August 4, 2006

Huckleberry Finn and Odysseus

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:22 am by mrsmauck

So I was about halfway through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ($4.95 Wal-Mart version), when I came home one evening to find poor Huck and Jim and the mighty Mississip lying is shreds on my carpet. Revenge of the Ranger! Grrr! This just a couple days after he shredded my mom’s paperback copy of Farewell to Manzanar (You can check out my final thoughts on it here). Anyhoo, until I can get to the library and check out a copy of Huck Finn, I’m going to content myself with laboring through The Odyssey, the Robert Fagles translation. Well worth the effort, definitely. When I look back at my notes, the story is action-packed, but the epic prose make it seem a bit distant and wordy. Of course, a study of the classic culture of Greece is always well worth study and evaluation, so I think a unit on this piece should be really fun.

Any teachers have some words of wisdom on how they cover The Odyssey? Do your students read the entire epic, or just episodes? I’ve heard of several teachers using O Brother, Where Art Thou in conjunction with it, which I think would be very cool. Do you focus more on history and the Trojan War, or mythology? Or do you teach the epic genre? I think I would want to do all this, in perhaps a three-week unit or so.

Ideas for activities and projects to go with the unit would be:

  • Character poems for mythology characters.
  • Write your own myth. Take an existing myth and write it in the first person, create your own gods and myth, or write a “real myth,” a contemporary retelling of a myth. (I love choices!)
  • Write your own Odyssey. In groups, students create a “Hero’s Blog,” each member researching a different place and writing about the same character’s adventures in that place. Together, they craft the character, time period, and overall story arch, but individually, they write the blog entry. I created this assignment for my teaching strategies class last semester. Teachers, what would be the disappointment factor for this project?
  • Epic exploration: Before reading The Odyssey, complete a worksheet on epic conventions in groups, using students’ knowledge of pop culture epics like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter.
  • Periodic RAMP writing excercises

There’s tons of possibilities, I know. I’ve got a couple good big projects, but the in-between time is what I’m not sure about: Probably a combo of whole-class and small-group discussions and journaling to engage students about that day’s reading.



  1. mex said,

    thx for the comment… You (This) sounds like a great idea

    If you have time.. could you answer a Q or two
    1. How do you see how many peeps (if any) read yr blog
    2. How to you make a “blog roll”

    I use a MacIntosh if it matters


  2. John Donne said,

    You might have some difficulty getting the students past the archaic quality of the text, some students have trouble cognitivley understanding modern prose.

    Try *engaging* the students directly before you assign work and tasks. Not just by asking questions but by directly calling on students and putting them on the spot. Even the quiet ones! Get their opinions on certain excerpts, and if they are wrong, correct them by asking questions to let them understand the flaws of their logic. If right, ask them to further elucidate! Spread ideas.
    Recalling my time as a student, the moments of most rapt attention was when teachers called on students, especially myself. Then at this moment, it becomes less passive listening and more a thunderous brainstorming and it is only then you can grasp them by their throats (figuratively), and show them the meaning of the piece.

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