Skip Discover Education Main Navigation
Skip Discover Education Main Navigation

Lesson Plans Library 9-10 > World History
Civilizations: Leadership image
Civilizations: Leadership
Grade level: 9-10 Subject: World History Duration: Two class periods

lesson plan support
Students will
  • Learn what caused the fall of the Roman Empire.
  • Write an essay describing the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire.
  • Apply information to other civilizations.
  • Civilizations: Leadership videoand VCR, or DVD andDVDplayer
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Print resources about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire
  1. Begin the lesson by showing segment 1,Prosperity and Decline, of the video. Then discuss what attributes made the empire strong. Ideas include the following:

    • The establishment of the city
    • Accomplishments in art and architecture
    • The ability to unite diverse groups of people
    • The ability to maintain the peace for a long period of time
  2. Then discuss the reasons given in the video for the decline of the Roman Empire. Suggestions include the following:

    • Too great an appetite for the pleasures of life
    • Disease
    • Decline in revenue coming into the Empire
    • Strong invaders from other countries
  3. Tell students to use the list above as a starting point for understanding the causes of the empire's fall. Have students explore other reasons by researching the topic. Suggest that they use the following Web sites:

  4. After students have completed their research, assign an essay (for homework) that explains why the Roman Empire fell. Encourage students to take a clear position. For example, if they think that the barbarian invasions caused the fall, that idea must be stated as the thesis and supported with documentation, and a strong conclusion should summarize the main ideas.

  5. During the next class period, have students share their essays. Discuss the ideas. What reasons did they give for the fall of the Roman Empire? Was there consensus among students?

  6. Conclude by applying what students learned about the fall of the Roman Empire to other societies. Do students see any parallels between what happened in the Roman Empire and any facets of our own society? Do students think their own country is experiencing a period of decline? Do students think any other societies are declining?

Back to Top

Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:Students were highly engaged in class discussions; produced a persuasive essay, with all the requested components; and were able to apply what they learned to other cultures, including our own.
  • Two points:Students participated in class discussions; produced an adequate essay, with most of the requested components; and could see some parallels between the Roman Empire and other cultures, including our own.
  • One point:Students participated minimally in class discussions; produced an incomplete essay, with little or none of the requested components; and were not able to apply their findings to other cultures.

Back to Top

Definition:A central meeting place where the offices of the government were located, as well as amphitheaters, temples, and markets.
Context:Many historians believe that the Romans invented the city, which they laid out in a grid and built in an orderly way.

Definition:A huge amphitheater in Rome where people gathered to watch recreation events.
Context:The Colosseum in Rome could seat as many as 50,000 spectators.

Definition:Slaves, prisoners of war, or criminals trained to fight one another until someone died
Context:Watching gladiators fight was a form of entertainment, but it also foreshadowed the moral decline that contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire.

Marcus Aurelius
Definition:The ruler of Rome during a period of growing unrest, from AD 161 to 180
Context:During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, Rome defended itself against the growing threat of Germanic tribes from the north.

Pax Romana
Definition:AMeaning Roman peace, this period represented 200 years of peace and prosperity for the Roman Empire.
Context:Augustus established the Pax Romana by ruling with a firm hand, but he was fair and orderly and able to control the large empire.

Back to Top

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Historical Understanding UUnderstands the historical perspective
  • World History: Era 3 Understands major global trends from 1000 BCE to 300 CE
  • Language Arts: Viewing Uses a range of strategies to interpret visual media

The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go to

This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards:

  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • People, Places, and Environments
  • Power, Authority, and Governance

Back to Top

Joy Brewster, curriculum writer, editor, and consultant

Back to Top