It’s All Greek to Me! Using Authentic Readings to Improve Knowledge of the English Language and Western Culture
Charity Davenport, University of Tennessee
Copyright Year: 2019
Publisher: The University of Tennessee Libraries
Conditions of Use
The “Glossary” link has only one word and there is no index, however the contents are quite comprehensive. Each unit is based on themes, with 8 – 12 stories and articles for each theme. Each reading has factual comprehension questions; most have... read more
The “Glossary” link has only one word and there is no index, however the contents are quite comprehensive. Each unit is based on themes, with 8 – 12 stories and articles for each theme. Each reading has factual comprehension questions; most have vocabulary exercises and critical thinking/discussion questions as well. There is more material than you could use in a semester.
In most cases, the book presents articles and stories and asks students to consider their meaning and/or truthfulness, rather than asserting them as true. The fact that myths often have various versions is addressed, and in some cases alternate versions are included in the supplementary materials.
These myths have proven themselves timeless. Some articles address more “current” events (fake news, specific political situations), but context is typically provided in those cases. There are plenty of opportunities for students and teachers to apply the principles and ideas to present day situations.
The vocabulary exercises are great, but a glossary would be helpful, either for each reading or at the end. The questions are well-written and easy to understand.
The readings vary from B1 to C2 proficiency level on the Common European Framework of Reference (quite a wide range!). However, as there is more materials than could be used in a semester, this may make using the book more flexible, as the instructor can choose what is appropriate to the level of their specific students.
Each reading is broken down into numbered paragraphs. There are basic background stories in the first unit with exercises helping students to track the main "characters" of Green mythology. After that, the units and/or readings could be chosen individually without much problem. Articles and other readings do assume knowledge of the myths, so the instructor would need to curate and sequence the chosen activities carefully.
The book is well organized in units with similar activities peppered throughout (For example, asking students to apply an idiom to present-day context; figure out meaning of a word from context; etc.)
There are links from table of contents to each reading. It is well-formatted with attractive images; I experienced no problems with the interface.
I found no major issues; there were one or two minor typos in punctuation, as you might find in any published book.
This book offers rich context for understanding many references in western, English-language-based culture. Greek myths are often bloody; some of the extra materials are labelled with content warnings.
I am impressed by the scope and creativity of this colorful text. The writer connects Greek myths with thought-provoking contemporary articles which are thematically related. (Spoiler alert: Human behavior hasn't changed much since Ancient... read more
I am impressed by the scope and creativity of this colorful text. The writer connects Greek myths with thought-provoking contemporary articles which are thematically related. (Spoiler alert: Human behavior hasn't changed much since Ancient Greek times.) It's the perfect way to make Greek mythology relevant to college students. Each section includes vocabulary in context and questions over the reading as well as questions for students to use in writing assignments.
I assume this text would be used for an ESL composition course, such as Comp. I or II. Because composition is a skills course rather than a content course, there's less emphasis on accuracy of content. My only concern with the book is that some of the reading selections need revision or editing to serve as the best models for student writing.
Classical mythology will never become irrelevant, and the carefully chosen contemporary news articles that accompany the ancient stories illustrate why. This book certainly does a great job of connecting recent newsworthy topics with the classic stories. I assume that the writer will want to occasionally update some of the news articles she includes, but this could be easily done without disrupting the larger content.
I do think the writer should add more context about "fake news" before asking students to discuss it in terms of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." First, the writer should define the term more thoroughly and give several examples. Many American students bring preconceived notions to the term "fake news," using it to dismiss the perspectives of those they disagree with. Students from other cultures might need even more help with the concept. However, the infographic about how to spot fake news is useful and concise.
I saw no inconsistencies.
The book is composed of introductory material plus 5 thematic units, from which stories and articles can be chosen. Teachers could do individual works from each unit or focus more thoroughly on just a few of the units.
The book begins with introductory material which illustrates the relevance of the content and shows how it can be used. Although theoretically, a teacher could begin with any of the units, they seem to be ordered well in terms of developing more complexity as the book continues.
I didn't see any problems except that a link to a comic strip seems to be broken.
Because the text is a compilation of readings, the quality varies. Unfortunately, the first reading I looked at, "The Allegory of the Cave: How It Still Matters When it (sic) Comes to 'Fake News,'" needs significant revision. The writing is ponderous and wordy in spots with occasional awkward phrasing and even comma splices. The other readings I sampled were certainly better. However, since these readings are collected in part as models of good writing, I believe the work would be improved by a thorough editing.
The book is geared toward students from a variety of cultures. Except for the use of the word "man" to mean "humankind" in a contemporary piece, I didn't see any problems. (The word "man" might legitimately be retained from an older story to show how the language was used in the past.)
I am deeply impressed by the creativity and scope of this lively book. The writer found colorful graphics to accompany the text. Photographs, art, and infographics make the content appealing. My curiosity was piqued by the connection between contemporary topics and Greek mythology, and I enjoyed reading the material.
Table of Contents
- Unit 1: Why Study Greek Mythology?
- Unit 2: Crime and Punishment
- Unit 3: Adventure and The Hero's Journey
- Unit 4: Hubris and Nemesis
- Unit 5: Love and Metamorphosis
About the Book
“It’s All Greek to Me!” has everything—entertaining stories, academic articles in a variety of disciplines, vocabulary crossover in literary and academic readings, connections to local, American, and Western culture, and plenty of chances for critical thinking for advanced students of English as a Second Language (ESL). All readings are authentic with minimal adaptation from a variety of sources.
This textbook also gives help for advanced level grammar and writing issues, using outside sources, and reading and vocabulary strategies.
About the Contributors
Charity Davenport has been teaching at the University of Tennessee's English Language Institute since 2008 and has experience teaching middle school students in Nashville and South Korea. She studied Latin and Hellenics in high school for 5 years and won many JCL awards. This love for Latin and Greek helped shape her love for English and other cultures as well.