Connecticut Core Standards

Grade 6: Heroes of the Iliad

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Common Core Standards

Reading Literature

RL.6.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

RL.6.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

RL.6.3 Describe how a particular story or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

RL.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.


W.6.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

Speaking and Listening

SL.6.4 Present claims, findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

SL.6.5 Include visual displays in presentations to clarify information.

Description of Unit

This Grade 6 unit titled “Heroes of the Iliad” from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is intended to be completed in approximately four weeks. The unit focuses on developing students’ conceptual understanding of what it means to be a hero while doing a close reading of Rosemary Sutcliff’s Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad, a retelling of the Greek epic by Homer. Students are introduced to a number of approaches to comprehending a complex text that include: answering text-dependent questions; informal dramatization using a Readers’ Theater script; vocabulary study; drawing; writing summaries and arguments in response to text. In the final performance assessment, students first choose a character from Black Ships Before Troy to write an argumentative essay stating why that character should or should not be called a hero, supported by evidence from the text; they then present their argument orally to their classmates.


Connecticut teachers should be cautioned that teacher notes and preparation materials are extensive and will require familiarity to be used effectively. Due to the rigor required for student success, additional supports for students who are ELL, have disabilities, or read well below the grade level text band may be required. It is important to consider the variability of learners in your class and make adaptations as necessary. Each student will require a copy of the text, Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad by Rosemary Sutcliff, Laurel-Leaf, an imprint of Random House, 2005, the paperback edition (other versions of the Sutcliff text are available, but the page numbers in this unit may not apply to them.) An audio version of the text is also available.

Rationale for Selection

This exemplary unit includes a clear and explicit purpose for daily rigorous instruction that integrates reading, writing, speaking and listening so that students apply and synthesize advancing literacy skills. It focuses on complex text and engages students in a productive struggle through text dependent questions, journal writing, and argumentative writing using supports that build toward independence. Aligned rubrics elicit direct, observable evidence of the degree to which each student can demonstrate the targeted grade-level standards.  The unit plan provides lesson pacing, detailed lesson activities, targeted academic language, instructional tips, strategies, anticipated student preconceptions/ misconceptions, optional activities, differentiation for ELL students and students with advanced skills and/or accommodations for students with disabilities.