A teacher’s guide the lightning thief

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Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book One

By Rick Riordan

Ages 9-14

$17.95 US

$24.95 CAN

Tr. Ed. 0-7868-5629-7


  • Introduction . . . p. 3

  • Pre-reading activities . . . p. 4

  • Other ideas for unit "appetizers" . . . p. 8

Activities and Discussion Questions by Chapter:

  • Chapter 1 . . . p. 11

  • Chapter 2 . . . p. 14

  • Chapter 3 . . . p. 17

  • Chapter 4 . . . p. 21

  • Chapter 5 . . . p. 23

  • Chapter 6 . . . p. 25

  • Chapter 7 . . . p. 31

  • Chapter 8 . . . p. 35

  • Chapter 9 . . . p. 38

  • Chapter 10 . . . p. 41

  • Chapter 11 . . . p. 44

  • Chapter 12 . . . p. 46

  • Chapter 13 . . . p. 48

  • Chapter 14 . . . p. 51

  • Chapter 15 . . . p. 53

  • Chapter 16 . . . p. 55

  • Chapter 17 . . . p. 57

  • Chapter 18 . . . p. 59

  • Chapter 19 . . . p. 61

  • Chapter 20 . . . p. 63

  • Chapter 21 . . . p. 66

  • Chapter 22 . . . p. 68

  • End-of-unit activities and questions . . . p. 69

  • About the Author . . . p. 74

  • Myths related to the novel, by chapter . . . p. 76

  • Greek mythology: a quick reference guide . . . p. 79

  • Rationale for using the novel in the classroom (with a plot summary) . . . p. 84


This curriculum guide has much more material than the average teacher will ever use. Alas, few of us have the luxury of spending an entire six- or nine-week unit on one novel. Having said this, I have a few pieces of advice before you dive in:

1. Pick and choose what works best for you! A colleague of mine once described a good curriculum guide as a grocery store. No one is expected to buy everything on the shelves. Only put into your cart what you like. You are the expert on what will work best for your classroom and your students.

2. It's better to do one novel well than many novels quickly and poorly. I learned this lesson the hard way. Invariably, the novels my students liked best were the ones I enriched with lots of activities, extensions, and chances to interact with the text. Whenever I rushed to finish a novel because I had to cover it and felt I didn't have time for any of the "extras," I bored the kids to death. They learned and retained very little. The extras aren't extra. They are critical elements of teaching well.

3. On the other hand, don't torture the kids with too much! A poor way to use this guide would be to run off copies of every single chapter's comprehension questions and have the kids answer all four million of them (using complete sentences of course). Try to engage the students with the book. As with any text, the goal should be to leave the students wanting to read more, not less.

4. Have fun! Another lesson I learned the hard way: If I'm not having a good time in the classroom, the chances are slim that the students are enjoying themselves. And yes, students do learn more when they find learning enjoyable. Don't you? Challenge yourself. Become a learner. Take the opportunity to explore Greek mythology more in depth for yourself! In other words, we as teachers need to model the traits we expect our students to acquire.

5. Even if you don't teach Percy Jackson . . . I've packed this guide with a ton of reading & writing ideas that can apply to any class. Feel free to use them. Many ideas can be adapted to a Greek mythology unit or any novel unit at all. You might also consider adding Percy Jackson to your optional outside/summer reading list. In this case, the essay and comprehension questions offer you an easy way to assess whether or not students actually read the book!

Note: You have permission to copy any of this material for classroom use. Share it freely with colleagues. All I ask is that you credit the website -- www.rickriordan.com -- and do not use this material for commercial profit. This entire guide is available in .pdf format on the website!



Pre-reading Activities

These activities are designed to get the students interested in the novel before you start reading. However, many of them can be adapted to use during the unit, too.


Discussion/Journal Questions

Put one of these questions on the board. Give students 3-5 minutes to write a journal response. Have them pair off and share their responses with a partner. Then have a general class discussion. These can easily be expanded and revisited as essay prompts later in the unit.

  1. Have you ever been treated unfairly by a teacher (or parent, or other adult)? Describe the circumstances and why you considered the treatment unfair.

  1. What do you know about learning disabilities such as ADHD or dyslexia? Do you know anyone who has a learning disability? Do you think a person with a learning disability should receive more time to complete tests or less homework than a person without a learning disability? Explain your position.

  1. In Ancient times, the Greeks had gods for many important forces in their lives -- the sea, thunderstorms, farming, music, medicine, poetry, archery, etc. Why do you think they imagined many different gods rather than just one? Would this make life more confusing or less confusing?

  1. Young children often imagine that their parents aren’t really their parents. What would it be like if you suddenly found out that you had a “real” father or mother you never knew about? What if this person was extremely rich and powerful – would you accept them as a parent?

  1. Do you believe in anything that science can’t prove -- such as magic, or ghosts, or creatures like the Loch Ness monster? Why or why not?

  1. Have you ever been to summer camp? If so, describe what you did or did not like about it. If not, imagine and describe what you think a typical summer camp would be like – any impressions from television or movies?

  1. You have been granted one magical item of your choice. What would this item be, and what power would it have? Explain your choice.

Previewing the Book

Do any of the following as students are preparing to read the novel.

  1. Creating the contents. Read the table of contents aloud as a class, or have students read it silently. Ask them to pick the two or three chapters that sound like they might be the most interesting. Have them share their choices with a partner, then discuss them as a whole class. Finally, have students do a 2-3 minute journal describing what they think might happen in that chapter. This is pure guess work and prediction. They are not expected to guess correctly. Have them share their writing with a parent.

Here is a model for Ch. 21: “I Settle My Tab.”

I think in this chapter the main character will get in trouble because he tries to leave a restaurant without paying for his meal. The waitress will catch him and make him wash dishes. Something will happen in the kitchen while he’s washing the dishes, and he’ll end up saving the lives of everybody in the diner. That’s how he’ll end up settling his tab.

  1. Voices from the Future. Use the reader’s theater method to have students preview the dialogue. Have students get in groups of two or three, then scan through the book to find 6-10 lines of dialogue together. Students should practice reading the dialogue like a script (without the ‘he said,’ ‘she said’). Ask volunteers to present these short vignettes to the class, then discuss with the students what they think is going on in that chapter, based on what they’ve heard.

  1. Walking the Map. Have students look at the map of Camp Half Blood on the Percy Jackson web site. If they only had time to visit one location in this camp, which one would they choose and why? Have them answer either in a journal entry or in small group discussion, then follow up with a whole-class discussion. Encourage them to speculate about the locations that don’t make immediate sense, such as the Big House, Thalia’s Pine, or the armory.

Connecting to prior knowledge

Have students fill out the attached worksheet, “The Gods of Olympus,” to see how much they know about Greek mythology. Once they’ve filled out as much as they know on their own, have them work with a partner to compare notes. This works well as a timed activity. Make it a competition to see who can get the most, with their partner, in 2-5 minutes. Stress that it is okay to be wrong on this activity – they are simply trying to jog their memory as much as possible.

The Gods of Olympus

In each throne, write anything you think is true about that god or goddess.

Other Ideas for “Unit Appetizers”

  1. If you have access to computers, have students create a presentation about the gods of Olympus using Powerpoint, Hyperstudio, or a similar program. If your computer access is limited, students can work in teams of 2-3, and rotate to the computer workstation. Each student team can pick a different god to research, or every team can do their own overview of all twelve Olympians. Pick the best presentations to show the class.

  1. Remind students that the gods frequently had children with mortals. Ask them to research which god or goddess they would most like to be related to. For ideas, visit the web sites http://www.mythweb.com or http://www.pantheon.org/areas/mythology/europe/greek/articles.html. Students should write down their top three choices and explain each.

  1. Using a U.S. map, tell students to plan a road trip from New York City to Los Angeles. They should draw a map of the highways used and at least five cities they would stop in. They should write a narrative giving driving instructions. You can also have them calculate how long it would take them to reach their destination driving 60 miles an hour for eight hours a day (or plug in your own numbers). Hint: AAA (the American Automobile Association) is sometimes amenable to giving away sets of U.S. maps for classroom use. Otherwise atlases or social studies textbooks can be used. There are also good maps of the U.S. available on many internet information sites, such as http://maps.yahoo.com.

  1. For the artists in your class, ask them to find out about one monster from the Greek myths and do a color picture of that creature. http://www.theoi.com is a great source for many Greek monsters.

  1. Set up “Olympian discussion partners” using the attached reproducible chart. Students each get a blank chart, then must set “appointments” with one other student at each block. It’s important that both students write these appointments down. For instance, if John and Bill are Ares partners, the John’s name goes on Bill’s sheet and Bill’s name goes on John’s sheet in the block marked Ares. Allow students about 5-10 minutes to sign up all their appointments. You will have to referee if there are people left out of a particular block. You may have some partner groups with three people, if you have an odd number of kids. Students have to sign up a different person for each of the twelve blocks. Students have to save their sheets. You may wish to photocopy them so you have a set.

This takes a while to set up, but once it is done, you have a built-in way to break students up for small-group discussions. You simply tell them which appointment to meet. For instance, “Get with your Aphrodite appointment and share your journal responses.”

6. Extra credit questions for those kids who want to do more:

    1. Find one hero whose father was Zeus (easy).

    2. Find one hero whose father was Poseidon (harder).

    3. Find one hero whose mother was Aphrodite (hardest).

    4. Dionysus is the only guy to have his throne on the women’s side of the throne room in Olympus . Find out how this happened. Hint: It has to do with Hestia.

    5. Who is the one major Greek god who does not have a throne on Olympus , and why?

    6. What are the Roman names for the twelve Olympians?


  • Make twelve appointments with other students to be your discussion partner. Put one student’s name in each box. Make sure you write your name in the same box on their sheet. You have to have a different name in every box.

  • Hold on to your sheet! You’ll need it during this unit.

Chapter 1

I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-algebra Teacher


Warm-up Activities:

  1. Journal questions for anticipatory discussion:

    1. Brainstorm as many school field trips as you can remember. What’s the best (or worst) experience you’ve ever had on a school field trip?

    2. Have you ever learned something in school you were absolutely sure you would never use in your life? Explain.

  1. Take a virtual field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. (http://www.metmuseum.org/home.asp). Go to “Collection” and choose “Greek and Roman Art.” Have students explore the collection and fill out the following information for at least five different objects:

Art Object Analysis

What kind of object is it? ____________________________________

What is it made out of? _____________________________________

Does it have a use, other than art? If so, what? ___________________

When was it created? _________

Where is it from? ______________________________________

Describe what it looks like: ______________________________________________________________

Does it have illustrations from the Greek myths? If so, what? ______________________________________________________________

As you read:

It is recommended you read the first chapter aloud to the students, or have someone read it who has a good flair for the dramatic. This gives students a chance to get used to the voice of the narrator and get hooked into the story.

The following questions can be answered as students read, assigned as homework, or given afterwards to assess comprehension. It is a good idea to have the students read the questions in advance. You don’t have to assign all the questions. You might alternate evens and odds, or divide the questions by small groups.

  1. What kind of school is Yancy Academy ?

  2. What bad experiences has Percy had on past field trips?

  3. Why can’t Percy get back at Nancy when she starts teasing Grover on the bus?

  4. Why doesn’t Percy get along with Mrs. Dodds?

  5. When do you first suspect that something may be unusual/supernatural about Mrs. Dodds?

  6. In the story about the gods and titans, who was Kronos and what happened to him after the gods defeated him?

  7. Why does Percy get angry at Mr. Brunner? How would you have felt in his position?

  8. What do you learn about Percy’s home life as he’s watching the taxis on Fifth Avenue?

  9. How does Percy get in trouble with Mrs. Dodds? Do you think it’s his fault?

  10. How have things changed when Percy returns to the front steps of the museum?

Follow-up Activities:
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