Cyclops Lesson Plan for The Odyssey

Mike Wazowski was one of my favorite students.

My administrator came in to my classroom the other day and inquired about my “Cyclops Lesson Plan for The Odyssey.”

“You’re not upset about the kid’s eye I poked out doing a reenactment, are you?” I inquired.

“Oh no, not at all. It’s just that I’m not sure how poking out a kid’s eye relates to the common core standards. Come up with something better.”

Here’s what I came up with…

ELA Common Core Standards

  • RL.9-10.1 – Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • RL.9-10.2 – Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text
  • RL.9-10.3 – Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
  • RL.9-10.5 – Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
  • RL.9-10.6 – Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

You could seriously use a 7-week Odyssey unit with lesson plans, a calendar and pacing guide, graphic organizers, movie reviews and annotations, multiple quizzes, summaries, answer keys, projects, rubrics, and a bunch more. So avoid the odyssey of trying to figure out lesson plans for the next seven weeks and download The Odyssey teaching guide. We’re talking 15 years worth of trial and error teaching Homer’s epic and you’ll get what works. That means the only planning you need to do for the next seven weeks is making copies, allowing you to ply your expertise with less stress than ever.

Start by checking out these hero’s journey resources.

Frequent visitors to this site have probably guessed that I like applying the hero’s journey to literature. And as a side note, my students like that I apply the hero’s journey to literature. With this cyclops from The Odyssey lesson plan, you get to apply the hero’s journey to literature.
Although Odysseus’s entire journey can be analyzed through the hero’s journey prism, each adventure can as well, none more so than the adventure with the Cyclops.

Here’s my analysis of The Cyclops

Status Quo – The wandering crew happens upon an island. This island becomes the normal world for purposes of this analysis. In this normal world, Odysseus and his crew are hungry and kind of bored. They need adventure.
  1. I suppose Athena could have warned him not to go in the cave.

    The Call to Adventure – Odysseus and the crew spot a gigantic cave. That’s all the Big O needs to satisfy his curiosity.

  2. Divine Assistance – At this point Odysseus is on his own. While in the cave, however, he appeals to his patron goddess Athena for help.
  3. The Departure. Big O and his crew enter the cave, feast on the cyclops Polyphemus’s cheese, and talk about stuff that soldiers talk about. The entry to the special world becomes complete when Polyphemus enters the cave and rolls the gigantic stone over the entrance. At this point there is no contact with the “ordinary world” outside the cave.
  4. Trials. Odysseus experiences many gruesome trials, such as watching his men get eaten. The ultimate trial, however, is finding a way to defeat the cyclops while leaving the possibility of moving the stone, and not having Polyphemus’s family come eat them. He solves this with wine, a sharpened spear, and a clever lie.
  5. Picture of Cyclops

    Don’t mess with Odysseus!

    The Approach. Odysseus’s biggest trial is (obviously) the Cyclops and all its incumbent dangers.

  6. The Crisis. In the crisis the hero dies or nearly dies. Although Odysseus’s life is constantly endangered during this episode, there is no point where death seems imminent. Odysseus does overcome long odds.
  7. The Treasure. Odysseus has used his wits to prevent Polyphemus and his buddies from eating him. The treasure is his life.
  8. The Result. Despite defeating the cyclops, The Big O still has work to do. Polyphemus is a little enraged and stands by the door hoping he can catch a crew member or two and feast on them.
  9. The Return. Odysseus uses his cunning again to get back to the ordinary world, by tying his men to the belly of sheep. Doesn’t strike me as the most comfortable (or sanitary) means of transportation, but I guess it’s better than becoming cyclops’ poop.
  10. New Life. According to the hero’s journey, the hero returns a new man, having learned something valuable. Odysseus hasn’t learned a thing. Instead of sailing on his merry way, he decides to talk trash, nearly gets him and his crew killed by a large projectile, and gets him and his entire crew cursed by Poseidon.
  11. Resolution. The resolution is the aforementioned cursing by Poseidon. Because Odysseus does not become a new man on his journey to the cyclops’ cave, he must repeat it over and over and over until he gets it.
  12. Status Quo. The men are once again at sea, wandering, hungry, and bored. At least they have some Cyclopian sheep to feast on.


I guess there’s an assignment here somewhere.

  1. Discuss the hero’s journey and take notes. If you want simple and effective, just show the video (linked to above).
  2. Read “The Adventure of the Cyclops” from The Odyssey. This is an oft anthologized story in high school literature text books or you could easily find the tale online.
  3. Apply the hero’s journey to the story (feel free to steal my analysis for discussion purposes, although interpretations may vary).
  4. You could probably throw in a literary analysis essay if you’re feeling plucky.
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