The Romans – We all know, as adults, that Romans didn’t really use the Vomitorium to throw up and not all gladiators were prisoners of war. Teaching Roman history to primary children can still be fun without these ‘facts’. Lesson plans need to be full of activities and ideas which will spark the imagination of young children as they learn how different, or not, life was in Roman times.
Lesson plans – Take the time to work out a set of ideas. These could include (in daily or weekly units) How Romans cooked and what they ate – What Roman people wore and how they got their clothes – Roman schooling – Roman games and parties – Where Rome was and why it was important – Roman battles and invasions.
Break the main title down into components. For example – How Romans cooked and what they ate breaks down into: Cooking methods/Exploring Roman kitchens/What food and where did it come from/Table manners and more.
Plan out books, worksheets and other activities for each sub-section. For example:
What foods – Did they grow much food? If so what? How was food brought into the country? Activities could include creating a Roman port from classroom materials such as boxes, paper and glue. Painting a Roman kitchen scene. Making a selection of Roman foods – perhaps from clay – and pinning them to a chart of where they came from in the world.
Lesson plans are all about keeping the children occupied and learning whilst putting the least stress on the teacher. Remember to leave flexibility in the plans as, with the best will in the world, things happen which mean plans have to change.
Possible activities – There are a myriad possibilities about what to do when teaching Roman history to primary age children. It’s an age when kids love to be active, to be physically engaged as much as, or more than mentally. Make everything very visual to help put points across and let them get involved on every possible level.
Dress Up Day – A few towels or material remnants, some wool or scarves and ties, and any class can become a Roman fashion parade for the day. Most parents are willing to help out when it comes to ‘dress up days’, but it is worth any teacher’s time to visit local thrift stores to pick up standby materials such as sheets, wool, scarves and even old jewellery to help when parents time or finances don’t quite stretch.
Have the children design and make their clothes. Of course this comes with limitations on what exactly they can do, but it also means they can explore books, videos and internet information to discover just what a stylish Roman child would have been wearing.
Eat like an Emperor – When working around the topic of food, there is nothing quite so engaging for children as being allowed to eat. Children can work in groups or singly to create a menu fit for Caesar. Certain substitutions may have to be made but there are some excellent recipes at this link. Children can also be split into groups working on food for the rich and food for the poorer people to show the differences between the social strata.
Roman Games Day – Much as teachers may sometimes feel like they are battling it out in the Coliseum, there is no denying that children love games. To help them understand what a day out at the arenas would have been like, have the class organise the event. Of course, there will be a distinct lack of man-eating tigers and chariots with multi-spiked wheels tearing gladiators to bits, but child friendly versions are possible and a lot of fun. Teaching children when they don’t realise they are learning is one of the best ways to get the information to stick.
Children can be gladiators (fighting with pretend swords and nets made out of wool), spectators (dressed in Roman clothes and scattering rose petals on the winners) or even the Emperor and his court, high up in the Imperial box. They can be animal handlers (surprising how ferocious a toy rabbit can be in the hands of a 7 year old!), vendors of snacks or even the poor slaves who had to clean up the mess afterwards.
The entire event can be used alongside the idea of a modern day event, such as the Superbowl, or World Cup and the children can be helped to see how things have changed and what is the same.
Roman School – Have the class go to school Roman style and again use the day to see what differences and similarities there might be. They could even try to learn a little Latin, or put on a play with actors and their mimes.
Roman history is vast and can feel more than a little intimidating to primary age children. With a little fun, a lot of interaction and some patience and planning, Roman lessons for primary classes can actually be great ways to learn a lot whilst having fun. There are several websites which deal with lesson planning and ideas for Roman lessons and they are listed below.
BBC – Primary History resource – Romans
History.org – Roman resources
Primary Resources – Amazing amount of Roman related documents with ideas for every occasion