Unit Plan: The Aeneid (Virgil)

As my first year went on, I felt the need to throw in something ancient, something grandiose.  The Iliad and The Odyssey seemed terrifying to teach, as the language would be a struggle for my students.  I settled on The Aeneid, instead; predominantly because I was familiar enough with the original Latin to know a decent translation when I saw it.  So I went with that.




The Plan


  1. I)  Discuss Greek and Roman mythology
  2. A) The Gods

1) Who they are

  1. a) The major gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon

2) What they represent

  1. B) The Trojan War

1) The Apple of Discord

2) The Most Beautiful Goddess in Heaven

3) Helen of Troy

4) The Fall of Troy


  1. II) Watch Troy.

(As there is no movie for The Aeneid, and the story is long and dry, it is crucial to show the movie of the Trojan War and the destruction of Troy before reading the book.)  Do not watch the Director’s Cut, as there is a greater deal more nudity and violence, and some schools may consider it pushing a limit to watch an R-rated movie in class at all.

There is a bonus at the end, when Paris looks to one of the people escaping the city and asks for his name–this youth is Aeneas, and it makes for a great visual reference for the actual story!


III) Background Information on The Aeneid

  1. A) Propaganda

1) Explain the idea of propaganda

  1. a) My class tends to read this late in the year, so propaganda is more of a review concept

2) Explain the Roman war machine and their conquest of the ancient world

  1. a) Having just wiped Carthage from existence, Augustus Caesar wanted a national epic that proclaimed Rome’s glory as predestined in ages past
  2. B) The Epic Hero Cycle

1) Outline the points of the Epic Hero Cycle

  1. a) See Epic Hero Cycle handout (separate post)
  2. b) This is a great discussion for the class, and you can incorporate assignments such as finding each criterion in the text, as well as having students find examples in their favorite shows, movies, books, or video games


  1. IV) Read The Aeneid
  2. Chapter by Chapter is best
  • There are 12 chapters to the story, so this can take anywhere between 2-4 weeks to read
  • I wrote Chapter Reviews for each chapter, adapted from Spark Notes, and included Themes, Vocabulary, and Characters
  1. Discuss the Events
  • Certain things are more relevant than others, but the bulk of the story connects Rome’s mythological roots with much of the ancient world
  • Some of the text references Homer’s The Odyssey, making this a sequel to The Iliad and a companion to the former.
    1. It would not hurt to ask students about fan fiction and have them debate/decide if this constitutes such
  1. Discuss the Characters
  • The gods have more personality than the mortals. Why?
  • Is Aeneas a good main character? Why or Why not?
    1. This is a great way to discuss heroes in popular culture, as well. For example, who is the better superhero: Superman or Batman? Why?
    2. If you start the Superman/Batman discussion, the students should very quickly engage-—this is their chance to shine on what makes a hero interesting. Let them take the whole class, if possible, and have them explain their opinions.  Then have them connect those points to the characters in the story.
  1. Discuss the Themes
  • Fate
    1. What is fate?
    2. Are people bound by an unseen, predetermined path?
  • Refugees and Suffering
    1. There is so much of this in the modern world, with all our modern amenities. How much better/worse could it have been in antiquity?
    2. Have students imagine being the very last of their civilization. What would they do?  How would they preserve what’s left of their culture?


  1. V) Assessment
  1. Nightly homework summaries
  2. Writing assignments carrying over from in-class discussions
  • Gods and their primal representations
  • Modern heroic formulae
  • What makes a hero likable?
  • Fate and Suffering
  • Quizzes
    1. Determined by the teacher as needed
  • Test- See related post
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A Long Overdue Update, a sequel

I have recently completed my fourth year of teaching at a private high school in Queens, New York.  The student body, primarily comprised  of English Language Learners, has proven itself to be both richly rewarding and appropriately challenging (as all things are in life).  Usually I spend my summers teaching summer school, which is its own universe of experiences, but I took this summer off to spend with my newly expanded family.

As I now have a much more abundant amount of time, it is my intention to finally share some insights and lessons that I’ve found were either received well by my students, or ones that just seemed really well-planned.

My school does not require in-depth lesson plans, unlike NYC Public Schools, and so these posts will not generally have specific lesson plans; they will instead have general outlines for the whole unit.  Bear in mind that these units are designed by myself to be highly flexible depending on the needs of students and their skills.  (But, as educators, isn’t that how we plan everything out, anyway?”)

In my first year at my present school, I took over the instruction of grades 7-8, 10, and 11.  Grades 7 and 8 were combined into one class and had a textbook designed to fit the Common Core framework.  English 10 and 11, however, were not given a set curriculum; I was simply told that I was free to choose my books as long as they aligned with Common Core, though ideally with a preference towards the more traditional literary works.  This was the most disastrous instruction I’ve ever received–not because of it’s vagueness, but simply because there is a certain hellish prison that comes from that much freedom.  (It’s a paradox, really: the more freedom of choice you have, the more difficult the decision; the fewer options available, the easier the choice becomes.)

When it comes to “traditional literature” in a curriculum, I’m going to say that that is not much of an issue for me: I went to Catholic school, and graduated long before No Child Left Behind was even conceived.  I distinctly remember my English 10 textbook containing the full, original-language texts of MacbethBeowulf, Paradise Lost, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and many others, plus a seemingly archaic translation to The Canterbury Tales.  I read The Odyssey and The Tempest as part of my summer reading prior to that, so being told “traditional texts preferred” meant nothing to me.  Imagine my surprise at the dearth of such classics on the Common Core suggested text list!

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An Update Long Delayed

Fate has been generous to me… While I ultimately had to leave Beacon, it was only because I accepted a full-time teaching job and the hours were a bit of a conflict.

I will publish my remaining Beacon lesson plans, and also begin introducing my unit plans for my 8th, 10th, and 11th Grade classes.

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Beacon Lesson Plan 10/31/13

Adolescent Literacy Lesson Plan



Title: Why Do Vampires Sparkle in the Sunlight?

Aim/Objective: Continue pronunciation lesson by offering relevant, seasonal reference images and vocabulary.  (And maybe find the Headless Horseman’s head…)

Required Materials: Candy (courtesy of Mr. Richard), flip chart, Halloween/Fall pictures (from the student-offered vocabulary).

Do Now:  Since it has been 4 very dry sessions, there is no Do Now.

Direct Instruction:

1) Recap the vocabulary assigned the previous day.

2)  Continue any culture sharing students may have.

Guided and Independent Practice:

1) If any student is wearing a costume, they will be asked to explain their costume to the class: “I am a …..” and why they chose it.

2)  Post the Halloween images on the flip chart.  Have students come up and write the name that corresponds with the picture in English, then in their native language.

Assessment and Reflection:

1) Candy will be given to each student who answers correctly first.  Ideally, the candy is an incentive to volunteer, but everyone will have gotten something by the end of class.  Rate of distribution and supply depletion will be monitored to gauge student achievement.


The important thing about being a teacher is flexibility.  The Raven was going to be distributed for a read-aloud, but the idea was discarded, as it was too involved for the students.  Instead, the previous lesson’s worksheet was reviewed.  Some students had wrong answers, which made the review an ideal assessment.

The candy was a fun idea.  After a decent amount of students became competitively active to get more, the candy was distributed to the ones who hadn’t participated.  Interestingly enough, this made them more vocal and willing to participate.

Half of the class was dedicated to a makeshift party.  One of my assistants brought in cookies, the other some beverages, and there was a drawing activity of creating monsters to serve as their Halloween decorations.

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Beacon Lesson Plan 10/30/13

Adolescent Literacy Lesson Plan


Title: We Go Together

Aim/Objective: Build upon the previous lesson by introducing the sounds made by compound letters.

Required Materials:  Flip chart, markers, construction paper

Do Now:  Students will return to the previous day’s grouping arrangement and repeat the final sound exercise from the previous day, adding the consonant sounds before their vowel (i.e., Group A: “ba,” “da,” “fa”).

Direct Instruction:

1)  Call on students to share their vowel-consonant mergers.  This will bring the previous lesson and homework to the class discussion.

2)  Begin introducing “seasonal” vocabulary words, as they appear on their worksheet.

3) Ideally, any remaining assessments will be completed by this lesson.

Guided and Independent Practice:

1)  Given how dry the previous days’ lessons have been, the tone of this class is more playful.  To prepare for the Thursday/Halloween session, students will be asked if their families celebrate the holiday and how.

2) Halloween vocabulary worksheet.

Assessment and Reflection:

1) The worksheet is designed to be instruction, review, and assessment.


While a vocabulary list was created, it was discarded by the instructional team in favor of the vocabulary from this page on About.com.  The quiz was replicated as a fill-in-the-blank exercise.

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Beacon Lesson Plan 10/29/13

Adolescent Literacy Lesson Plan


Title: We Do A Lot With 26 Letters!

Aim/Objective:  Students will complete the Speaking section of the Assessment while reviewing the English alphabet, the American names of the letters, and the pronunciations of vowels and consonants.

Required Materials: Markers, Flip Chart

Do Now:  As the Assessment has not been concluded, no Do Now will be given.

Direct Instruction:  

1) Fist-To-Five: “Who here can name the letters of the English alphabet?  Fist meaning you cannot, five fingers means you can teach the class.”  Have the strongest participants to get up and write the letters on the flip chart.

2)  Review the 10 sounds vowels make in the English language.

3) Review the sounds of the letters B, D, F, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, R, S, T, V, W, and Z.  These consonants have only one sound associated with them!

4)  Review the sounds of the letters C, G, Q, X, and Y.  Why are they different from the others?  Because they have different sounds!


Guided and Independent Practice:

1) Have the newcomers catch up to the rest of the class by creating their name card and introducing themselves to the class.

2) Have the students count themselves from 1 to 4, break up each group and have them review a different vowel sound per group.  Make them yell out the soft sound, then hard sound for their vowel.

3) Time permitting, assign the groups to C, G, Q, X, and Y to do the same exercise.

Assessment and Reflection:  Fist-To-Five self-assessment will be performed at the lesson’s start, and at its conclusion to gauge confidence in skills.  Students will be given homework, which will be to practice saying the basic sounds.


1)  Fist-to-Five is an assessment technique where the students are asked to raise their hands in response to to how well they know a subject.  Fist means they know nothing, one finger means they know very little, and so on, with five fingers meaning they can get up and teach the class themselves.  It’s a fun activity which gives the kids a little push to think and exert some energy, and even allows for some peer instruction/learning to take place.

2)  Since these students are ELLs, this lesson ended up changing to sounds and letter combinations, with direct reference links to the students’ native languages.  The students seemed a bit more engaged as a result, sharing their own sounds, and understanding why some of their native language is often mispronounced by others.

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Beacon Lesson Plan- 10/22/13 (First Session)

Adolescent Literacy Lesson Plan



Title:  “Getting to Know You!”

Aim/Objective:  To introduce Instructors and Participants to one another and initiate the program. Introduce curriculum briefly. State goals and objectives. Inform students about diagnostic test taking place on the 22nd and 23rd.

Required Materials:  Construction paper, pens, markers

Do Now: No Do Now will be planned for the first session

Direct Instruction:  

A)  The instructional team will demonstrate for the students the “getting to know you” introduction.  The instruction team will model the conversation for the students and provide instructions for making their name cards by making their own sample name cards via the Tell/Show/Do Method:  Tell the students what to put on their card, show them the instructor cards (pass them around the room), have the students do the activity themselves.  The cards will contain the same information as provided during the “Getting to Know You” introduction.

B)  Explain the class and its purpose; positively spin the coming Assessment and get volunteers for the Oral part of the Assessment on Wednesday (30-50% of the group will be needed).

C) Establish Rules 1 and 2:

    1)  Treat each other with respect

    2)  Whenever a word or phrase is encountered, students will raise their hand and call out, “What is that?”

Guided and Independent Practice:

A)  Instruction team will model the “Getting to know You” introduction:

1)  “Hi!, My name is…”

2)  “I am from…”

3)  “I am … year old.”

4)  “My favorite singer is…” and/or “My favorite hobby is…”


B)  Magic Box:  A box will be provided for questions to be submitted without having to ask them publicly; it will be available from 2:55 pm to 4:45 pm each day there is a session.  The questions will be reviewed and answered at the next session.

Assessment and Reflection: No assessment and reflection will be required for this first lesson. Students will be encouraged to bring their name cards for the first two weeks and the instruction team will open the floor to any questions towards the end of the class session if time permits.


There were two more sections, but due to time constraints and limitations on language proficiency, they were considered irrelevant and omitted.

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