Lesson Plans for The Odyssey: Alternative Book Report for Becoming the World’s Greatest Epic Hero or Heroine


OK, if you came here for lesson plans for The Odyssey, here’s a good one involving Odysseus and The Cyclops Polyphemus. You could also opt for the Odyssey Teaching Unit. It’s 7 weeks worth of lesson plans, mapped out. It includes lessons, activities, projects, handouts, graphic organizers, rubrics, quizzes, analysis, and more. It’s only $12.95. That’s less than $2 per week.

I had just finished teaching The Odyssey. I nailed it with my Odyssey teaching unit, which covered just about every common core objective your local politician and lawyer and school administrator and college professor and whatever outsider who thinks he could retire from his corporate gig and become heaven’s gift to the public education system while loving every second of it could create in their ivory towers constructed from educational theories and 1980s sitcoms.

I felt good…until I looked in the mirror. I had spent so much time putting together high quality lesson plans for The Odyssey that I had neglected my mediocre-looking body. In the span of seven weeks I transformed from Achilles to Aeolus’ bag of winds.

That’s why I came up with my Odysseus work out plan.

Before you try it, keep in mind I have absolutely no medical or athletic training. I’m an English teacher who creates great lesson plans, like this one from my Odyssey Teaching Unit: Penelope Needs a Friend.

This workout plan also serves as an example for the book report lesson plan at the end.

Do these exercises at your own risk.


I think the results speak for themselves.

This is totally not me doing a hammer curl.

Hammer Curls. Before Odysseus becomes famous for a horrible sense of direction, he totally makes the Trojans look like jackasses by building a wooden horse that could hide all sorts of Greek soldiers. Although I doubt Odysseus did a ton of hammering himself, it’s unlikely he simply stood around eating yogurt while everyone worked. Hammer curls are done with dumb bells. Instead of holding them normal, you turn them on their side and lift one arm at a time. Do about 10-12.

Push ups. Odysseus spends a great amount of effort denying himself and pushing away the temptation of the Lotus Eaters. Throw in the need to push several of his crew on board and it’s apparent that to be like Odysseus, you better do push ups. Do you need a picture of a push up? Probably not. Everyone knows what push ups are. Do as many as you can. Experiment with arm positions to work different parts of your epic muscles.

She has the form of Penelope.

Bent Over Rows. There’s a lot of rowing going on during this journey. If you need to escape the Charybdis, row for your life. If you need to get out of the Bay of the Cannibals, row for your life. If you want to hear the Sirens’ song, have your men tie you up and row for their lives. To complete the exercise successfully, grab two dumbbells; bend your knees so you’re in a half-squat position; straighten your back (posture is key); lift the dumbbells straight up as far as you can without straightening your legs; repeat about 8-10 times.

Perhaps Penelope would have been less faithful if this guy was one of the suitors?

Deep Swimmer’s Press. Odysseus does an epic amount of swimming after his boat is destroyed by Zeus. If you want to be like Odysseus, you’d better be able to swim. The deep swimmer’s press is a combo exercise. Start with two dumbbells at your side curl them, then press them above your head. Repeat about 8-10 times.

The Brain Exercise. After the first four exercises are finished, your body might need a break. This would be a good time to practice your skills of deception. Both Odysseus and Penelope were quite deft at it. Granted, they didn’t exactly fool the smartest of creatures–Odysseus tricks the brute Polyphemus and Penelope fools men–but their mental acumen cannot be denied. At this stage of the workout, just go around and tell people you lifted twice the amount of weight you actually did until you goad someone into doing more than he or she is capable of and a hernia ensues.

Pull ups. The first sign that you’re on your way to becoming an epic teacher is when you don’t take your class outside on the nicest day of the year, realizing that it’s all a ruse to do nothing. The first sign you’re on your way to becoming an epic hero is when you’re able to do a pull up. Odysseus scales a freaking mountain, pulling himself up the entire way, to rescue his crew from Circe. He also pulls himself up to a sheep’s belly and hangs on to escape Polyphemus. If you don’t have a sheep or a pull-up bar, go to a park or find a sturdy tree branch. Get some assistance from a stool, if necessary–preferably not the stool one of the suitors breaks over the back of Odysseus disguised as a beggar as Zeus looks on disapprovingly.


Sprints. Odysseus must sprint from many foes. You’d be wise to improve your sprinting skills. An effective way to do this is to head to the track–there’s probably one about 100 yards from where you’re searching for lesson plans for The Odyssey. Sprint around the track (.25 miles). Walk half a lap. Sprint again. If you haven’t sprinted since you were in high school, you’ll be surprised how hard it is to sprint a quarter-mile. That’s OK. Sprint a half-lap or a quarter-lap instead. Make sure you walk long enough to catch your breath and do it again. Do 4-8 sprints, depending on your fitness.

That’s one circuit

One circuit may be enough. You can repeat this circuit as many times as you wish. You can mix up the order of the exercises. You can do none of these since I’m not an athletic trainer and don’t really know anything about your physical fitness level.

This workout does make a great alternative book report. Here’s the lesson plan.

  1. Read a book.
  2. Instruct students to create a workout that coincides with a character in the book.
  3. Specify how many exercises.
  4. It sounds like we need a rubric. Anybody want to make one? Oh yeah, I’m the one with the website. Maybe I’ll make one.
  5. Use my Odysseus workout as an example.

Here are some more examples off the top of my head.

LennieThe Lennie Smalls Workout. This of course would have to include exercises that that would help Lennie break necks, catch rabbits, buck barley, go hide in the brush by the river, and land softly after getting shot in the back of the head.

The Montresor Workout. Ya gotta have something that will build shoulders and triceps for masonry purposes, and something for pushing drunk revelers against the wall while chaining them. Of course, the Montresor workout will have to include endurance exercise to help him endure the insults for so long.

The Ender Wiggin Workout. This workout requires lots of gymnastics for fighting in null gravity. Hand-to-hand combat is a must in order to fend off attacks from bullies.

You get the point.

For more examples, check out Nerd Fitness.

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