Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Antigone's Themes Today

The Greek Drama Antigone

K20 Center, Gage Jeter, Linda Brown | Published: May 18th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 4-5 class period(s)
  • Duration More 240 minutes


Before, during, and after reading the play "Antigone" by Sophocles, students will use pre-, during-, and after-reading strategies from Kylene Beers' book "When Kids Can't Read." Students will focus on both comprehension of the play and meaningful and relevant themes.

Essential Question(s)

How can Greek drama be connected to today's high school students? Are there universal themes in "Antigone" that are relevant today?



Prior to beginning the play, students participate in “Tea Party” and “We Think” activities as pre-reading strategies.


As students read the play, they engage in the during-reading activity “Say Something.”


Upon completing the play, students reformulate the text as an ABC book.


Students compile a whole-class ABC book, then reformulate the text in a mode of their choosing.


Students' reformulations are evaluated for comprehension and analysis, and students reflect on their learning using the “I Used to Think… But Now I Know” instructional strategy.


  • Copy of Antigone for each student (link to PDF file provided below, if needed)

  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Say Something Stem Starters (attached;

  • Tea Party Index Cards (attached;

  • Writing tools (pen, pencil, paper, etc.)

  • Three-ring binder for whole-class ABC book


Use the attached Lesson Slides to follow along with the lesson. Display slide 2. Introduce the play Antigone by Sophocles, providing a brief summary of the plot. Display slide 3. Introduce students to the essential questions: How can Greek drama be connected to today's high school students? Are there universal themes in Antigone that are relevant today? Display slide 4. Read aloud the lesson objective.

Display slide 5. Prior to beginning the play, have students participate in the pre-reading Tea Party activity (described by Sue Perona in When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do by Kylene Beers).

Display slide 6. Pass out one Tea Party Index Card to each student at random. Instruct students to first consider the quote written on the card and discern its meaning. Direct them to walk around the room for about 10 minutes, discussing their cards with classmates. Consider playing music during this time. Give students about 15-20 seconds with each classmate. Stop the music or call out for students to stop when you think they have had time to explore the quote.

After students have discussed their individual cards, have them meet in small groups to discuss their cards to predict what might happen next. Suggest the following strategies for predicting the outcome:

  • Infer what the scenes and characters mean.

  • Look for causal relationships between characters’ actions and outcomes.

  • Compare and contrast ideas.

  • Sequence and anticipate events.

  • Connect the quote passages to their own relevant prior experiences.

Encourage students to discuss the passages on their cards with as many of their classmates as possible. Have students first meet in small groups of 2-3. Repeat the activity with groups of three, then groups of four, and finally groups of five. Students should discuss with their groups what they think the play is about based on the quoted passages and their small group discussions.

With students in their final groupings (about five students per group), display slide 7. Invite each group to use a modified version of the I Think/We Think strategy to create a "We Think" paragraph that describes what they think the play is about. Ask them to explicitly begin their paragraphs with "We think that this selection is about…"

Have students use specific quotes to explain why they think the way they do. Have them share out their “We Think” paragraphs with the whole class. Save the paragraphs so that students can reference them later.


Distribute copies of the play and have students begin reading. Additionally, pass out a copy of the attached Say Something Stem Starters sheet. Advise students that they can use the Stem Starters handout during the oral reading.

Display the activity instructions on slide 8. Have students form groups of two or three. Assign group members to take turns reading aloud a passage from the play. Remind readers to pause occasionally to say something about the passage using the prompts on the slide:

  1. Make a prediction.

  2. Ask a question.

  3. Clarify something confusing.

  4. Comment on what's happening in the play.

  5. Connect the text to something they know.

Ask the group to reread the passage if they are unable to do one of those five things. Encourage the reading partners to offer responses to the passage, and have readers take turns reading after each discussion so that everyone has an opportunity to read.

As students read silently and work collaboratively, monitor their progress, offer assistance, and keep them on task.


When the class has read the entire play, guide students in the after-reading strategy of reformulating the text.

Display slide 9. Assign each student a letter (or multiple letters) of the alphabet. Instruct them to choose a word that begins with that letter and reflects something significant about a character, an event, or a theme in Antigone.

Instruct students to write their word(s) and one sentence which uses their word. Stress the importance of making a connection between the sentence and some aspect of the play. During this activity, emphasize the importance of their making connections between the play and the real world. Encourage your students to allow the connections to emerge naturally through their theme sentences and decorations. Remind students of the lesson’s essential questions during this activity.

Have your students draw connections between their own lives and the characters, events, and themes in the play. When they have drafted their sentences, have them decorate the page.

Once each student has completed their personal alphabet page, have them work in pairs or in a small group to revise and edit their work collaboratively. Their work on their personal, then collaborative, alphabet pages serves to immerse them in the text. After they have compiled and created their ABC Book, they should have developed a clear understanding of the character, the plot, and the themes, paving the way to their re-imagining the text for their creative reformulations.


Display slide 10. Have students compile all of their letter pages into a whole-class Antigone ABC book. Ask students to read their individual contributions aloud.

Display slide 11. Encourage students to consider literary forms to reformulate the play. Have them as a whole class brainstorm possibilities. Share with them some of the following options:

  • Comic Books/Graphic Novels: Invite students to combine words and images into panels that retell the story and present the theme(s) in a visual format. Require they determine ahead of time how many panels might be needed to tell the story. Have them consider which elements are better told in graphics and which are better told in words. Remind them to maintain the integrity of the story in whichever medium they choose.

  • Letters: Suggest students assume the perspectives and personas of various characters in order to write letters from the characters' perspectives. Require they determine in advance how many letters might be needed. Discuss which perspectives are needed in order to tell the story completely. Suggest they plan in advance what each of the major characters might say about different events in the story. Encourage them to identify a specific audience for each letter. Share with your students the history of the epistolary novel—a story written entirely through letters between and among characters.

  • Interviews: Have students who are interested in journalism plan an interview with one or more characters from the play. Require they identify which character(s) should be interviewed. Remind them that they must create a script for the interview in advance. Guide students in developing pertinent questions to ask the character(s) in order to portray the story. Have them portray the point of view and perspective of each character in the interviews. Encourage students interested in this option to videotape their interviews.

  • Poems: Encourage students to write a poem or poems retelling the story and theme(s) of the play. Require they plan in advance the subject, the occasion, the audience, the purpose, the speaker, and the tone of each poem they write. Advise them that the poem or poems together retell the story.

  • Newspaper Articles: Give students interested in print journalism the opportunity to write a newspaper article (or series of articles) regarding the events that transpire in the play. Instruct them to write in the correct style and voice of a newspaper article. Have them include events from the play in their articles. Suggest they consider including images and quotes from characters in their articles. They will want to create headlines for each article that preview the content of the article.

  • Television or Movie Scripts: Give students interested in video and film the opportunity to create a television or movie script that retells the plot of the play set in modern times. Encourage them to imagine the events of the plot as they might occur in modern society. 


Display slide 12. After reading the play and completing the activities, instruct students to reflect on the ways their thinking changed after studying the play. Have them review their “We Think” paragraphs, and introduce students to the I Used To Think… But Now I Know strategy.

Ask students to use this strategy to discuss how the process of reading, participating in the initial “Tea Party” conversations, the “Say Something” activity, and completing the text reformulation fostered an understanding of the play and its themes.

Evaluate students’ reformulation projects. Use this assessment to determine whether or not your students comprehend the play and whether they are able to connect the themes to their lives today. Students’ Tea Party conversations, "We Think" paragraphs, Say Something notes, individual ABC pages, and the class ABC book serve as additional assessments of the lesson.