Are you looking for some fabulous ancient Greece activities? With approximately 1000 years of history to choose from, there is just so much to learn about this ancient civilization. I can’t begin to cover it all in one post. Today I have assembled some of my favorite lessons together to help you out during your teachings of one of the most influential time periods on the planet. Even better, these ideas are great for people on a budget, because all of these lessons are absolutely free!
Start with Geography
At roughly the size of Florida, ten-million people live on the mountainous and rocky peninsula that makes up Greece. With this free 15-page slideshow on the geography of ancient Greece, you’ll be able to teach the basics of geography. Bright and colorful slides and beautiful photographs in this slideshow are sure to keep your student’s attention as they learn about the land and sea of this ancient civilization. Grab a map of Greece for students to label as they watch the slideshow. Dive in deeper and do a real dig into geography. Regardless of your choice, the free slideshow should get you started learning about this ancient civilization.
Once I’ve taught geography, I like to look at the timeline of the civilization. Having students grasp the general gist of when a civilization existed is important. How long did it survive? What big events occurred between its rise and fall? When and what ultimately led to its demise? These all help to front-load the students so they are more prepared for the learning that’s about to take place.
When we look at a timeline of ancient Greece and we discuss the Peloponnesian War, it prepares the students for that vocabulary word. It reminds them of that geography, and it keeps them aware of that material. They begin waiting and looking for it, even subconsciously, as they begin learning about the history of the civilization. Timelines are great ways to introduce material. They show the overlapping of civilizations and events. They build knowledge and help with student’s understanding of mathematical conceptualism.
Create a City-State
One of the most popular ways to teach history or social studies civilizations is through the GRAPES acronym. G stands for geography, R is for religion, A is for achievements, and so on. I largely use this method when I teach my ancient civilization units, but I don’t call it out so specifically. This free idea focuses in on the GRAPES acronym and has students use it to create their own city-state.
I’ve had my students draw and color a city-state for years, but I got this particular idea after I went away for a quick trip. In my absence, my daughter and husband created a “country.” When I got home they couldn’t wait to tell me about all the aspects of their made-up land. They had a name, a language, a history, and they had designed it all in just 3 days. It was intriguing to me that they had such fun with this make-believe task that I decided to incorporate it into my ancient Greece unit.
So in this free lesson, students read about the ancient Greek city state and the workings of the GRAPES acronym. They then fill out a city state development sheet, naming their city state, giving it a religion, a currency, designing a flag, determining its history, and so on. Lastly, they draw and color what their city state would look like from an aerial view. In just a day or two, you can have a whole world of diverse city states erupt in your classroom, giving rise to discussion, comparison, gallery walks, and so much more. It’s a fabulous way to look at ancient Greece.
Build Philosophical Reasoning
Another thing the Greeks were known for is their philosophers. From Socrates, to Aristotle, to Plato, and others, the Greeks mastered the concept of philosophy, thought, and ethics. So capture this idea and help your students to develop their ability to reason philosophically.
If you have 3rd, 4th, or 5th graders, play “This or That” and have them make a choice between two objects. Get them up and out of their seats and moving back and forth across the classroom to help get the blood flowing and the energy going. For instance, ask them, “Cereal or Pancakes?” and point to the left for cereal and the right for pancakes. Give students a moment or two to move to their choice, and then pick a couple students to explain why they made their choice. This gets students speaking in front of an audience, explaining and reasoning thought, verbalizing choice, and so much more.
If you have older students, you can play Four Corners. In each corner of the room place a sign or poster that says one of the following: “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree,” or “Strongly Disagree.” Next, pose questions to the class that they can answer on a scale such as this one. Questions can be fun in nature, such as, “Chocolate ice cream is the best flavor ice cream.” They can also be more serious, such as, “The invention of the combustion engine was the single biggest contributor to pollution in the world.” Once students get to their corner, give them a few minutes to discuss their position as a group and re-locate as necessary. Then, ask a few students, maybe one from each corner, to explain their position and why they feel the way that they do.
Look for questions you can ask about the curriculum you have studied. Some possible ideas for ancient Greece are:
Athens or Sparta?
Zeus or Poseidon?
Persian War or Peloponnesian War?
Sparta and Leonidas’ act during the Persian War was selfless and brave.
The Spartans were the superior city-state in ancient Greece.
Alexander the Great was the greatest leader throughout the ancient civilizations.
I hope this has helped you come up with some fabulous and free ways to learn about the ancient Greeks. They’re one of my favorite civilizations to study, so I’d love to hear about what you’re doing in your classroom.