- How can I use this textbook?
- Start with content/trigger warnings
- CEFR Levels: Pre-Test
- How can I implement discussion questions?
- Other kinds of class discussion types
- Lesson planning for different goals
How can I use this textbook?
There are many ways to use this textbook, and it should be flexible enough to meet all your needs. You could just go through the textbook as is, or you can choose some of the extra resources here or here to have students read or listen to.
You could have students focus only on the stories, or focus only on stories that have academic readings tied in. You could have students read some of the stories, or watch videos or listen to audio of them instead. It’s all up to you and your focus and goals. Click here to see more specific lesson plan advice for different goals.
Unit 1 has a chapter about discussion questions. I have used discussion questions for listening activities, but they can also be used for reading activities as well. You can check out some example discussion questions students have made here.
This textbook was designed to be all-encompassing: it is your choice of whether you want to focus on reading, writing, speaking, or listening skills, or a combination of skills.
start with content/trigger warnings
The idea of instructors using content or trigger warnings is a controversial one, but if you are dealing with international students who may not be familiar with the American or Western education system, I have found student satisfaction to be much better when I preface what we are going to learn in class with information about what they will learn during the term and why.
nudity in western art
Unless you have students from Europe or South America, most of your international students will not be familiar with Greek myths and thus the strange art that goes along with it. You should inform students that much art concerning these stories contains nudity, and maybe do some research as to why this is the case. If you are teaching in higher ed, emphasize that they are adults and should be able to handle this art and these topics in a mature manner. If this is for high school, you may want to create a note informing parents of these warnings as well. If your audience is too young or you feel it would be too much trouble with these images, don’t forget that all story text has been adapted from public domain, and you also have the permission to adapt the text from this website if you do not want to use the pictures or want to edit out sensitive or “obscene” story elements.
rape, incest, bestiality
Some stories in this textbook have implied sexual assault and rape. Some texts in the additional materials also reference rape and sexual assault. Some stories involve incest (in the beginning, as there weren’t many gods in the first place), and some involve bestiality. In ancient Greek religion, rape seemed to be something allowed to the gods only; it was punishable for humans. Bestiality, too, was a horrible, punishable act. You may want to review how religion functioned in Greek society.
race and cultural appropriation
Recently, the world of Classicism has been rocked with allegations of sexism and racism. But there are two things interesting to note–that Greece and the Mediterranean area is racially diverse–and the ancient Greeks knew and didn’t really care. Also, there is new evidence that most of the white statues you see in museums were actually painted. They were not created in white to symbolize a desired skin color, but as a neutral painting surface. In the past, Hitler used the ancient Greeks (for unknown reasons) to push his idealogy of a perfect race, the Aryans (which are actually people of Indo-Iranian descent), and thus now those who call themselves “Alt-Right” have also latched onto the ancient Greek as the ideal man.
As far as these ideas go, this textbook was not created to push any idea that Western civilization is ideal or better than others, or ever was. Emphasize to students that the goal of this course is to help them improve their English with interesting stories and some insight into why American culture is the way it is, as we have borrowed not only vocabulary from the Greeks and their stories, but also ideas of democracy, philosophy, and morality, brought to the US by European immigrants. This is not to say that the Western or American style of education is best, but that if students want to study in the US, this textbook can help them get adjusted and understand American culture more.
Finally, with this emphasis, note that this information about American culture and English is not one way. There will be (and should be) opportunities for students to share similar aspects of their religion, culture, education system, and ideas with the instructor and others. In this way, not only are students learning about American systems and culture, but those of their classmates, and, ultimately, of their own country.
How does this relate to me?
Unit focuses have been chosen carefully to concentrate on universal ideas present in virtually every culture–ideas of life, death, creation, good versus evil, the hero’s journey, and love. Sometimes students feel that stories from thousands of years ago from a dead civilization must be irrelevant to them. Help students make connections with learning about the past and their lives now. They also don’t make the connection between reading stories and learning English. They might be too use to ESL textbook styles for learning that is more directly related to vocabulary and grammar acquisition.
I usually address these issues the day of going over the syllabus, and I ask if students have any questions or qualms. If students have any objections, you may want to avoid some materials, adapt them, or find a more appropriate substitution to give the student(s) that will still fulfill the goals of the assignment. I have found student engagement and understanding to be much better after addressing these concerns early in the term. Also many advanced students feel proud of completing the course and feel it is more authentic, similar to what they might experience in a real university classroom.
(Lastly, if your students have watched and are OK with the content of Game of Thrones, they should be fine with the contents of this textbook.)
CEFR levels: pre-test
At the end of each chapter, a CEFR level analysis of the text can be found. CEFR text analysis was done using http://www.roadtogrammar.com/textanalysis/. This is so you and your students can better gauge the difficulty of each reading.
At the beginning of the term, it is a good idea to also test your students’ CEFR levels and write them down. This can be done fairly easy by going to https://www.languagelevel.com/english/index.php. It would be best to have students go to a computer lab together to do it, and emphasize that having high results does not matter. This is just an indicator for students and you of how each individual student can handle the reading material. Write down the results of each student, and at the end of the term or semester, you may want to have them take the test again to see if their results have changed. CEFR levels are very broad, so even if their CEFR level stays the same, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t improved.
How can I implement discussion questions?
Here is how I do discussion questions:
- First, I introduce the topic of discussion questions with the reading in Unit 1.
- After discussing the concept of how to make discussion questions and why this is important, we would do an example listening or reading–usually something short.
- After that, students should make around four questions–two level 1-3 and two level 4-6 questions. The teacher also should make some example questions. I usually group level 1-3 questions as basic comprehension questions and level 4-6 questions as critical thinking questions that can be more open-ended.
- Students share their questions. The teacher asks the other students what level question it should be. Write the questions on the board. Did other students have similar questions? That’s good! Make sure students make quality questions for both sets of levels. Be careful, because (especially the first time) many students may try to just fill in the blanks using random questions from the chart, making for some awkward questions, like “What are the features of Arachne?” Emphasize that those examples are just to get you thinking and are not just easily fill-in-able with random words from the reading.
- Discuss the questions, even if some of the questions are not worded well or seem strange. Have the creator of the question explain what they mean in their question if it is unclear. Emphasize how the quality of their question impacts the discussion and also how it reflects their understanding of the material.
- Now that they have done a practice session, steps 3 through 5 can be repeated. I usually assign 10 questions (6 comprehension–level 1-3 questions and 4 critical thinking–level 4-6 questions, or vice versa, depending on the goal of the reading) to be submitted online.
- I then make a Google Slides document with the best or most repeated questions, and a few of my own if most students didn’t catch some major points. I also usually correct the grammar of the questions–and it is a good time to go over some grammar structures, especially reviewing question grammar. Sometimes I put the students’ names so I can remember who asked what, especially if a question seems intriguing but unclear. In some classes, students feel proud to see their name attached to their question, and sometimes students request their questions be anonymous. You can choose depending on the class or topic.
- The morning of class (or sometimes a few minutes before or into class), I will either print a copy of the questions or give the link to the discussion questions so they can check them on their phones. Sometimes I have students do group discussion, and sometimes we just do class discussion together.
- I use both the quality of student questions and their responses during discussion time as both informal and formal assessment.
- Here is a site with a “thinking cube” that could be used to introduce the ideas involved in creating good discussion questions.
Other kinds of class discussion types
Article by Charity Davenport—Academic Reading Circle discussion style created by Tyson Seburn
Academic reading circles are very similar to jigsaw discussion groups, but instead of breaking up bigger readings into smaller parts, readings are analyzed in different ways and then presented to a group or class. They are often used to help students collaborate while also digging deeper into an article or topic. Students are assigned one of the following roles to analyze the reading (or in this assignment’s case, the two videos you just watched):
- Leader: The leader summarizes the main points of the reading and creates comprehension and critical thinking questions for the group to discuss. The chart on page 10 can help with creating good discussion questions.
- Contextualizer: The contextualizer finds and researches at least 2 to 4 contextualized references that are NOT fully explained by the author. What are contextualized references? They are references used in the background information in an article. This could include people, organizations, places, events, movies, books, or other things that the author might assume the reader already knows about and thus doesn’t give the context. It can also include cultural expressions and idioms (e.g., “pulling my leg,” “George Washington is rolling over in his grave”).
- Visualizer: The visualizer finds images, infographics or charts for at least 2 to 4 facts the author uses and discusses why each image or graphic is relevant to the reading. The images should be related to background information (dates, statistics, contextualized references) and/or key facts (main references in the article; key people, places, events, cultural expressions).
- Connector: The connector writes complete answers (3-4 sentences) to how the article connects with other articles we have read or videos we have watched, a current or past event that you are familiar with, or an experience you have had.
- Vocabulary Master: The Vocab master highlights words 10-15 unknown key vocabulary words that repeat or are important for understanding the article, and gives a synonym, short explanation, or maybe an image to help classmates better understand the words.
With bigger classes, you will need to have students work in a group. There are 5 roles, so group them into groups of 5 and discuss what they learned in their role.
Here is a PowerPoint about academic reading circles by Tyson Seburn, who also literally wrote the book about it!
Have you ever put a jigsaw puzzle together? With the pieces alone, you can’t see the big picture, but once the pieces are put together, the picture is clear to see. For bigger puzzles, you may need some help putting it together. Jigsaw discussions are very similar.
A jigsaw reading discussion is an organization technique that breaks up longer texts into smaller chunks of text (one-two paragraphs) that students work together in groups to become experts on. Each student then moves into a new group, in which every member has become an expert on a different part of the text. The students then take turns teaching their new group about their portion of the text. This technique emphasizes cooperative learning by giving students the opportunity to help each other build comprehension.
Objective: To develop reading skills and communication skills and build cooperative learning strategies.
- An appropriate reading text divided into 3-4 sections
- Copies of comprehension questions for the text with the different sections clearly marked
- Tell the students the topic that they will be reading about and encourage them to make predictions about what they will read
- Pre-teaches critical vocabulary that the students will need before they begin to read the text.
- Divide the students into different groups, one for each section of the text.
- Explain that each group will be responsible for reading one section of the text and answering the reading comprehension questions that pertain to their assigned section.
- Give the students time to work in their groups to read and discuss their section of the text, and answer the reading comprehension questions.
- When all of the groups have completed the questions, divide the class into new groups. There is one student from each of the original groups in the newly formed groups. Each group represents the entire version of the reading text. Each member of the group shares the answers to the section of the comprehension questions that their original group was responsible for. Students should not read the text out loud; instead, they discuss the questions and answers. At the end of the activity, all of the students will have learned the answers to all of the comprehension questions from the other students in their group.
Adapted from an article by Peter Pappas, CC-BY-NC
Do you have difficulty managing a class discussion with 30 students? Do you feel like certain students dominate in large group settings making it hard to get everyone involved and staying on task? Consider using a fishbowl discussion format. This strategy allows you to have an intense discussion with only half of your class while the other half observes and analyzes the interactions.
- For a class of 30, prepare 15 fishbowl index cards and 15 goldfish index cards. Place the cards in a basket and ask students to draw cards randomly.
- Students who draw goldfish cards will form the inside circle. They will be the ones to have the discussion. Warn them in advance that they will be carefully observed and data will be collected on their discussion.
- The students who pull out fishbowl cards will form the outside circle. They will be observing only. It is like they are peering into a fishbowl and watching the goldfish. These students will complete a data gathering sheet or discussion rubric.
Students in the outer circle have a job to do:
To keep students in the outside circle attentive, give them a task that requires them to focus on the fishbowl discussion:
- If you started the discussion by generating a series of questions, have the outer-circle students create T-notes or 2-column notes. Questions go in the left column, the answers the fishbowl generates go in the right column.
- Students who aren’t in the fishbowl can do two-column notes of the discussion. In the left column, they write at least three important ideas that the group discussed. In the right column, they write their own response to each idea. Minimum credit for just accurately recording topics; better credit for actually responding, best credit for responding in a thoughtful way that shows they have read the book or material.
- Assign each of the students in the outer circle a member of the fishbowl. The student from the outer circle writes a transcript of everything “their” student says. When the discussion is over, photocopy the transcripts. Highlight the originals to show good ideas or questions that the fishbowl student came up with. Give the photocopy back to the outer-circle student and give feedback on how thoroughly they kept track.
- Have outer-circle students keep track of the types of comments the fishbowl members make –? if they ask a question, C if they make a connection, I if they make an inference, T if they use specific text to answer a question or make a comment, P if they make a prediction. (These notes can give students feedback on the variety of the comments they make.)
- Have students in the outer circle write a journal response to the discussion.
Fishbowl Discussion Variations
- The entire class comes with sticky note questions. In groups of four, they reduce down their group questions to the best three. These are put on the chalkboard and the fishbowl revolves around these questions. The fishbowl is still student lead.
- The teacher leads discussion around class questions. The teacher is the leader of the fishbowl and sits in the fishbowl. This works great with underclassmen.
- Warn students ahead of time that you will choose 8 at random to be in the fishbowl when the day for discussion arrives.
- Make the fishbowl voluntary – only students who want to be in the fishbowl pull in their desks – but they have to show you their sticky notes or other evidence that they’re ready to discuss.
- Fishbowl role-play: Choose four famous individuals that are associated with the subject to be studied. Students research the positions of the four speakers in advance.
- The fishbowl consists of four speaker chairs placed in the center of the room.
- Only those students sitting in these chairs may contribute to the discussion. All others will patiently and quietly for their turn to sit in those chairs.
- When you move into the chair, you have an opportunity to contribute to the current discussion of the group or when that topic becomes exhausted, to bring up a new topic.
- You may only bring up one issue or make your point once per sitting (you cannot stay in the bowl forever and dominate the discussion).
You may only join the fishbowl a second time after everyone has had a chance to join it for their first time.
Click here to read about fishbowl discussion groups.
- Here’s a good example of a fishbowl discussion rubric. It might also work well for the following Socratic question discussion groups.
- Here is a good example of a fishbowl peer review sheet, which again might also work well for Socratic question discussions.
Do you know Socrates? He was a famous philosopher in ancient Greece, around 370 to 399 BCE. He is one of the founders of Western philosophy and thought. Socrates was famous for asking a lot of questions. He said, “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.” And so he spent much of his time trying to learn by asking questions. Even his answers might be questions.
We get two major teaching and learning activities from Socrates—the Socratic Method and Socratic Questioning. The Socratic Method is used as a tool of argumentation, often used to ask another person questions until you prove the other wrong. This may sound frustrating, but in actuality, the goal is to keep asking questions and trying to clear away any weaknesses in their answers. It is to help the answerer think through their opinion or idea, to think more critically and more deeply about an issue.
Socratic Questioning is often used by teachers, who will ask questions to students even if they know the answer in order to stimulate student thinking and discussion, in hopes of encouraging students to ask similar questions on their own as the learn new information.
Socratic Smackdown is a combination of both styles that grew out of a need to support students in developing and practicing discussion skills. During the discussion game, teams of 4-6 students discuss texts and use textual evidence to make connections and ask thought-provoking questions. Students win points whenever they make constructive contributions to the discussion and lose points if they exhibit disrespectful behaviors, such as interrupting their teammates. By the end of game play, students have learned how to work together as teams and a class and contribute meaningfully to a discussion. Teachers have seen amazing changes in student engagement and discussion skills during and after game play.
Student Teams: Divide students into teams of 4 to 6 participants. These teams will participate in the Socratic Smackdown discussion. Decide if you want to put students in homogeneous or heterogeneous groups based on your own criteria.
Text/Topic Choice: Choose a text or topic for the Socratic Smackdown discussion. We suggest that you choose texts about debatable or controversial topics because then students must use textual evidence to support their ideas and arguments.
Question Sets: We recommend that the first few times the class plays the game, the teacher provides a well-crafted list of text-dependent questions. It may be helpful to give students the questions in advance to allow them to prepare. Questions may be asked by the teacher, or by students who have been assigned to ask the questions, whenever they feel it is appropriate. A shorter Socratic Smackdown could focus only on one teacher-given question at a time. Ultimately, the teacher’s goal may be to teach students to create their own questions for Socratic Smackdown, so that they can teach each other how to effectively discuss text-based questions.
Discussion Strategies for Game: Choose specific discussion strategies for the game and write them on the game board assigning point values to these strategies. Some examples of strategies can be found in the resources at the end of this section.
Rules (get set…):
- Teams of 4 to 6 students will be given a topic, text, or issue that will be the focus of the Socratic Smackdown, as well as a question set. Students will prepare answers to the questions prior to the Socratic Smackdown.
- The teacher will reveal which discussion skill strategies will be part of the game. The point value of the different strategies will also be shared.
- When it is time for the Smackdown, the class will set up chairs in a fishbowl arrangement. A fishbowl is when there is an inner circle of 4 to 6 chairs—dependent on the size of the student discussion team—within a larger circle of chairs.
- One student from each team will be asked to go inside the Socratic Smackdown ring to have a 6-minute discussion (or Smackdown) based on the topic, text, or issue given earlier. During the Smackdown, they will earn points for using discussion skills. They can also lose points if they disrupt the discussion.
- Using the Socratic Smackdown Scorecard, a number of students (from 2 to the entire class) will track points during the 6-minute Smackdown. The first time the class plays the game the teacher can track points to model scoring.
- Students who aren’t scoring will complete the Coach Card during the Smackdown; if all students are scoring they will then complete the Coach Card after the Smackdown.
- When 6 minutes is up, the teacher or a student will collect all of the Scorecards, determine the average score for each student in the discussion team, and then sum up the average scores to figure out the team score.
- After the Smackdown, the students in the ring will complete the Instant Replay Card (found in the resources below).
- After individual and team scores are revealed, the class will have a brief discussion to share thoughts from their Coach Cards.
Click here to learn more about the Socratic Smackdown!
Lesson planning for different goals
Here are some options to use this textbook and suggested lessons to use. There are so many resources you can use in the Additional Materials page.
In addition to the goals below, there are more than enough resources to include audio and video into your lessons as well. Just check out the additional materials page!
- Literature – academic focus only
- In this style, you will be reading one story and then reading an article related either to the story or vocabulary from the story. I suggest choosing 3-4 stories and then 3-4 related articles either in the textbook or additional materials.
- Literature – vocabulary focus only
- Here you would only choose to read or watch videos about the stories and vocabulary. This plan might be more focused on literary analysis.
- Final project: what life lessons can be learned from the stories of Greek myths?
- Critical Thinking, project or writing based focus
- Unit 1
- Importance and meaning behind the Titanomachy
- Listen to this podcast (or at least about 47 mins. in) about the analysis of the Titanomachy
- How does this apply to their countries’ current government? Another government system they know of?
- How does this apply to American democracy?
- Architecture influences in the US
- Check out presentation topics
- Importance and meaning behind the Titanomachy
- Unit 2
- You may want to explore more about the culture of death and funeral rites in students’ countries.
- Have students present / write about a modern Prometheus; dive deeper into the idea of knowledge is power.
- Read about the Socratic Method for teachers. This might be especially good if you have students struggling with participation in class or are not used to American classroom communication. Have students create statements and pair them with a student that disagrees. Have them formulate questions to try to debunk the other students’ statement. Emphasize civility and not getting angry! This is all about using “logos” to argue and not “pathos”!
- Check out presentation topics
- Unit 3
- Unit 4
- This unit focus is about the hubris and nemesis
- Check out presentation topics
- Unit 5
- You may want to refer back to the theme of hubris and nemesis in the story of Narcissus.
- Much of the critical thinking in this unit concerns narcissism and social media and the body’s chemicals that control our emotions. You may want to research further into those two topics.
- You could have students read a short, easy version of Romeo and Juliet and have them compare it with Pyramus and Thisbe.
- Have students write or discuss what their halcyon days were (is?)
- Final project: what life lessons can be learned from the stories of Greek myths?
- Check out presentation topics
- Unit 1