THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH – Study Activities


Study Activities for The Epic of Gilgamesh

These activities are intended for use with the N.K. Sandars prose version of The Epic of Gilgamesh, but they can easily be adapted and applied to a study of verse versions of the epic poem.

Four Printable Worksheets:

· Character Comparison

· Environmental Stewardship

· Gilgamesh & the Environment

· The Hero’s Journey

These are thematically guided activities that help to build student understanding and develop critical ideas. Each activity directs students to analyze the text and to anchor that analysis in details from the text. When students complete these activities they will have more than a little to say about The Epic of Gilgamesh.

Students will be able to discuss character and environmental concepts in the text. They will also have a clear sense of how the epic poem exemplifies the hero’s journey in its plot and in its use of symbolism.

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These activities fit nicely into a unit on The Epic of Gilgamesh as the basis of an essay on the text.

After completing these activities, students will have gathered thematically focused quotations from the text. If the essay assignment is built around any of these thematic ideas, the activities can be used as pre-draft materials for an essay and scored as you would score an essay outline or first-draft with points awarded for completion.

Alternatively (or additionally), these activities can be used in preparation for a short answer exam that asks students to analyze character, theme and critical concepts in the text.

Of course, they are also perfect for generating lively class discussion.

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Homework, Individual Classwork or Group Work

Each of these activities can be assigned as homework or classwork, but they can all also be used as collaborative exercises with students working together, comparing ideas, and helping one another analyze the text.

For the Character Comparison activity you might consider having students pair up or work in groups. During the first step of the activity (pulling quotes from the text that highlight similarities and differences between the story’s main characters), have each student review the text and find quotes on his or her own. When they have completed this first step, you can stop them and offer a prompt like this:

  • Now compare the details you have selected with your partner/group. Did you select the same things to quote? Did you select the same passages to quote from, but select different lines or phrases? Did you find quotes in entirely different sections of the text?

Then repeat this process in the next step of the activity. And before having students write the paragraph that completes the exercise, you can let students brainstorm ideas for a response before beginning to write or have them write individually and compare answers afterwards. This methodology can be applied for each activity in the set.

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Bringing Eco-Criticism into the Classroom

One clear point of emphasis in this set of activities is eco-criticism. As an approach to literature, eco-criticism strives to emphasize the importance of developing an “ecological consciousness.” Simply put, it’s all about recognizing the importance of our relationship to the environment (as the environment can be understood as the both the cultural and physical spaces that shape our identity).

The use of eco-criticism here is very simple and straight-forward, which makes for a direct means of engaging students with the fundamental ideas of eco-criticism. This can work as a bridge to larger conversations in the English classroom about Climate Change or about how literature addresses the profound relationship(s) between self and environment.

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