Teaching Allusions to Mythology – Surprising Vocabulary for Kids

Allusions to mythology refer, or allude, to characters in myths. Teaching these surprisingly well-known terms links literature and vocabulary in your classroom.

Ms. Sneed Teaches Allusions to Greek Mythology

Our favorite fourth grade teacher pulled her chair up to her desk. “Let’s continue planning our ELA block,” she said to her student teacher. “Next, we’ll add allusions to our unit on Greek mythology.”

“Huh?” Mr. Grow frowned. “I’ve never heard of an allusion.”

“Oh,” Ms. Sneed replied. “It’s simply a term that refers to a mythological character. For example, when we use the term Herculean, we are referring to Hercules. It’s a pretty important concept in grade 4. After all, one of the Common Core literature standards requires it:

CCSS RL.4.4 -Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology.”

Ms. Sneed pulled up her files and invited Mr. Grow to look on.

A List of 40 Allusions

Mr. Grow read over the allusions they would introduce:

  • Achilles’ heel (Achilles) weakness; downfall
  • Adonis (Adonis) handsome young man
  • amazon (Amazon) tall, strong woman
  • arachnid (Arachne) arthropod or spider
  • atlas (Atlas) book of maps
  • cereal (Ceres) grain
  • chaos (Chaos) complete confusion
  • chronological (Chronos) in time order
  • cupid (Cupid) matchmaker
  • echo (Echo) bouncing sound
  • fate (the Fates) destiny
  • fortune (Fortune) wealth
  • fury (the Furies) intense anger
  • gigantic (giants) huge
  • harpy (harpies) unpleasant woman
  • Herculean (Hercules) requiring strength
  • hypnosis (Hypnos) state of sleep
  • iris (Iris) colored part of eye; flower
  • jovial (Jove) jolly
  • lunatic (Luna) crazy
  • martial (Mars) relating to war
  • mercurial (Mercury) temperamental
  • Midas touch (Midas) ability to make money
  • muse (the Muses) inspiration
  • narcissism (Narcissus) self-love
  • nemesis (Nemesis) rival
  • nymph (nymphs) young girl or insect
  • ocean (Oceanus) large body of water
  • oracle (oracle) wise person; prophet
  • Pandora’s box (Pandora) source of trouble
  • phobia (Phobos) fear
  • phoenix (phoenix) person who has recovered
  • psychology (Psyche) study of human mind
  • siren (sirens) alarm; temptress
  • tantalize (Tantalus) tempt
  • titanic (Titans) huge
  • Trojan horse (Trojans) hidden truth
  • typhoon (Typhon) hurricane
  • volcano (Vulcan) mountain of lava
  • zephyr (Zephyrus) gentle breeze
Terms on this list include 40 allusions to mythology. Kids can use it to study.
Are you feeling “pinspired?” Feel free to pin images from this post.

“Wow, who knew that these everyday words were actually allusions to mythology?” Mr. Grow exclaimed. “How will we teach this?”

Direct Instruction of Allusions

“First, we will present each allusion with a pictorial slideshow. In order to allow time for kids to digest the information, I like to present only ten each day.”

Quickly, Mr. Grow jotted this down in his mythology lesson plans. “Hey, a lot of these terms refer to mythological characters. Therefore, our kids will understand better when they do they research gods, goddesses, heroes, and creatures. Oh, and when they write argumentative pieces based on them.”

Ms. Sneed grinned. “Exactly. Pieces of the unit support one another. In addition to the characters research project, many of these terms show up in our novel, The Lightning Thief.”

Teach 40 allusions to myths with this slideshow.

Review and Assessment

“As kids complete their research, they will study the allusions. They can use flash cards or a specially created ebook.”

Kids study 40 allusions to mythology with a specially created website or cards.

Ms. Sneed showed her student another page. “Finally, they’ll take an assessment. It asks them to match twenty allusions with their definitions.”

Kids are assessed with this 20-question quiz.

Mr. Grow’s smile grew. “Now I know I’ll love teaching fourth grade literature activities. Learning allusions to mythology will be fun!”

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