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History: The Ancient Greeks


The lessons in this topic aim to give the children an overview of life in Ancient Greece, including a focus on its achievements and influence on the western world. There is an emphasis on allowing children to consider the sources of evidence that form our understanding of this period of world history. The aims of the topic for children are:


  • To gain an overview of significant people, places and events from Ancient Greece

  • To contrast daily life in Ancient Greece with modern day lifestyles

  • To consider broader historical context, particularly with regards to the expansion of the Ancient Greek empire and lasting legacy

  • To become familiar with historical sources, debates and accurate vocabulary relating to Ancient Greece


Requirements of the National Curriculum

The National Curriculum for Key Stage 2 states that: and that pupils should be taught about: In order to fully cover these objectives, this unit should be part of your wider history curriculum. There are plenty of links that can be made between this unit and other units set in a similar time period, including the Ancient Egyptians and Romans. Pupils should continue to develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of British, local and world history, establishing clear narratives within and across the periods they study. They should note connections, contrasts and trends over time and develop the appropriate use of historical terms. They should regularly address and sometimes devise historically valid questions about change, cause, similarity and difference, and significance. They should construct informed responses that involve thoughtful selection and organisation of relevant historical information. They should understand how our knowledge of the past is constructed from a range of sources.

and that pupils should be taught about: Ancient Greece – a study of Greek life and achievements and their influence on the western world.


Topic Overview: Ancient Greece Lessons in this topic 


1. Who were the Ancient Greeks?

To find out when and where the Ancient Greeks lived

To make a timeline of key events

To use historical sources to infer information about the past

This lesson introduces the who, when and where of the Ancient Greek civilisation. Pupils will look at maps and timelines to place Ancient Greece in context and then zoom in to find out more about key events from the five distinct time periods associated with the Ancient Greek civilisation . They will engage with historical sources to find out clues about life in Ancient Greek times.


2. Why were Athens and Sparta so different?

To know what city-states were

To compare the city-states of Athens and Sparta

To make a balanced argument based on historical knowledge

In this lesson, pupils will learn how Ancient Greece was divided up into ‘city-states’, each with its own laws and armies. They will draw contrasts between two of the most powerful city-states – Athens and Sparta – and use their knowledge to develop a balanced argument about which one they would prefer to live in.


3. What was Alexander the Great’s impact on the Greek empire?

To find out why Alexander the Great was a significant figure

To analyse the historical impact of Alexander the Great

This lesson explores the life and impact of Alexander the Great. Pupils will look at sources that give clues about Alexander’s global impact and then they will act out the story of his crucial role in expanding the Greek empire. Once familiar with Alexander’s story, pupils will be given a map work challenge to record the four stages of the expansion of Alexander’s empire.


4. Why did a small Greek army win the Battle of Marathon?

To find out what happened at the Battle of Marathon

To analyse the main reasons for the Greek victory

In this lesson, pupils will play a starter game to learn about warfare in Ancient Greek times, including armour and fighting formation. Pupils will find out what happened at the Battle of Marathon and why it had such a surprising outcome, before using their knowledge to analyse key reasons for the Greek victory in a group sorting activity.


5. What were the Ancient Greek gods known for?

To learn about the twelve Olympian gods and their associated symbols

To identify key Ancient Greek gods and goddesses from historical sources

This lesson looks at Ancient Greek gods and goddesses and how they were recognised. Pupils will play a game to find and identify hidden gods and goddesses using their associated symbols, before applying their knowledge to source work by identifying the deities on an Ancient Greek wall relief. Then pupils will work in groups to focus on one particular Olympian god in a super-size poster challenge ready for a lightning quiz at the end of the lesson.


6. What happened at the Ancient Greek Olympic Games?

To explain the importance of the Olympic Games in Ancient Greek culture

To explore the balance of religious, social and sporting activities at the Ancient Greek Olympics

In this lesson, pupils will find out about the Ancient Greek Olympic games. After matching up ancient and modern events, pupils will find out about the why, what, who and when of the Ancient Games and may be surprised to learn that competitive sport was not the main purpose of the games. Pupils will make a sample 5-day programme to show the balance of sporting, religious and social activities before taking part in a Classroom Olympic Games of their own, complete with its own winners’ ceremony.


7. What were the Ancient Greek philosophers famous for?

To find out about famous thinkers from Ancient Greece

To explore key ideas and questions from Ancient Greek philosophy

This lesson allows pupils to find out about key thinkers from Ancient Greece. After getting into some philosophical debates of their own, pupils will compare three famous Greek philosophers and choose one to focus on in detail for a museum exhibition, with an optional clay modelling challenge. Pupils will finish the lesson by performing a song about famous Ancient Greek thinkers.


8. Did the events of the Trojan Horse story really happen?

To draw my own conclusion about the Ancient Greek story of the Trojan Horse

To evaluate stories from history by examining sources of evidence

In this lesson, pupils will learn about the tradition of oral storytelling in Ancient Greece. Pupils will listen to the Trojan Horse story and analyse the evidence to decide which parts of the story are likely to be based on true events. Pupils will use their analysis to form a structured response to the question Did the story of the Trojan Horse really happen?, before being left with a challenge to imagine their own trick to break through the walls of Troy.


9. What was daily life like for children in Ancient Greece?

To explore different areas of daily life for Ancient Greek children

To find out about popular Ancient Greek toys

To consider how we can know about what daily life was like so far in the past

This lesson is designed to help pupils to understand more about key areas of daily life for Ancient Greek children. Pupils will play a game to compare elements of their own lifestyles to life for different children in Ancient Greece. They will research information about food, education, clothing and entertainment and then design their own version of an Ancient Greek pull-along toy. At the end of the lesson, pupils will examine how four historical sources from Ancient Greece give more clues about daily life for children.


10. How significant is the legacy of Ancient Greece for life today?

To explore the influence of Ancient Greece on various areas of modern life

To consider the significance of different legacies on life today

In this lesson, pupils will explore some of the key legacies from Ancient Greece that influence life today. They will consider the significance of each legacy in terms of its impact on their own life, before working in a group to complete a ranking challenge to decide the most significant legacy.