, tone, musical style, choreography, costuming, lighting) and justified his choices with textual evidence from Eliot’s poems.

Students then had to complete the following assignment:

Odes of The Odyssey

You have been writing an ode to one of the characters from Homer’s The Odyssey.  Remember that an ode has no set stanza structure or rhyme scheme, but odes ARE meant to be set to music.  That means that there must be some kind of rhythm to the poem.

You may choose your structure (quatrains, cinquains, etc…) and you may choose to have a rhyme scheme.  Since odes are meant to be songs containing emotion, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

1- Pindaric odes carry an elevated vocabulary because they are meant to be “production numbers,” so to speak.  The elevated vocabulary stems from the heightened emotion toward the person.

2- Pindaric odes have strophes and antistrophes… call and response (See “Ode to Aphrodite” by Sappho).

3- Horatian odes are more contemplative… thinking ABOUT something/someone that is not present, but wishing it were (See “The Ship of State” by Horace).

4- The vocabulary level of a Horatian ode is not as elevated as that of the Pindaric because the Horatian are not on as grand a scale.

THINK!  If you are going to write “Ode to Athena,” which style would best befit the Goddess of Wisdom: Pindaric or Horatian?  What about Poseidon?  Odysseus?  Which might best fit Telemachus or Penelope?

Also, you must keep in mind a SPEAKER.  YOU are not delivering these odes personally…but who MIGHT these words belong to?  The choice of speaker will determine the TONE of the poem.  You do NOT have to reveal who the speaker is… the reader should be able to make an educated guess based on  how he/she interprets the tone of the poem (remember the exercise we did the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s interpretation of T.S. Eliot’s poems?).



“Ode to the Sirens” by James W.

O wondrous singers afar!
Fair maids of song fairer still.
To see thine faces is my will,
though I am bound to this spar.

Would that I could join you there,
but mine ship is locked on course!
Heartless men hold me by force,
ignoring my hateful glare!

Sing to me of vict’ry brave!
Please great Sirens, sing of Troy,
where I fought, leaving my boy
and the wife for whom I crave!

Thine song reaches me alone:
I hear you cry “come, brave soul!
“With us your life will be whole!”
On my pleas to join you drone.

Sirens fair, perched on thine isle,
may your music never end!
Ever my ear will I lend
‘till away my life should while!


“Ode to the Earth-Shaker” by Jack S.

Brother O brother how I envy you too

You shake the Earth, causing tremors above

You control the sea and you devastate sailors

Such a fearful Earth-Shaker

O Poseidon you are so clever and wise

O Neptune how strong and mighty you are

You best all sailors and strike fear in their hearts

Wise and powerful Earth-Shaker

Your kin are great, they beat most men

Polyphemus lies in his cave feasting on mortals

He cursed Odysseus with your power

The great and fatherly Earth-Shaker

I must govern the dead

You can control the seas

At least I have Persephone

The grand, sea-faring Earth-Shaker

The other gods fear you so much

But they always leave me out

When you raise your trident, everyone listens

Strong and respected Earth-Shaker


“Ode to Odysseus” by Jason M.

You left our house to go to war,
So you are not with me and our son anymore.
You bravely fought for ten years,
But when the war ended, even you filled the air with cheers.

You’ve been gone for twenty years,
When you didn’t come home I cried many tears.
I long for you to come home,
But instead you stay at sea and roam.

Odysseus you are so clever,
Trying not to miss you is a terrible endeavor.
Having you home will solve my trouble,
You will send the suitors packing on the double.

You are a glorious king residing in your palace’s hall,
You clearly stand far above all.
Even Zeus admits that you’re almost divine,
I long for you to be once again mine.

Odysseus you are so mighty,
And when you are near your enemies feel flighty.
Glorious Odysseus you are on your way home,
So that you can once again sit on you throne.


“Ode to an Enchantress” by Ishitri B.

Oh enchanted Circe,

What fateful winds hath brought me.

To thy abode that you reside,

Among the seas that I did ride.

Oh wicked Circe,

For my men hath troubled you.

With the rath cradled in thy heart,

Squealing swine you formed them to.

Oh loving Circe,

The passion I felt for thee.

Burning like the scorching sun,

It is no wonder you chose me.

Oh beautiful Circe,

Your flowing locks long and divine.

Ensnared my beating heart,

And gave no choice but to make you mine.

Oh treacherous Circe,

Ruling the minds of many men.

Enslaved, beguiled and played us all,

Thus I knew to leave you then.


“Ode to Penelope” by Trevor C.

Faithful wife of Odysseus, where does your husband wander?

If you think about what Odysseus is doing, one could so simply ponder

Don’t you ever question that your husband’s love for you is not everlasting?

If I get the chance, I will reel you into my love that I am casting.

Do you ever feel so lonesome being confined?

But if you lived with me, our love could be divine

You know I sometimes get the feeling of your lonely

I stand out from those slobbering suitors, unlike me, they are quite homely

I could even make the pain of Telemachus’ death minimal

You may have observed the suitors’ behavior in your house, acting like criminals

We could be top birds of our castle

And destroy any lovers presenting you a hassle

I can see who you want as a loyal husband, I can tell your desires

You know you want a man who loves you with a burning passion, like a crackling fire

Being safe with me in the deep depths of the castle, we could live such simple lives

This security wouldn’t be at the hands of others who our love they’d attempt to deprive

Why I know that you’d do anything to keep me with you and elated

To do this now, I know you haven’t even debated

But we know that sometime our souls will have to evade our beings

And about our lives in the underworld, you know I have already being dreaming


“Ode to Athene” by Emily M.

O goddess Athene, you have been my guide,

In times of hardship when I would rather hide.

Those obstacles I would not have faced,

Shan’t it been for you I would not have reached my place.

Your aid has been like no others!

O Pallas Athene, you have watched over me,

In times of trouble you gave me strength to not flee.

Those creatures I would not have passed,

Shan’t it been for you I would not have reached home at last.

Your aid has been like no others!

O clear-eyed Athene, you have taken many forms,

Without you I would have been caught up in large storms.

Those enemies I would not have beat,

Shan’t it been for you I would have experienced defeat.

Your aid has been like no others!

O grey-eyed Athene, you have done for me so much,

Without you I would not have had a crutch.

My family I would not again see,

Shan’t it been for you I would forever be lonely.

Your aid has been like no others!

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English 9 Enriched: Ariadne’s Thread (aka The Critical Lens Essay)

Cultural mythologyOur approach to The Hero’s Journey in myth was in several phases.    I am a great believer in making posters to show student thinking.  By limiting what goes on each poster, students become more focused on what they need to take from the story.  It also makes for much easier cross-analysis.

Phase 1:  the whole class read the story of Hercules and we then analyzed it for the Hero’s Journey pattern.  Students identified the steps and outlined their ideas on group posters.  The groups worked as follows:

group 1: the Departure

The next four groups worked on the Initiation Stage.  They identified heroic traits in Hercules, as well as acknowledged any mentors/helpers who may have aided him in completing each task.

group 2: Labors 1-3

group 3: Labors 4-6

group 4: Labors 7-9

group 5: Labors 10-12

group 6: the Return Stage

Students shared their posters and we made a large list of traits that the Ancient Greeks seemed to admire in their heroes.  As students gave their list of attributes, they had to come up with a different trait for each labor.  In this way, we ended up with twelve for Hercules.

Phase 2:  The Hero’s Journey in other Cultures

Each group was given a story from another culture to analyze for the Hero’s Journey pattern.  Like we did with Hercules, the students made posters that showed the hero’s attributes.  The posters also had to depict the hero’s apotheosis.

Group 1: Prometheus

Group 2: Kutoyis

Group 3: Percival and Gawain

Group 4: Faust

Group 5: Pele. Hiiaku and Luhau

Group 6: Gilgamesh

Once again, when the groups shared their posters, everyone in the class made a list of the hero’s attributes.

Phase 3: Back to Greece

This time I collapsed the six groups into three, and each group read a full-length version of the stories of three Greek heroes: Theseus, Perseus, and Jason.  Like we did with the other stories, groups analyzed, made posters, and shared their findings.  Again, we made a list of heroic attributes for each.

Phase 4:  Ariadne’s Thread (the Critical Lens Essay)

Analysis Essay: Cultural Mythology Unit

Now that you have read a variety of myths and legends, and have generated a list of heroic attributes that reflect the values of the culture that presents the each story, it is time to show me what you have learned about the significance of cultural mythology.

For this essay, you will read, highlight and annotate the pages from the Mythic Journeys Study Guide provided to you.  You will then select one of the six quotations to be the focal point of your essay; however, group members must each choose different quotations.

All of the quotations have something to do with respecting and understanding the tales of other cultures beyond the one a person has been brought up in.   Although stories may differ, certain heroic attributes are common among cultures (remember, we have combed through each of these stories making lists of attributes… use that list now!).

This will be your introduction:

Once you have selected your quotation, you must explain what the speaker meant through his/her words.  What is the underlying message he/she is trying to get across?  How does that relate to the preservation of myth?  Think about a central theme/idea that runs throughout several of the stories that we have read in class that also supports the speaker’s message.   Once you have determined that common thread, you then have a focus for your thesis statement.

The focus in your thesis statement will be the thread that runs throughout the body of your essay (like Ariadne’s thread in the labyrinth—be sure to follow it so that you don’t get lost!). 

There will be at least three body paragraphs (you are always welcome to expand on the topic by writing more, if you are so inclined):

  1. How does that thread run through the story of Hercules?
  2. How does that thread run through one of the tales we read in groups?  (Kutoyis, Pele/Hiaku, Percival/Gawain, Faust, Prometheus, or Gilgamesh—you may choose any of the stories, not just the one you read as a group)
  3. How does that thread run through the other Greek tales we read? (Perseus, Theseus, or Jason—again, you may choose any of the stories, not just the one you read in your group)

You must make sure that the stories you select not only relate to the quotation in some significant way, but also support the thread that you are leaving as a trail into the assignment.  You have lists of heroic attributes at your fingertips, as well as the stories themselves to use as reference.

Do not forget to embed quotations into your paragraphs as support for your thesis and CITE APPROPRIATELY!!  Do NOT summarize the tales; analyze how they support the main idea of the quotation you have selected.

For your conclusion, you must return to the quotation and the lessons that can be taken from it and from the preservation of the study of myth.

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Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Enriched

English 9 Enriched: The Night Journey of the Soul

This is an essay assignment I do with my Enriched students when we reach to point in The Odyssey where Odysseus makes a journey to the Land of the Dead.   Students read a selection of Land of the Dead stories from a variety of cultures.  The object was to examine each tale for what it showed about the culture and how those people attempted to answer the question of what happens after death.   Each group created a poster for the story those particular students were working with; a selection of their posters is below.


Every culture across time and geographic location has, through its myths and legends, attempted to answer the question of where one goes after death.  In the universal (across time and location) myth of the descent into the underworld, the hero finds himself an explorer in the province of death itself.  Readers follow the hero as he faces in depth what man himself so fears.  The hero is humanity’s hope in overcoming death and understanding its meaning.

 Your task:  Your group will be assigned one of the tales of the Descent to the Underworld from the Leeming text.  After reading the tale and discussing its significance with your group members, you are to write an essay in which you discuss what mankind can learn about the afterlife from both this story and from Odysseus’ journey to the Land of the Dead in Book XI of The Odyssey.   What comfort and/or warnings are divulged in each of these episodes of the night journey of the soul?  CD’s will come from both the stories you’ve read and the Leeming essay.

Your audience:  Fellow members of the human race who seek comfort in the “knowledge” of what may (or may not) come after death.

Selections from Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero

by David Adams Leeming


1.  Inanna (Ishtar)                    Babylonian/Sumerian

2.  Wanjiru                               African

3.  Jesus                                  Christian

4.  Kuan Yin                              Chinese

5.  Kutoyis                             Blackfoot Indian (Native American)

6.  Hermodr and Balder              Icelandic

7.  Izanagi and Izanami              Japanese

Before beginning the essay, each group will read and discuss the tale’s relevance to the topic.  Each group will create a poster that depicts the hero’s journey to the underworld and explain what beliefs of that particular culture are reflected in the tale.  Present to class giving a brief summary and discuss your findings.  Remaining groups will take notes on what is presented.

Hint:  Do not merely relate that the culture believed in an afterlife… that goes without saying.  Also, do not say that the culture believed in honoring the dead or respected the gods… again, it’s obvious or these stories would not exist.  What specifics from the tales can you share about the rituals described?

Wanjiru Baldar Hermodr Inanna Jesus Kutoyis


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