Grades/Level: Middle School (6–8), High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, History–Social Science
Time Required: 3–5–Part Lesson
One or more class periods
Author: Randi Seligson and Melanie Welsh, Middle School Teachers
George Ellery Hale Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District

For the Classroom

Curriculum Home
Lesson Plans

Lesson Overview

Students use the model of the infamous Bill and Ted from the feature film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure to "go back in time" to learn about deities in the ancient world. After researching, studying, and viewing reproductions of artworks that depict gods and goddesses, students transport their chosen deities to the modern world as characters they write about in a mock television talk-show script, which they enact for the class.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• identify the unique attributes of a god or goddess from ancient Greek or Roman mythology.
• observe how gods and goddesses were portrayed in ancient art.
• write and enact a script introducing an ancient god or goddess to the modern world.


• Reproduction of Enthroned Zeus by unknown artist
• Reproduction of Marbury Hall Zeus by unknown artist
• Reproduction of Storage Jar with the Judgment of Paris by the Painter of the Wedding Procession
• Reproduction of Statuette of Poseidon by unknown artist
• Reproduction of Venus-Hygeia by unknown artist
• Reproduction of Aphrodite by unknown artist
• Reproduction of Statuette of Apollo by unknown artist
• Reproduction of Mixing Vessel with Apollo and Artemis by the Palermo Painter
• Reproduction of Prize Vessel from the Athenian Games by the Marsyas Painter
• Reproduction of Water Jar with an Owl by the Group of the Floral Nolans
• Reproduction of Mixing Vessel with Triptolemos by the Syleus Painter
• Reproduction of Head of the Young Bacchus by unknown artist
• Student Handout: "Greek and Roman Deities at the Villa"
• Pencils and/or pens
• Student Handout: "Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses"
• Student Handout: "Student Worksheet"
• Colored pencils, markers, and/or crayons
• Paper (8 1/2" x 11")

Lesson Steps

Part One

1. Download, print, and make copies of the student handouts for the class.

2. Show and introduce the reproductions of the Getty Featured Artworks to the class.

3. Pass out copies of the student handout "Greek and Roman Deities at the Villa" to students. Tell students that the handout includes images and more background information on the artworks they just saw. Review and lead a class discussion about all of the gods and goddesses included in the handout.

4. Pass out pens and/or pencils.

5. Next, pass out the student handout "Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses" that includes a list of the major Greek and Roman deities. Review the handout with the students. Then have each student choose one god or goddess listed on the chart.

6. Pass out the "Student Worksheet" handout, along with the colored pencils, markers, crayons, and paper.

7. Tell students to use the information in their handouts and additional resources to do research on the attributes, myths, plant and animal associations, and any unique qualities of the god or goddess they each selected. Have students go online to view the Featured Getty Artwork from the Collection that corresponds to their selected deity. They will use the "Student Worksheet" handout to guide and compile their research, and then sketch the artwork. Students can also use separate sheets of paper for additional notes.

8. Tell students to create a final bulleted outline of their research, compiling all the information on their god or goddess. Then have students organize their research and place it in a "Discovery" folder for their selected deity.

Part Two

1. Once students have completed the research, explain to them that there was a movie in 1989 called Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure in which two high school students, Bill and Ted, traveled back in time and transported famous historical figures to the present for a school report. Tell students that they will do something similar: They will bring their chosen god or goddess into to the present day to appear on a mock television talk show.

2. Discuss with the class ideas for the television talk-show format, e.g., moderator/guests, time limits, and other details for their presentations.

3. Tell students to use their research and observations to write a mock talk-show script that brings their god or goddess into the present day and introduces him or her to the modern world. Have students form groups of three to write their scripts, with each playing the part of their chosen deity.

4. Students should communicate the god's or goddess's importance and contributions to ancient Greece and Rome. Students should also express that the deities were not all the same but, rather, had many unique characteristics.

Part Three

1. Have each student group enact their script. They can use visual aids and wear simple costumes if desired. The deities might speak as individuals, among themselves, or to the audience; be comical; or even argue among themselves.

2. During each talk-show enactment, someone in the audience will call out, "You gods are all the same!" In response, the deities in each group will discuss and demonstrate the unique qualities that make each of them special.

3. After each performance, you can allow a limited period of time for the "deities" to answer impromptu questions from the audience.

Enthroned Zeus/unknown
Enthroned Zeus, unknown artist, about 100 B.C., Bruce White Photography, Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman


Students will be assessed on their:
• descriptions of the unique attributes of a god or goddess from ancient Greek or Roman mythology.
• observations on how ancient gods and goddesses were portrayed in art.
• written scripts and enactments, introducing an ancient god or goddess to the modern world.


Have students record and/or videotape the performances. Students can choose clips from each performance that can be compiled into one presentation to be shown at the end of the semester or posted online on a site such as You Tube for the class to view. (If posted publically, be sure to obtain written releases from parents and students alike.)

Standards Addressed

Common Core Standards for English Language Arts

Grades 6–12

Key Ideas and Details
1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Text Types and Purposes
3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing
4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge
7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Comprehension and Collaboration
1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 6
1.0 Artistic Perception
1.2 Discuss works of art as to theme, genre, style, idea, and differences in media.
1.3 Describe how artists can show the same theme by using different media and styles.

2.0 Creative Expression
2.1 Use various observational drawing skills to depict a variety of subject matter.

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context
3.1 Research and discuss the role of the visual arts in selected periods of history, using a variety of resources (both print and electronic).
3.2 View selected works of art from a culture and describe how they have changed or not changed in theme and content over a period of time.
3.3 Compare, in oral or written form, representative images or designs from at least two selected cultures.

English–Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 6
2.0 Reading Comprehension (Focus on Informational Materials)
2.1 Identify the structural features of popular media (e.g., newspapers, magazines, online information) and use the features to obtain information.
2.3 Connect and clarify main ideas by identifying their relationships to other sources and related topics.
2.4 Clarify an understanding of texts by creating outlines, logical notes, summaries, or reports.

3.0 Literary Response and Analysis
3.6 Identify and analyze features of themes conveyed through characters, actions, and images.

1.0 Writing Strategies
1.4 Use organizational features of electronic text (e.g., bulletin boards, databases, keyword searches, e-mail addresses) to locate information.

2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)
2.5 Write persuasive compositions:
   a. State a clear position on a proposition or proposal.
   b. Support the position with organized and relevant evidence.
   c. Anticipate and address reader concerns and counterarguments.

Listening and Speaking
1.0 Listening and Speaking Strategies
1.1 Relate the speaker's verbal communication (e.g., word choice, pitch, feeling, tone) to the nonverbal message (e.g., posture, gesture).
1.2 Identify the tone, mood, and emotion conveyed in the oral communication.
1.4 Select a focus, an organizational structure, and a point of view, matching the purpose, message, occasion, and vocal modulation to the audience.
1.5 Emphasize salient points to assist the listener in following the main ideas and concepts.
1.6 Support opinions with detailed evidence and with visual or media displays that use appropriate technology.
1.7 Use effective rate, volume, pitch, and tone, and align nonverbal elements to sustain audience interest and attention.

2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)
2.2 Deliver informative presentations:
   a. Pose relevant questions sufficiently limited in scope to be completely and thoroughly answered.
   b. Develop the topic with facts, details, examples, and explanations from multiple authoritative sources (e.g., speakers, periodicals, online information).
2.4 Deliver persuasive presentations:
   a. Provide a clear statement of the position.
   b. Include relevant evidence.
   c. Offer a logical sequence of information.
   d. Engage the listener and foster acceptance of the proposition or proposal.

History–Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 6
6.4 Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the early civilizations of Ancient Greece.
4. Explain the significance of Greek mythology to the everyday life of people in the region and how Greek literature continues to permeate our literature and language today, drawing from Greek mythology and epics, such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and from Aesop's Fables.

6.7 Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures during the development of Rome.
8. Discuss the legacies of Roman art and architecture, technology and science, literature, language, and law.