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Teaching Primary History: Ancient Greece Key Stage 2

The following Key Stage 2 history lessons have all been judged to be outstanding according to OFSTED criteria. There is a wide variety of teaching and learning activities as well as a rich array of teaching resources including PowerPoint® presentations. New lessons on Ancient Greece will be regularly added to meet the demands of the changing primary curriculum.  For other suggested resources click here.

>>Teaching Ancient Greece in the 2014 history curriculum To all intents and purposes, the ancient Greek planning and all the outstanding lessons fit just as perfectly with the new curriculum from 2014 as well as the existing one.  The only difference might be is where schools choose to look at Greek and Roman legacies together as a separate unit in addition to the usual study of ancient Greece.  The point of this is that the legacy can best be studied AFTER all other topics so you can see the extent of their influence.  See the curriculum models section for example of how this might fit within your overall curriculum. That apart everything else remains the same: focus on beliefs, ways of life, achievements and influence.

NOVEMBER 2015 Assessment Task added on Women in Ancient Greece see KS2 Assessment Tasks section

Outstanding Lessons

Smart Task


Teaching Ancient Greece to Key Stage 2

Of all the Key Stage 2 units, this is the one where you can most easily miss the point of why it is on the curriculum. It is not a study of legends, or just gods and goddesses as if they were some imaginary dysfunctional family from a soap opera. The National Curriculum is very clear in stating that it should be about ways of life and beliefs as well as achievements and legacy. Because this is quite demanding stuff, I have chosen lessons on Ancient Greece mainly suitable for Years 5 and 6 and there are some stunners here. The lesson on making ostracons is a fantastic way into Greek democracy. Speaking and listening are massively enhanced through the role play concerning whether to support Pericles' Millennium dome-like idea to build the Parthenon. Contrasting interpretations are dealt with ingeniously through the lesson on the battle of Marathon which also features an excellent history mystery. For enormous fun potential alone, the 'Call My Bluff' and 'Who wants to be a Millionaire' approaches to pictures and replica artefacts from Ancient Athens should win you over.

Other resources

Great set of annotated images and notes from British Museum here

Why not start by looking at what museums have created on this topic. If you look under Ancient Civilizations in the showme section of the 24 hour museum, you will find lots of interactive on-line material designed for KS2 pupils.

Prior to the London Olympics of 2012 we added a range of different cameos for KS2 and KS3 showing how the history of the Olympics could be imaginatively integrated into your current teaching which can still be accessed here

Planning around key questions

The whole approach to this topic is enquiry-led.  From the start pupils are placed in role using the Mantle of the Expert strategy.

They have been employed by the Greek Tourist Board to promote Heritage Tours to Greece.  People seem to have the wrong idea about Greece being all sun, sea, sand, clubbing and alcohol.  Can the pupils help show off the importance of Ancient Greece to people’ lives today?  At the end of the enquiry there will be a presentation including music and dance, the firm’s promotional launch, with parents invited.  Resources and outstanding lessons for much of this are available on the subscription part of the site.

Key question 1 (shown in detail): What’s so special about Greece now and in ancient times?

Learning objectives

To investigate where Greece is and how to get there
To understand why people visit Greece today
To appreciate what the climate, terrain and shape of Greece is like, especially the islands
To understand that Greece still has world-famous remains of important buildings which have influenced people for over 2,000 years.

Key learning activities

Learning Activity 1. Pupils need to plan their journey to investigate the parts of Greece that tourists interested in the heritage are likely to want to visit .  Pupils will scour travel agents material, much of which is on-line now.  When it comes to organising their flight they will need to consider what clothes to wear (time of year/climate data), health and safety (suntan oil etc), flight times, duration, time zones etc, exchange rates for currency. As pupils fly from Heathrow to Athens (flight paths followed) you show them images on a PowerPoint of buildings that have been influenced by the Greeks that they may be able to see out of the plane window, so that as soon as they leave Heathrow airport ideas are already developing e.g. (Olympic stadium being built for 2012, the Globe theatre, Bank of England facade , Georgian houses, remains of the Parthenon in the British Museum).

Learning Activity 2: Links with Literacy and ICT.  Pupils produce information text for travellers to Greece on interesting aspects of the Greek legacy, having presented a spoken argument about what are the most important places to visit, sequencing points logically, defending issues with evidence e.g. Should the Elgin marbles be returned to Greece from the British Museum and making use of persuasive language.

Learning activity 3: Links with Mathematics: Pupils calculate time differences and use timetables to plan a flight. They calculate weight of luggage and amount of money needed, including exchange rates.

Key question 2 :  What can we learn about Ancient Greece from what has been left behind? 

The focus here is on the built environment (Parthenon) and the pots evidence found in museums. See the lessons on inferring from pot evidence and an exploration of the Parthenon using scale, shapes, golden rectangle etc.

Key question 3 What was so special about the Greeks and what did they care about?

Focus on:

a. Myths and legends linked to pots. The idea here is that children produce audio-guides for visitors giving them more background detail to the ideas of the Greeks

b. Ideas of democracy (Should we build the Parthenon?)

c. Justice (Would you have wanted to be an idiot in Ancient Greece? Make your own ostracon.)

d. The role of women. The diversity issue is important here as it highlights the role of women and slaves.

Key question 4: What would a study of the Ancient Olympics tell us about the Greeks?

Pupils go beyond comparing then and now events to investigating what else happened at the Olympics using pot and site evidence. They are surprised to find such a strong religious theme as well as preparing men for war. 

Key question 5: How have the Ancient Greeks influenced the people who came after them?

Focus on architecture.

Mathematics using and applying reasoning skills

Estimate dimensions shape, ratio, proportion, scale

Key question 6: How should we present the Ancient Greeks to the visitors to our launch?

Pupils discuss ways of working collaboratively as a big team; delegation

 • Reading and/or dramatic reconstruction of a myth - perhaps one pupils have created. Could be filmed before and shown on the day.

• Demonstration of Olympic events. Focus on long jump. Show weights as mystery item. Show image from pots. Demonstrate that it was a jumping start. If you get momentum of backward swing right then forward thrust is greater and you can jump further.

• Music. Using science work on how to change notes with a stringed instrument (reducing length and thickness, how to change pitch) and effect of volume from other vibrating objects (plastic cup and elastic band and DT to make one

• Models of famous buildings?

• Food to eat

Pupils complete their guidebooks and also a short commission from the Post Office to design a set of 5 stamps to commemorate the achievements of the Ancient Greeks. In design teams they create different stamps for £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 reflecting the relative importance of each aspect of their achievement. Pupils can have just one theme for each stamp.

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Great set of annotated images and notes from British Museum

You were called an idiot if you did not fulfil your duties as a citizen. Year 5 pupils cast their votes to ostracise a corrupt Athenian politician

Making ostacons as a way of learning about democracy and getting familiar with the Greek alphabet

Using unseen images of Greek vases to play Call My Bluff

Wall display to present arguments as to whether Athenian money should be spent on the Parthenon?



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