All teachers have heard the question:
“Why do I even need to know this?”
It’s fair to ask. The student is just demonstrating those critical thinking skills that we’re always raving about. But it’s a tough question to answer.
Telling a student why they should learn something is rarely effective. But using engaging lesson plans can help them answer the question for themselves.
Tip #1: Always Teach Context First
Without context knowledge, history is confusing.
Imagine you know nothing about ancient Greece, Sparta, or the Battle of Thermopylae. You’ve never heard of Gerard Butler or the movie 300.
Someone tells you that a guy named Leonidas once led 6,000 soldiers to a narrow cavern (which was known as the Gates of Hades, by the way) to taunt an army of 80,000 Persians into absolutely clobbering them.
You’d be very confused.
Until you learn that Leonidas was king of an extremely disciplined, ruthless, and nationalist society, and he sacrificed himself to save his city from the Persian invaders.
Now it makes sense.
To introduce the context of any historical civilization, teach when and where those people lived, who they interacted with, and what resources they had access to.
Timelines and maps are essential tools for these lessons.
The resources below are perfect companions for any ancient civilizations lesson plans:
Tip #2: If You Find Your Lessons Boring, So Do Your Students
When students sense your boredom, they get bored too.
Teaching lessons you enjoy is great, but you won’t be thrilled by every topic. The intricacies of soil fertility along the Nile will never be as interesting as war-chariots or mummies.
If you have a boring lesson coming up, schedule time a few days beforehand for some research.
Start by searching some questions about the “boring” topic, and from there click on whatever you find that seems interesting. Don’t take notes, just give yourself full permission to fall down an internet rabbit hole.
Learning for fun will energize you. You may even convince yourself that the “irredeemably boring” topic is not so bad afterall.
By the way, it turns out that the annual flooding of the Nile was so crucial to life in ancient Egypt that it likely inspired their entire system of mythology. That’s actually pretty interesting, I guess.
Tip #3: Let Students Redirect Your History Lesson Plans
Become great at noticing what sparks interest.
If you know a student loves visual art, coloring pages might be a great way to engage them in learning history. For example, my Ancient Egypt Coloring Pages each contain important information and facts (Get this FREE resource here).
One student may light up when discussing Greek mythology, while another has endless questions about mummification in ancient Egypt. In these cases, take note, and plan future opportunities for further research or projects in these areas of interest.
Using an inquiry-based, student-centered approach like this is arguably the most effective strategy for boosting engagement. But, it does require extra work.
So how can you pull it off?
It might seem counter-intuitive, but the more thoroughly fleshed-out and prepared your history lesson plans are, the easier it will be to stay flexible and change direction at a moment’s notice.
Because planning takes so much time and energy, ensure that you’ve utilized all possible pre-made resources. TPT is a great place to start!
If you’re looking for ancient civilizations lesson plans, check out this ultimate resource:
Pick up my full Ancient Civilizations Curriculum! You’ll get over 1000+ pages/slides of material covering The Stone Age, Early Humans, Archaeology, Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Israel, Ancient India, Ancient China, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome.
It’s fully ready-to-use and offers both digital and print options! Save yourself a huge amount of planning and have more energy to focus on teaching!
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