Teaching Antigone

I started my Antigone unit, which is the first one where I really make the kids be independent; their autonomy is important to me. I want to see that my Sophomores are learning how to learn without my guidance. For me, independence is key. However, I do start them with some guided instruction.

First, I did provide the vocabulary for the week. Admittedly, this is a bit guided, but the kids truly do take over once I initiate the day. Here is our usual routine. Here is a bit more on our vocabulary lessons.

The last part through which I guide the students is the background information about Antigone. Since this is the third play in the Oedipus Cycle, I use a PowerPoint in which I tell the history of Oedipus (the story of Cadmus is on a poster outside my classroom), and the students take notes while looking for literary devices employed in the storyline.

Once this concludes (and the students are very excited because of the “eww” factor of Oedipus’ marriage), I ask the students to draw a family tree using the story’s characters. Eventually, they agree as a class after sharing their trees, and they always seem to get it right. ๐Ÿ™‚

Then, I put the kids into group of four. I pick the groups; the kids do not. This way I get them to mix it up, and I try to spread the dramatically inclined kids throughout the groups. Then I have the students choose to be an A, B, C, or D. This way the students, by chance, have picked their parts in the play. A = Antigone and Haemon, B = Creon and Ismene, C = Chorus, Teiresias, and Eurydice, and D = Choragos, Sentry, and Messenger.

I then have the kids spread the groups throughout the classroom (3 max in class) and into the halls. They have their parts and read/perform the play in their groups. Some take notes while others do not. Regardless, once they finish the play I have study guides for the kids to use to review the play. I walk among the groups during the periods to answer questions and clarify difficult passages. Really, the kids just take over and get to work.

Typically, the kids finish the play in about 3-4 days and need an additional 2 days to complete the study guide questions. They “correct” the study guides by debating in class and asking each other questions. I stay out of the discussion and only intercede if they aren’t being respectful or starting to get off-task. By this time, the kids have identified the literary devices used and have explored the major themes of the play.

Then, I assign a thesis paper or a presentation comparing and contrasting a character in this play with one from The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, or I assign the same paper/project using The Long Walk Home. I generally prefer using the film rather than the Shakespearean play for the paper/project because it leads us to the race relations in our next novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.

This is one of my favorite weeks because I get to watch the kids take over the reading, comprehending, and exploring. Fun times and always a confidence builder for them and me.

84 thoughts on “Teaching Antigone

  1. Pingback: 100 Essential Blog Posts for the First-Year Teacher | Online College Tips - Online Colleges

    1. Connie

      If you’re still checking this thread, I would love a copy of the study guide and also a copy of the power point presentations. I’m also a new teacher. Thank you for the wonderful ideas.

  2. Jenifer

    I too would LOVE the study guide! I have to teach it for the first time this fall and I have NO materials for it (In fact, I don’t think I had even read it before !)

    Thank you sooooo much!

      1. mamabearbaker

        If you still are willing to send copies of the study guide, I’d love one. I’m teaching Antigone for the first time here at the end of the year! Sara Baker

  3. Marciea

    5th year teacher, first year with sophomores :O I would love to look at and adapt your study guide. Also, just how much background to you give? I was thinking of doing a week on Greek theater, culture, and Oedipus… I have 55 min classes.

  4. Ira Pincus

    Great tips, you have alleviated my anxiety a bit. I have sophomores too and many are struggling readers – I think the group activity you suggest would be great to differentiate their instruction and get through the play in a timely manner. Thanks.

    Is it possible for me to get a copy of your study guide as well? If so, thank you again in advance.


    1. Ira Pincus

      Hi there – just wanted to thank you for the great group activity suggestion for teaching Antigone. We did the prologue today and it went great! Everyone participating, a buzz throughout the room and comprehension of the story so far – imagine that!

      Do you happen to have a copy of the study guide again as I’ve seemed to misfiled the questions for anything past scene 2. Unless of course that’s all the study guide contained. If not, no worries, I can search for additional resources as well. I saw your e-mail on the school in Jamaica, Queens too as it relates to this story. I’m soaking it up like a sponge.

      I really appreciate your sharing! Take care.


      1. Jason Payne

        Hi, I have been looking for a good study guide for Antigone/Oedipus. Would you send me a copy of yours please?

        Thank you.


  5. Kate Apple

    Thanks for your taking the time to describe the process. I was wondering what translation of Antigone you had them read?

    1. drpezz Post author

      I will need to check and let you know. I’m out of my building until Friday, so I will try and remember to jot that down then. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Robyn

    Please send me a copy of the study guide!

    Also, do you have any ideas for contemporisng the play for an australian audience- any activities that would suit that?

    1. Robyn

      Could you send me your email, so I can send you mine to get the guide. I dont want to have it displayed.

  7. Amanda

    I love the reciprocal teaching idea, and splitting the kids into groups of four really helps to drive home the idea of one person playing multiple parts. I’d love to see the study guide (mine is basic comprehension, and I really want to get away from that this year). My email is nickersonak@rcschools.net.


  8. Anonymous

    Wow…this is great info. Would you be williing to share the intro power point as well as the study guide. I have tenth graders this year and will do Antigone early in the year. Trying to write some lesson plans.
    Thanks for sharing. My email is cbailey@chicousd.org

  9. Jessica

    I hope you still have the study guide. I will be teaching Antigone for the first time this year and would love to see your materials. I LOVE the idea of having the kids read it in small groups!


  10. mitzina

    Would love to see the study guide as well. I am a first year teacher and am teaching this during first semester. Thanks!!!!

  11. Sarah

    I too am reinvesting time into teaching vocabulary. Thanks for the drawing suggestions. Also, I would so appreciate seeing your study guide for Antigone. I have just returned to the classroom after an 8 year “retirement” and have all new material on my plate, including Julius Caesar as well.

    Thank you so much!



  12. shedoestheoc

    Hi there! This isn’t my first time teaching sophomores but it is my first time teaching Antigone. I was going to go with a similar approach since we’ve already read Julius, and it’s nice to see that I’m on the right track!

    Couple of questions:
    1. Do you do anything to help teach them the elements of Greek drama (strophe, antistrophe, etc.) or do you just let them kind of make sense of it themselves?
    2. Also, can I get a copy of the study guide, pretty pretty please! my email is britt.n.pratt@gmail.com

    Thanks so much! Great post!

    1. drpezz Post author

      I review the basics of Greek tragedy but focus more on the concepts of tragic characters and tragic flaws. If the class is getting everything pretty well, I go deeper as they can handle it.

  13. shedoestheoc

    Also, I teach honors, and I was thinking of introducing Aristotle’s elements of tragedy before they read and then having them write papers comparing and contrasting Julius and Antigone as a tragedy. Thoughts? Too complex? Should I shorten it to a paper comparing and contrasting just one of the elements of tragedy in both plays?

    Thanks for any advice!

    1. drpezz Post author

      Sounds like a good plan as long as they fully understand the elements of tragedy. If the goal is a compare/contrast paper, I think a character analysis works as well.

  14. Anonymous

    First year teaching sophomore English! I, too, would love to get a copy of your study guide and Oedipus background presentation if possible. Thank you.

  15. Katie Urban

    I realize this was posted quite some time ago, and I am not sure how I stumbled onto it but I am so glad I did! Would you mind sending me the study guide and any other materials you have as well? I will be starting it for the first time next week!

  16. Rickey

    Any chance you can send me the powerpoint? I am interested in how you presented the background information. Obviously, I plan to discuss Oedipus with them to understand the drama aspect of it. rickeyk@asu,edu.



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