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Gods and Rulers Activity

A group of people in white look surprised. They are standing in a clump.
Photo of the Chorus of Oedipus Rex by Michael Brosilow.

This two-part activity invites students to engage in discussion around what institutions and entities rule our society today before engaging in some visual arts to illustrate the power, might, and impact of these bodies.

Gods and Rulers Activity

  • Activity Preparation
    • Supplies
      • Gods and Rulers handout (one per student) 
      • Art supplies (paper, markers, magazines, scissors, and glue, as available) 
    • Set-Up
      • The classroom should be set up for discussion, whether in small groups or the whole class. 
      • Consider having the art materials prepped and nearby, or already accessible to students, as desired. 
      • Be sure that students only take notes on the front of their handouts; they will use the back for Part II of the activity.
  • This activity will take approximately 50 minutes.

  • Learning Sequence (Part One)
    1. Distribute the Gods and Rulers handout. Remind students that in the world of Oedipus Rex, many supernatural forces are at play. Invite them to call out a few. Students may name the gods, the Sphinx, its curse, the plague destroying Thebes, the existence of prophecies, etc. (~2 minutes)
    2. Challenge students to think deeply about these ‘gods’ in Theban society, and how they correlate to the modern world. Explain that ideas about religion and religious institutions will inform the activity’s discussion, and encourage students to hold space and respect their peers’ diverse religious beliefs. They should also distinguish between uppercase “God” and lowercase “god,” and lean towards a definition of something that is, in effect, a deity as opposed to a specific religious figure. (~3 minutes) 
    3. Offer the below questions for discussion (either in small groups or as a class). Questions should be read out loud one at a time and students should be encouraged to take notes on the front side of their Gods and Rulers handout. (~15 minutes) 
      • What role do these supernatural entities play in the society in Oedipus Rex
        • Students may give answers about control, guidance, fate and free will, etc.
      • What other entities or institutions likely had an impact on the lives of the citizens of Thebes? 
        • Among many answers, ideally students will name the government/the monarchy. 
      • What entities and institutions function similarly in our society? 
        • Students may name institutions and systems such as schools, criminal legal, medical, the electoral college, etc. They may also name systems of oppression such as racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc.  
      • How do the entities and institutions in Oedipus Rex compare and contrast with those we experience today? 
        • Students may discuss supernatural vs. earthly institutions; what people can influence vs. are subjected to; whether they are built for good, evil, or neutrality; etc. 

  • Learning Sequence (Part Two)
    1. Prompt students to select one ‘god’ (entity or institution) from modern society that they would like to illustrate. Inform them that they will use the provided art materials to create a visual representation of this ‘god.’ Their illustration may include the following (~2 minutes): 
      • A symbolic or anthropomorphized image of the god 
      • Depictions of the impact of the god (positive, negative, or neutral) 
      • Words that show the tone/mood evoked by the god 
      • Related symbols or objects 
    2. If desired, and if students would benefit from the inspiration, invite them to conduct an internet search of images of ancient Greek gods to learn how ‘gods’ are sometimes depicted. Encourage students to get creative and feel free to make their images look how they would like them to! (~3 minutes)
    3. Release students to begin working on their visual representations. (~25 minutes)
    4. Optionally and if time allows, consider having students share their images with a small group, conducting a gallery walk, or simply inviting students to hang their images around the classroom. 

  • This activity aligns with the following standards:
    • Illinois Arts Learning Standards
      • Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
      • Anchor Standard 2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
      • Anchor Standard 8: Construct meaningful interpretations of artistic work.
      • Anchor Standard 11: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding. 
    • Common Core State Standards
      • CCSS.ELA.RL1 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.
      • CCSS.ELA.RL3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
      • CCSS.ELA.SL1 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. 

Posted on November 15, 2023 in Learning Guides, Productions

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