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Teaching the Central Message with Awesome Greek Myths

As part of the Folktale Unit, not only do we explore Native American folktales, but we delve into Greek myths as well. Why do I use Greek myths? They’re effective to use for teaching the central message as well as many other related literature standards.

Teaching the Central Message with Amazing Myths

They’re also some of my favorite stories to teach about!  Though they have lasted well over thousands of years, these stories still entertain my students every year.  The Greek gods and other Greek characters are complex characters that lend themselves well to the analysis of their traits.  And each story carries some moral or lesson to be learned making it ideal for teaching the central message.


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Teaching the Central Message

One standard that is related to teaching the central message is that which deals with character analysis. Understanding character traits lead to an understanding of character motivation.  This motivation is what drives the action or events in the story.  They can also lead to rewards or punishment!

How character traits help identify the central message

One thing I have noticed about teaching character traits (the concept already having been introduced and practiced with the Native American folktales), is that students get stuck with very limited ways to describe a character’s behavior.  Or conversely, they describe characters incorrectly because they don’t fully understand the definition of certain traits.  Just the other day, I had students confuse dull with lazy!

Teaching the Central Message AND Character Traits

To help expand their vocabulary and really pick appropriate character traits, I developed a Character Traits PowerPoint that has 25 character traits. Each trait is introduced through a scenario that provides clues to the trait.  Then a picture is shown with some dialogue a person who exhibited that trait might say. This is when I have students try to identify the character trait.

We discuss possible traits, give evidence from the slid to then reveal the trait.  The slide continues with four synonyms for that character trait.  I teach with this PowerPoint daily and we manage to do about 3 – 4 per day.

Character Traits Posters

I also created accompanying posters that I hang in my room for reference.  From there it is easy to follow up with the day’s ELA lesson.

Check out the VIDEO PREVIEW.


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Which Greek Myths Do I Use?

As I mentioned earlier, by using the Greek myths not only do I use them for teaching the central message but character traits, problem and solution and well as many other Common Core literature standards.  Some of the Greek myths I use include

Greek myths for teaching the central message

Picture Books for Read-Aloud

I have some favorite picture books I read aloud for teaching the central message.  One great resource is the Usborne Greek Myths for Young Children.  This particular book has all the well-known Greek myths including the Odessey.  The pictures are appropriate and the text is written in kid-friendly narratives.

I will project one of the pages and sometimes use it as shared reading as well as a read-aloud.

Usborne Greek Myths for Children picture book for teaching the central message

The story of King Midas presents a character who is bested by his greed.  It’s wonderfully and beautifully portrayed in Demi’s King Midas:  The Golden Touch.  It has an amazing fold-out in the middle!

King Midas picture book for teaching the central message

One of my favorite authors also has a version of Icarus and Daedalus! Gerald McDermott’s book Sun Flight again shows his amazing artistic interpretation of this classic Greek myth.

Sun Flight picture book for teaching the central message


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Who, What, Where, When, How?

The Greek myths have many, many characters and stories.  I remember in college having to read Homer’s Iliad as well as The Odyssey and  The Aeneid.  I still have my copies of those stories! I’ve shared them with my class to show them the original texts.  Then I explain to them how these stories, though considered myths, have some basis in actual events and people.  The city of Troy as discovered by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann back in 1870!

But I also explain to them how hard it was for me as a college student to keep track of all the gods, goddesses, heroes, beasts and creatures!  That lead me to create this set of 48 Greek Mythology Posters that I used with my class.

48 Greek Myths Posters

They became a great resource to keep track of the myriad of characters we came across in the Greek myths.  They’re also great to have students research the Roman counterparts (you know the Romans practically are Greeks!).

Greek Myth Posters


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Practice with Identifying the Central Message

Once we’ve read and understood the myth, I give each student a booklet that they use to explain the central message.  But first, we start with character traits.  I had the students first brainstorm some ideas using these graphic organizers I created.

Character Description Printables for Greek Mythological Characters

Then, I created these BOOKLETS which for 4 particular Greek Myths: King Midas, Icarus, Arachne, and Pandora’s Box.  For example, on one of the pages, students had to write a description of King Midas using trait words and evidence to back up the description.

Describing King Midas

Then once they understood the character traits that motivated him, we discussed how that lead to his troubles.  Because King Midas was greedy and foolish, his wish caused him nothing but trouble.  So what is the lesson to be learned from King Midas?

That is when I had students select from 4 choices.

Identifying the central message of a Greek myth

Most students agreed that from the choices offered, “Be careful what you wish for,” was the best choice.

Then it was time to back that up with text evidence, which is the next page in the booklet.

Practicing explaining the central message

I had the students first practice with sentence frames so they could have some scaffolding with the writing. Then the students rewrote it all together as one short constructed response on the following page.

Writing about the central message

Get These Booklets for FREE!

I recently revised the booklets, which are now available for FREE exclusively here on my blog.  Sign up for my newsletter, and I will send you the link to download them for FREE! Use them to teach the central message in your literature lessons. Sign up below, and you’ll get 4 Booklets:  Icarus, Arachne, King Midas, and Pandora’s Box.

Continuing With the Greek Myths

I continue teaching the Greek myths as we learn about the Trojan War.  I like to focus on the characters of Achilles, King Priam, Helen of Troy, and Odysseus.

The Folktale Unit is one of my favorites.  When you think about how these stories STILL influence our culture (Percy Jackson, Hercules, Troy, etc.), we would be doing a disservice if we DID NOT read these stories to our students.

For more ideas on using Greek Myths, follow my Pinterest Board!


How do you teach the Greek myths or Central Message?

Share your ideas in the comments below!

Teaching the Central Message with Awesome Greek Myths
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