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Use the Vocab-o-Gram strategy

(General Resources, p. 13) to introduce students to terminology and to
make predictions about the myths
characters, setting, and events. Write
the following words on the board or

Olivia E. Coolidge







gray old


ask pardon





Then give students the Vocab-oGram chart (General Resources,

p. 14) and have them work with a
partner or group to place the words
in appropriate categories and make
predictions about the myth. Have
students discuss their word

Concept Connector
Students will re-examine their ideas
after reading Arachne.

rachne [ rak n] was a maiden who became famous

throughout Greece, though she was neither wellborn nor
beautiful and came from no great city. She lived in an
obscure little village, and her father was a humble dyer of
wool. In this he was very skillful, producing many varied

Critical Viewing
What details show
that the people in
this picture are
arguing? [Analyze]

Vocabulary Builder
obscure (b skyoor)
adj. not well known



About the Myth

Arachne is a plain young woman,

famous for her weaving skills. When
people say that she must have been
taught by Athene. Arachne indignantly replies that she has developed
her skill with hard work and that not
even Athene can create finer cloth.
Athene challenges Arachne to a
weaving contest. Angered by scenes
that Arachne weaves into her cloth.
Athene turns Arachne into a spider
from which all other spiders are

Critical Viewing

Possible responses: Their faces

look angry and their body language
suggests that they are arguing.

Learning Modalities
Musical/Rhythmic Learners
Using instruments of their choice,
students might enjoy composing
musical themes that fit different
moods of the story. Suggest that they
change the tones and tempo of the
music to relate to what is happening
in the text.


Critical Thinking

Have a volunteer read the description of Arachne aloud.

Have students make a comparison.
How is Arachne similar to a spider?
Answer: both are dusty brown,
both are small and pale. Both are
quick and graceful with flickering,
fast fingers.

Reading Skill

Cause and Effect

Have students reread the bracketed
text independently. Ask them to
identify the adjectives used to
describe the thread, the cloth, and
the embroidery.
Answer: The adjectives are soft
and even, fine, and gorgeous.
Ask the Reading Skill question. Tell
students to respond with a sentence that includes the word
Answer: Her work is known all
over Greece because her thread is
soft and even, her cloth is fine, and
her embroidery is gorgeous.

shades, while above all he was famous for the clear, bright
scarlet which is made from shellfish, and which was the
most glorious of all the colors used in ancient Greece. Even
more skillful than her father was Arachne. It was her task
to spin the fleecy wool into a fine, soft thread and to weave
it into cloth on the high, standing loom within the cottage.
Arachne was small and pale from much working. Her eyes
were light and her hair was a dusty brown, yet she was
quick and graceful, and her fingers, roughened as they
were, went so fast that it was hard to follow their flickering
movements. So soft and even was her thread, so fine her
cloth, so gorgeous her embroidery, that soon her products
were known all over Greece. No one had ever seen the like
of them before.
At last Arachnes fame became so great that people used
to come from far and wide to watch her working. Even the
graceful nymphs1 would steal in from stream or forest and
peep shyly through the dark doorway, watching in wonder
the white arms of Arachne as she stood at the loom
and threw the shuttle from hand to hand between
the hanging threads, or drew out the long wool,
fine as a hair, from the distaff 2 as she sat spinning. Surely Athene3 herself must have
taught her, people would murmur to one
another. Who else could know the secret of
such marvelous skill?
Arachne was used to being wondered at,
and she was immensely proud of the skill that
had brought so many to look on her. Praise
was all she lived for, and it displeased her
greatly that people should think anyone, even
a goddess, could teach her anything. Therefore when she heard them murmur, she
would stop her work and turn round indignantly to say, With my own ten fingers I
gained this skill, and by hard practice from
early morning till night. I never had time to

Reading Skill
Cause and Effect
What causes
Arachnes work to be
known all over

1. nymphs (nimfz) n. minor nature goddesses, represented as beautiful maidens living in rivers,
trees, and mountains.
2. distaff (dis taf) n. stick on which flax or wool is wound for spinning.
3. Athene ( th n) n. Greek goddess of wisdom, skills, and warfare.


Themes in Folk Literature

As students discuss the myth, encourage them to

use the expressive vocabulary presented earlier.
Provide them with sentence starters like these:
1. Arachne was foolish enough to
challenge . . .
2. No one could convince Arachne that . . . .
3. Arachne would protest whenever . . .


4. Arachne would select only the finest . . .

5. Arachne did not like the idea that Athene
had transferred her skills . . .
Challenge them to use the words as you continue to discuss the myth.

stand looking as you people do while another maiden

worked. Nor if I had, would I give Athene credit because the
girl was more skillful than I. As for Athenes weaving, how
could there be finer cloth or more beautiful embroidery
than mine? If Athene herself were to come down and compete with me, she could do no better than I.
One day when Arachne turned round with such words,
an old woman answered her, a gray old woman, bent and
very poor, who stood leaning on a staff and peering at
Arachne amid the crowd of onlookers. Reckless girl, she
said, how dare you claim to be equal to the immortal gods
themselves? I am an old woman and have seen much. Take
my advice and ask pardon of Athene for your words. Rest
content with your fame of being the best spinner and
weaver that mortal eyes have ever beheld.
Stupid old woman, said Arachne indignantly, who gave
you a right to speak in this way to me? It is easy to see that
you were never good for anything in your day, or you would
not come here in poverty and rags to gaze at my skill. If
Athene resents my words, let her answer them herself. I
have challenged her to a contest, but she, of course, will
not come. It is easy for the gods to avoid matching their
skill with that of men.

Reading Skill
Cause and Effect
What do you think
will be the effect of
this bragging?

Vocabulary Builder
mortal (mr tl) n.
referring to humans,
who eventually die

Have a student read aloud the

bracketed passage.
Ask students to tell whether the
passage seems to be a cause or an
effect and ask them to explain their
Possible response: The passage
seems to be a cause because that
kind of bragging has the effect of
making people angry.
Ask the Reading Skill question.
Possible response: Some students might predict that Arachne
will suffer a downfall as a result of
her bragging. Others might specifically predict that Athene will reveal
herself as a goddess and challenge
her to a weaving contest.

Why is Arachne upset

when people say
Athene must have
taught her to spin?


Reading Skill

Cause and Effect

Reading Check

Possible response: She has practiced very hard to achieve her skill,
without help from anyone.


Support for Less Proficient Readers

Enrichment for Gifted/Talented Students

Preview the selection with students. Help them

decode the long sentences. Then, have students read the myth aloud, stopping to discuss
the sentences that are confusing. Guide them
to break long sentences into meaningful
sentences as they read, identifying the most
important nouns and verbs.

Invite students to create an illustration of the

cloth patterns described in the myth
Athenes, which include pictures of the awful
fate of those who competed with the gods,
and Arachnes, which show the gods misbehavior. Have students investigate Greek mythology for further myths and legends to illustrate.
Encourage students to use a variety of materials
such as chalk, crayons, acrylics, colored pencils,
and watercolors to create their art.


Literature in Context

Cultural Connection Athene,

the daughter of Zeus, had many roles
and titles. Like her father, she controlled the sky and could send
storms, lightning, and thunder bolts
to scare off enemies. She was also an
inventor, credited with inventing the
plough, the rake, the flute, the trumpet, the spindle and the olive tree.
Athene was also a teacher who
taught mortals to tame horses and
instructed gods to build ships.

Connect to the Literature

Ask students to reread the information about Athene, trying to
identify character traits that are
either stated of inferred. Ask students to name the traits they
Possible response: Athene is
wise, harsh, quick to impose
punishments, quarrelsome, and
Ask the Connecting to Literature
Possible response: The myth
illustrates that she is harsh and
quick to punish.

At these words the old woman threw down her

staff and stood erect. The wondering onlookers
saw her grow tall and fair and stand clad in long
robes of dazzling white. They were terribly afraid
as they realized that they stood in the presence
of Athene. Arachne herself flushed red for a
moment, for she had never really believed that
the goddess would hear her. Before the group
that was gathered there she would not give in; so
pressing her pale lips together in obstinacy and
pride, she led the goddess to one of the great
looms and set herself before the other. Without a
word both began to thread the long woolen
strands that hang from the rollers, and between
which the shuttle4 moves back and forth. Many
skeins lay heaped beside them to use, bleached
white, and gold, and scarlet, and other shades,
varied as the rainbow. Arachne had never
thought of giving credit for her success to her
fathers skill in dyeing, though in actual truth
the colors were as remarkable as the cloth itself.
Soon there was no sound in the room but the
breathing of the onlookers, the whirring of the
shuttles, and the creaking of the wooden frames
as each pressed the thread up into place or tightened the pegs by which the whole was held
straight. The excited crowd in the doorway began
to see that the skill of both in truth
was very nearly equal, but that, however the cloth might turn out, the
goddess was the quicker of the two. A
pattern of many pictures was growing on her loom. There was a border
of twined branches of the olive,
Athenes favorite tree, while in the
middle, figures began to appear. As
they looked at the glowing colors, the
spectators realized that Athene was
weaving into her pattern a last
4. shuttle (shut l) n. instrument used in weaving to carry thread back and forth.


Culture Connection
Athene As goddess of wisdom
and warfare, Athene was a key
figure in Greek mythology.
Athene protected her favorites,
such as Odysseus and Heracles
(or Hercules), and punished
those who displeased her,
including Arachne and Ajax, a
famous Greek warrior.
According to one story, the
people of a major Greek city
wanted to name their city after
either Poseidon, the sea god, or
Athene, depending on who
gave them the more useful gift.
Poseidon created horses, and
Athene created olive trees. The
gods judged Athenes gift more
useful, so Athens was named
for her. To honor Athene, the
city built a great temple, called
the Parthenon.

Which of Athenes character

traits does the story illustrate?

Vocabulary Builder
obstinacy (b st n
s) n. stubbornness

Themes in Folk Literature

Vocabulary Knowledge Rating

When students have completed reading and
discussing Arachne have them take out their
Vocabulary Knowledge Rating Chart for this
myth. Read the words aloud once more and
have students rate their knowledge of the
words again in the After Reading column.
Clarify any words that are still problematic.
Have students write their own definition or


example in the appropriate column. Then have

students complete the Vocabulary Builder
Practice activities on p. 807. Encourage students to use the words in further discussion
and written work about this myth. Remind
them that they will be accountable for these
words on the Selection Test.


warning to Arachne. The central figure was the goddess

herself competing with Poseidon for possession of the city
of Athens; but in the four corners were mortals who had
tried to strive with gods and pictures of the awful fate that
had overtaken them. The goddess ended a little before
Arachne and stood back from her marvelous work to see
what the maiden was doing.
Never before had Arachne been matched against anyone
whose skill was equal, or even nearly equal to her own. As
she stole glances from time to time at Athene and saw the
goddess working swiftly, calmly, and always a little faster
than herself, she became angry instead of frightened, and
an evil thought came into her head. Thus as Athene
stepped back a pace to watch Arachne finishing her work,
she saw that the maiden had taken for her design a pattern
of scenes which showed evil or unworthy actions of the
gods, how they had deceived fair maidens, resorted to trickery, and appeared on earth from time to time in the form of
poor and humble people. When the goddess saw this insult
glowing in bright colors on Arachnes loom, she did not wait
while the cloth was judged, but stepped forward, her gray
eyes blazing with anger, and tore Arachnes work across.
Then she struck Arachne across the face. Arachne stood
there a moment, struggling with anger, fear, and pride. I
will not live under this insult, she cried, and seizing a
rope from the wall, she made a noose and would have
hanged herself.
The goddess touched the rope and touched the maiden.
Live on, wicked girl, she said. Live on and spin, both you
and your descendants. When men look at you they may
remember that it is not wise to strive with Athene. At that
the body of Arachne shriveled up, and her legs grew tiny,
spindly, and distorted. There before the eyes of the spectators hung a little dusty brown spider on a slender thread.
All spiders descend from Arachne, and as the Greeks
watched them spinning their thread wonderfully fine, they
remembered the contest with Athene and thought that it
was not right for even the best of men to claim equality with
the gods.

Literary Analysis

Have a student read aloud the
bracketed passage.
Ask students to recall what scenes
Athene had woven into her cloth.
Then have them explain Arachnes
reaction to them.
Answer: Athenes scenes showed
mortals who had tried to challenge
gods and had lost. The artwork
made Arachne very angry and
Ask the Literary Analysis question.
Follow it up by asking whether or
not Athene meant to be that disrespectful and whether or not she
was afraid of possible consequences of angering Athene.
Answer: It insults the gods by
showing them involved in evil and
unworthy actions. She probably
meant to be disrespectful because
she probably was not afraid of
Athene at the time.
Literary Analysis
Myths Why is
Arachnes design
disrespectful to the

Literary Analysis
Myths What traits of
spiders does this
myth explain?



Literary Analysis

Read aloud the bracketed text. Tell
students to visualize the body of
Arachne morphing into a spider.
Ask the second Literary Analysis
question. Before students answer,
tell them to reread the description
of Arachne at the top of p. 802.
Answer: It explains why spiders
are little dusty brown creatures
with quick fingers and excellent
weaving skill because Arachne was
small, with dusty brown hair and
fine weaving skills.


Concept Connector
Have students return to their Vocab-o-Grams
and refine their ideas. They may work on their
own or in their original groups. Have students
check their predictions and modify them based
on their knowledge of the story. Review the
vocabulary with the group and clarify words by
returning to the selection or other reference

Connecting to the Literature

Have students compare what they wrote before
reading with their thoughts about life lessons

after reading Arachne. Ask them to explain

whether their ideas have changed, and if so,

Literary Analysis Graphic Organizer

Ask students to review the graphic organizer
they used to help them analyze the characteristics of myths. Show them Literary Analysis
Graphic Organizer B (Graphic Organizer
Transparencies, p. 188) as an example. Then
have students share the graphic organizers they
created and the characteristics they recorded.