Using stories to engage students in ancient history topics
It is important for us to learn from the battles and politics of the past, and to pass on those lessons to the next generation. Teaching history can accomplish that, but how do you make it interesting for students, especially middle school kids? This is where some whimsy can help the medicine go down. The gods and myths of the Greeks and Romans heavily influenced their culture, so why not inject a bit of storytelling into your history lesson. Who doesn’t love a story about a dragon or a hero? Storytelling is a fun way to make ancient history engaging for primary students. More than that, they teach us about the values of historical cultures in a more subtle way.
For example, many Greek and Roman mythological heroes ran into trouble when they offended a god, requiring noble feats and hard work to get back into their good graces. The message to the people of the time is clear, obey your leaders, work hard, be courageous in your duties and you will earn the respect of your peers.
One of the more absorbing aspects of Ancient Greece and Rome, particularly for middle school students is the myths and legends that are centered around the mythical beasts of the time.
Many of these beasts play a central role in the exploits of heroes. Think of Heracles, Odysseus and Perseus. Who would they be without their foes? From Cerberus to Cyclops, Medusa to Minotaur these creatures were all foes our heroes had to face.
This topic lends itself to creative activities. Here are some ideas that have worked well in my classroom:
Four Greco-Roman Mythology Activities
- Retell a famous encounter with one of our erstwhile heroes either from the hero’s perspective or that of the ‘beast’. This can be either in first person or third.
- Write a news report of the encounter – either in written form (newspaper) or as a TV Report / Radio report. (The latter work well with children who struggle with writing.)
- Create a mythic beast. Draw and describe it.
- Create and write a legend. Alternatively, write a play or comic.
These myths and legends can vividly conjure images of a time long past and collectively they provide a rich variety of material to encourage readers and writers of all abilities.
Cover Image – Greek Mythology Resource by Primary Topic Shop