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This unit has been archived.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
Athena, Arachne, and the Weaving Contest
Orpheus and Eurydice
Persephone and Demeter

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. 

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials


This assessment accompanies Unit 10 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep


  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.

Essential Questions


  • 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


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 



Literary Terms

contextual clues, infer, gist, mood, hubris

Roots and Affixes

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


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)

Content Knowledge and Connections


  • Greek mythology
  • The hero’s journey 

Lesson Map


  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 7


Determine the meaning of an unknown word using contextual clues. 


  • The Lightning Thief — Ch. 15



Analyze how the mood in Waterland contributes to the plot.



Common Core Standards

Core Standards