Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Favorite Lesson

Every year, we read The Odyssey starting in November. I like to give a bit of background and context whenever we do a reading. For those that have NOT read The Odyssey, it's about this Greek dude named Odysseus who can't seem to get home for like two decades. He sales around the seas surrounding his home, Ithaca, sleeping with mysterious, seducing women and getting all of his men killed off. He has several harrowing adventures which are preserved in an epic poem titled The Odyssey. There's an awesomely cheesy movie staring Armand Assante, Isabella Rossellini, Bernadette Peters, and Vanessa Williams. We don't watch much of the movie as we're only allowed to show 20 minutes of any movie.

One of my favorite lessons is when we do some context and background on The Odyssey. First, we do our Interactive Instruction part of the lesson, where I'm leading and they're listening. I check out a book on Greek myths from the library and read them a short version of Oedipus Rex. I like to be extra nerdy and use my computer and projector to have a "roaring camp fire" up while I read the story. I even turn off the lights so we get that "authentic" camp fire feel. The kids really eat up poor Oedipus's story about killing his dad and marrying his mom. We usually discuss how he'd end up on Jerry Springer.

Next, we move onto the Authentic Engagement portion where they have to do some work. I was a sorority girl. As part of our sorority, we had to memorize the Greek alphabet; a skill I never thought I'd need again! We even had a little alphabet song we'd sing to help memorize it. So, I teach my kids the alphabet and the song. I also show them which letters correspond to which between our alphabet and the Greek one. I then ask them to write their own name using the Greek alphabet. Some of them end up looking the same, while others look unrecognizable. Then, and this is the best part, I tell them to get a partner and write notes back and forth using the Greek alphabet. They're usually very tickled at being able to actually write notes back and forth and to use this awesome new code to do it in! I usually have a few people write their examples up on the computer and before you know it, the bell rings and they're so disappointed to have to leave.

"Can't we stay for another period?" I wish, guys. I wish every day could be this fun. Unfortunately, not every day can be spent learning another alphabet and writing notes to our friends. This activity puts them in the best mood to get started reading The Odyssey. I still have kids from last year talking to me about how awesome the Greek alphabet day was.

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