Archetypes & The Hero’s Journey

Content Standards:

Key Ideas and Details


Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

Craft and Structure


Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

Learner Background:

No prior knowledge needed.

Student Learning Objective(s):

Students will understand that:

  • Many stories from around the world have similar plots, characters, and settings. These are called archetypes.
  • The ability to identify archetypes in the stories we read help us understand the theme.

Students will be able to:

  • Explain the archetypes help readers understand the theme of a story and make connections to other stories.
  • Identify the different kinds of archetypes and what they represent.
  • Analyze how the use of archetypes effects characterization, setting, plot, and theme.


  • Archetypes guided reading (formative)
  • Archetype stations worksheet (formative)
  • Annotated texts (formative)
  • Essay on archetypes (summative)


  • Selection of children’s stories from around the world
  • Archetype stations materials
  • Chromebooks and internet access for essay writing

Learning Activities:

This lesson is designed to introduce students to the concept of archetypes and examine a set of character archetypes.

Lesson Plan


Initiation (10 minutes):

  1. Display pictures of superheroes, supervillains, and sidekicks. In small groups, ask students to categorize the characters. What categories did they create? Why? What characters did they place in each category? Be sure to identify the heroes, the villains, and the companions or sidekicks.
  2. Explain that many stories from around the world have similar characters, settings, and plots. These similar qualities are called archetypes. We are going to be looking at some of these archetypes. They have identified three of them already–heroes, villains, and companions.

Lesson Development (40 minutes):

  1. Pass out the article on archetypes. Individually, in pairs, or in small groups, have the students read the article and complete the guided reading workshop. Review when finished.
  2. Divide students into small groups. Give each group a children’s book to read (click here for suggested list). Ask them to identify the different archetypal characters in the book and explain why they think each character fits the archetype. Share out when finished. Did they see any similarities to other stories they’ve read? Make a list.

Closure (10 minutes):

  1. Display characters from well-known movies or books. Have students identify what archetype each represents. Give them the opportunity to ask questions.


Initiation (10 minutes):

  1. Ask students to list out as many archetypes as they can remember from the previous class period. Show character slideshow and have students identify the different archetypes.
  2. Explain that we will be reading children’s books again today this time identifying the steps of the hero’s journey.

Lesson Development (40 minutes):

  1. Watch the TED-ED video on “What makes a hero?” Discuss with students. What are some of the elements of the hero’s journey?
  2. Pass out the hero’s journey graphic organizer. Review slideshow on the four main parts of the hero’s journey. Students should update the organizer as we discuss.
  3. Divide students into small groups. Give each group a children’s book to read (click here for suggested list) and a hero’s journey worksheet. Students should work together to complete the worksheet.

Closure (10 minutes):

  1. Have groups share out. What similarities do they see in the stories?
  2. Give students the opportunity to ask questions or make observations.

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