The Lightning Thief & Greek Mythology

In The Lightning Thief and D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, students analyze the purpose of mythology in ancient Greece and explore the theme of hubris. This unit launches the year-long discussion on heroism.

This unit has been archived. To view our updated curriculum, visit our 6th Grade English course.

Unit Summary

This first unit of sixth grade combines Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief with classical mythology to create a high-interest, humorous introduction to middle school while also providing students with a foundation in the Greek gods and goddesses. The novel is about a 12-year-old boy who learns that his true father is Poseidon, god of the sea. Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to find the entrance to the underworld and stop a war between the gods. While told in a light-hearted tone, The Lightning Thief explores serious issues such as learning disabilities, self-doubt, and family problems that are relevant to the middle school reader. Students quickly empathize with the protagonist’s fierce sense of loyalty toward his mother and friends. 

This unit launches a year-long discussion on what it means to be a hero. Students will compare Percy’s fantasy adventure with that of archetypal heroes from other literature by analyzing the research of Joseph Campbell, an American mythological expert. In the beginning of the novel, students will make inferences about characters and their relationships by delving into inner thoughts, dialogue, and actions. By the end, students will explain particular choices the author makes to create the mood of a scene or to convey character motivation. Across many lessons, students will practice identifying the context clues to determine the meaning of an unknown word. Through D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, students will analyze the purpose of mythology in ancient Greece and explore the theme of hubris as it appears in several texts. 

Below is a list of the Greek myths that are interwoven throughout the unit: 
The Titans
Zeus and his Family
The Three Fates
Theseus and the Minotaur
The Oracle at Delphi
Medusa
Prometheus
Athena, Arachne, and the Weaving Contest
Orpheus and Eurydice
Persephone and Demeter
Heracles

Overall, this first unit offers an opportunity for students to analyze elements of the hero’s quest, to connect with a modern-day narrator, and to immerse themselves in Greek mythology. It is significant to note that this unit plan draws from Rick Riordan’s A Teacher’s Guide and EngageNY’s Grade 6: Module 1. 

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Texts and Materials

Core Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • How does Percy’s experience align with the archetypal hero’s journey? 
  • In Greek mythology, how does hubris lead to one’s downfall?
  • What purpose did mythology serve in ancient Greece? 
  • How much of what we do is shaped by our efforts to impress or reject our parents? 

Writing Focus Areas

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Students will learn to dissect the prompt by breaking it into parts in order to fully grasp the question before starting their outline and draft pages. In narrative writing, students will work to maintain first-person point of view in a tone that is suitable to their selected god or goddess. In their literary analysis writing, students will focus on making thesis statements that thoroughly answer the prompt and supporting their claims with direct quotations. In both written assignments, students will work on organizing their writing in paragraphs. 

Narrative Writing Focus Areas

  • Maintains first-person point of view to develop the character, setting, or plot 
  • Establishes the appropriate tone of selected god or goddess throughout piece 
  • Uses paragraphs to separate the different parts or times of the story

Spiraling Literary Analysis Writing Focus Area

  • Thoroughly addresses the prompt through a thesis that is clear, complete (answers the whole question), and compelling
  • Supports each claim with at least one direct quotation from the text 
  • Uses paragraphs to separate the different parts of the essay 

Vocabulary

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Literary Terms

contextual clues, infer, gist, mood, hubris

Roots and Affixes

hyper -, viv-, im-, mor-, trans-, arachne-, -phobia, demi-, tri-

Text-based

Greek Mythology: offspring (D’Aulaires’, 14), fled (D’Aulaires’, 17), wrath (D’Aulaires’, 36, 132) dung (D’Aulaires’, 135), atone (D’Aulaires’, 132, 142), transparent (D’Aulaires’, 132, 284, 293), persistent (D’Aulaires’, 293), barge (D’Aulaires’, 289), diploma (D’Aulaires’, 289) woolly mammoth (D’Aulaires’, 293), melancholy (D’Aulaires’, 298), mournful (D’Aulaires’, 299), boast (Medusa), arachnophobia (Athena, Arachne and the Weaving Contest) 

The Hero’s Journey: archetype (article)

The Lightning Thief: scrawny (3), triumphant (10), pulverize (11, 89, 107), hallucination/hallucinating (16, 40, 62), archer’s bow (20), glumly (24, 112), mournfully (28, 248), dyslexic (38), hyperactive (38), vivid (41), bolt (52), architect/architecture (62, 83, 202), archery (62, 79, 83, 84, 107), mischievous (63), immortal (67), ADHD, armor/armory/armed (79, 109), sullen (85), ambrosia (88), johns (90), skeptically (93), mischievous (100), omen (102), humiliating (107), resent (108, 159), sparring (110), fate (112), vowed (113), oath (114), aura (114), torment (114), sacrifice (115), gaudy (116), scowled (128), quest (134), quarrel (134), paranoid (136), summer solstice (137, 247), chaos (138), carnage (138), wrath (138), slayer (140), destiny (141), illusion (154), melancholy (156, 298), rivals (157), aura (159), repulsively (159), impulsive (164, 173), eternal (165), marred (176), menace (181), petrify (184), pledge (189), deceitful (199), helm (204), fugitive (212), murk (212, 270), fatalities (216, 335), brutal (224), corpse (228), douse (238), transport (242), toying (247), mournful (248), escort (248), chasm (252, 271, 304), horrid (253), torment (256), eons (300), grotesquely (307), mesmerizing (309), charisma (309), arrogant (310), helm (314), grim (316), sacrifice (317), reconciliation (326), ego (326), pawns (365), vengeance (371)

Greek Mythology: Satyr (45), minotaur (59), centaur (74), Oracle (94, 102), Naiads (94, 112), demigods (95), naids (112), River Styx (114), Tartarus (114), hellhounds (125), trident (126), Oracle (134), Hercules and Jason (152), cyclops (154), the Furies (161), Chimera (207), Echidna (207), Cupid (232), Charon(285), River Styx (289), Cerberus (297), Sisyphus (301), Tartarus (305)

Idioms and Cultural References

“harbor a grudge” (143)
“to give [you] the benefit of the doubt” (228)

Intellectual Prep

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  1. Read and annotate the “Why This Unit?” and “Essential Questions” portion of the unit plan. 
  2. Read and annotate the text with essential questions in mind.
  3. Identify dates for Mt. Olympus presentation and project. See lessons 2 and 3. Decide whom you’ll invite to see presentations. 
  4. Outline a class conversation to introduce students to the routine of daily reading quizzes and clarify nightly homework expectations. The quizzes should be designed to assess whether students read and understand the basics of the text assigned for homework. Remind students that it is important they feel accountable for the reading and practice reading/annotating on their own. 
  5. Make sure you order both sets of books (The Lightning Thief and D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths). You can also make a photocopied packet of myths for students. See selected myths in “Unit Texts” above. 
  6. Take unit assessment. Focus on questions 1, 9, 15 (The Hero’s Journey); 4, 6, 10 (Word in Context); and 7, 12, and 13 (inference). Write the mastery response to the short answer and essay question. Determine how you will grade each one. 
  7. Unit plan lessons that align directly with test questions: 
  1. The hero’s journey: lessons 8, 10
  2. Mythology: lessons 1, 14, 24
  3. Word in context: 5, 11, 21
  4. Text features: Italics: lessons 1, 5, 16 
  5. Inference: lessons 5, 6, 7, 9
  6. Mood: lessons 18, 19, 20, 23
  7. Motivation: lessons 14, 27
  8. Hubris: lessons 14, 15, 20, 22
  9. Essential Questions: lessons 1, 14, 15, 17, 20, 22, 27
  1. Grade Target Tasks from Lessons 1, 6, 8, 11, 14, 20, and 22.

Content Knowledge and Connections

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  • Greek mythology
  • The hero’s journey 

Previous Connections

3rd grade: (Roman) The Oak and the Linden, Prometheus, Atlas and the Eleventh Labor, Cupid and Psyche, Otus and Ephialtes, Twin Giants, Romulus and Remus, Oedipus and the Sphynx

4th grade: (Greek) Apollo and Daphne, Pandora’s Box, I am Arachne, Echo and Narcissus, Hercules

Future Connections

10th grade: Antigone by Sophocles 

Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 6 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Lesson Map

1

  • Greek Myths pp. 12 – 23 — "The Titans" and "Zeus and His Family"

  • Teacher's Guide — p. 4

    RL.6.3

Complete a family tree of the Greek gods based on the myths "The Titans" and "Zeus and His Family."

Explain the purpose of mythology in Ancient Greece. 

2

Project

  • Teacher's Guide

    RI.6.7

    W.6.7

    W.6.8

Connect to prior knowledge about the Greek Gods.

Research details about the Greek Gods. 

3

3 days

Project

    W.6.3

    SL.6.4

Use research to write a narrative from first-person point of view from the perspective of a god or goddess.

Present narratives aloud to class, focusing on tone and volume.

4

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 1

    RL.6.3

    RL.6.6

Make inferences about Percy as a character. 

Analyze how the author develops the narrator’s point of view.

5

  • “The Three Fates”

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 2

    RL.6.6

    L.6.4

Make inferences about Percy as a character. 

Determine the meaning of an unknown word using context clues. 

6

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 3

    RL.6.6

Make inferences about Percy based on his inner thoughts.

Analyze how the author uses first person point of view and dialogue to characterize Percy.

7

  • Theseus and the Minotaur

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 4

    RL.6.3

Make inferences based on character’s response to challenge.

8

  • “The Hero’s Journey”

  • “The Hero's Journey video”

    RL.6.9

    RI.6.2

Build background information on the archetypal hero. 

Explain the relationship between Percy Jackson and The Hero’s Journey. 

9

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 5

    RL.6.3

Make inferences on Percy’s character based on his interactions with other characters, response to challenges and inner thoughts. 

10

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 6

    RL.6.9

Explain that Percy is on the hero’s journey based on evidence from The Lightning Thief and "The Hero’s Journey." 

11

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 7

    L.6.4

Determine the meaning of an unknown word using contextual clues. 

12

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 8

    RL.6.5

Explain the clues Rick Riordan gives the readers to determine Percy’s father before he does. 

13

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 9

  • “The Oracle at Delphi”

    RL.6.3

Identify and explain the main external conflict in chapter 9. 

14

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 10

  • Heroes, Gods... pp. 647 – 651

  • Prometheus

    RL.6.3

Identify and explain character motivation. 

15

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 11

  • The Story of...

  • Teacher's Guide

    RL.6.2

    RL.6.5

Explain author’s purpose in describing the setting in such detail.

Explain how hubris can have consequences in Greek mythology.

16

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 12

  • Teacher's Guide

    L.6.2

Explain the author’s use of italics when depicting the evil use.

17

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 13

    RL.6.3

Analyze how characters are motivated by their relationships with their fathers.

18

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 14

    RL.6.4

Identify and analyze the mood when Percy is underwater in the river.

19

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 15

    RL.6.3

    RL.6.4

Analyze how the mood in Waterland contributes to the plot.

20

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 16

  • Greek Myths — Athena, Arachne, and the Weaving Contest

    RL.6.4

Analyze the impact of words on mood.

21

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 17

  • Greek Myths — Orpheus and Eurydice

    L.6.4

Explain the meaning of an unknown word using contextual clues.

22

  • Greek Myths pp. 132 – 142 — Heracles

    RL.6.3

Analyze how the Greek gods use violence to maintain their power.

23

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 18

  • Teacher's Guide

    RL.6.4

Explain how the setting helps to create the mood. 

24

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 19

  • Greek Myths pp. 58 – 62 — Persephone

    RL.6.2

    RL.6.5

Explain how particular sentences contribute to the plot.

Explain how the ancient Greeks understood the origin of winter.

25

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 20

    RL.6.5

Analyze how the author slows down time and stretches out the story’s conflict
using small, pressure-filled moments. 

26

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 21

    RL.6.3

Analyze how Percy’s relationship with his father has changed over time. 

27

  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 22

  • Teacher's Guide

    RL.6.3

Explain Luke’s motivation for stealing the master bolt. 

28

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.6.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • L.6.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • L.6.4.a — Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

  • L.6.4.b — Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., audience, auditory, audible).

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.6.1 — Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RI.6.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

  • RI.6.7 — Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.6.1 — Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RL.6.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

  • RL.6.3 — Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

  • RL.6.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

  • RL.6.5 — Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

  • RL.6.6 — Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

  • RL.6.9 — Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres (e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories) in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.6.4 — Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

  • SL.6.5 — Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, images, music, sound) and visual displays in presentations to clarify information.

  • SL.6.6 — Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Writing Standards
  • W.6.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.6.3.a — Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

  • W.6.3.b — Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

  • W.6.3.c — Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence and signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another.

  • W.6.3.d — Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.

  • W.6.7 — Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.

  • W.6.8 — Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources.