Combine teacher-led discussions, visual aids and hands-on learning for memorable and effective ancient Greek history lessons. If you assign student projects, make them relevant and not too time-consuming. For example, while building models of elaborate Greek temples might be fun, your fifth-grade students will learn more from assignments that require them to research and write.
Ask students to search on the Internet for a map of today's Greece and the Greece of 2,500 years ago, which included not only mainland Greece and its islands, but also modern-day Turkey and parts of Italy, Sicily, North Africa and France. Explain that Greece's climate was, and still is, warm and dry. Ask them to find online images that reveal the land's landscape and climate.
Explore Gods and Heroes
As a class, make a family tree of the Greek gods and hang it on the wall for reference. Read short versions of Greek myths with your students, such as Odysseus, Pandora's Box, Zeus and the Great Flood, Cupid and Psyche, or Demeter and Persephone. Organize students into groups and ask each group to choose a story and then explain it or act it out to the class.
Explore Everyday Lives of Ancient Greeks
Lead a discussion on ancient Greek lifestyle -- including the lives of men versus women, Athenian versus Spartan slaves, farming and food, war, children, houses and festivals -- using visual aids to bring topics to life. Write the names of fictional ancient Greek people onto slips of paper, such as "Acteon, a Spartan soldier," "Damara, an Athenian princess," "Elias, a farmer," and "Kassia, a slave/household servant." Make enough "characters" for everyone in the class, place them in a hat or box, and allow each student to draw a name. Ask students to write a fictional letter from their chosen character, explaining their daily lives.
Dissect Democracy Then and Now
Ask your students to guess the percentage of the ancient Greek population that was allowed to vote, tallying their answers on the board. Next, divide students into two groups, with 80 percent of the students on one side of the room and 20 percent on the other. Point to the smaller group and explain that women, slaves and non-Athenians were not considered citizens and therefore could not vote. Compare to modern-day voting rights and voting turnout.
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