Skip Discover Education Main Navigation
Skip Discover Education Main Navigation

6-8 > World History
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: World History Duration: Three class periods
Objectives | Materials | Procedures | Adaptations | Discussion Questions | Evaluation | Extensions | Suggested Readings | Links | Vocabulary | Academic Standards | Credit
print this lesson plan


lesson plan support

Students will understand the following:
1. Some communities evolve slowly; some communities start out more or less fully developed.
2. Planned communities have advocates and detractors.

For this lesson, you will need:
Computers with access to the Internet
Library for reference materials
Index cards for note taking
Poster board for students’ illustrations

1. Although ancient Rome finally collapsed, it can be argued that over the years the city has offered a model of municipal planning. The Roman city, it has been claimed, was based on a carefully designed plan that reflected the needs and values of its citizens and other residents. The idea of such a planned community is still popular today. Tell students that they will have a chance to research several contemporary planned communities and then design their own modern planned community.
2. Divide the class into groups that will each research one of the following planned communities:
  • Columbia, Maryland
  • Levittown, New York
  • Reston, Virginia
  • Seaside, Florida
You may ask some students to suggest other planned communities that they want to study—either old or new. They may suggest nearby planned communities that they know about firsthand or have heard about. Such additional planned communities, for example, might include:
  • Forest Hills Gardens in Queens, New York City
  • Celebration, Florida
  • the Community of Russett in the D.C. area
  • Brooke Meadow in Sacramento County, California
  • Settlers Walk in Ohio
Before directing students to research one of the planned communities listed above, help them understand the essential difference between a planned community and a neighborhood, village, or town that develops in the more usual way with the simple passage of time. They should also come to see the difference between a full-service planned community and a place that people live in but must leave to go to a town or city where they conduct much of their business.
3. Explain to students that in this phase of their research they should be taking notes about facts. First, they should find out the size of the community (physical size, population), its location, and its age. Second, they should list the various facilities and services that the planned community offers its residents. Third, they should note what, if anything, seems to be missing from the planned community. Fourth, students should try to determine what extra financial costs, if any, the residents must shoulder for living in the planned community.
4. After students in each group gather facts, they should go on to a more subjective evaluation of the community by locating and reviewing some or all of the following materials that focus on the community:
  • advertising brochures for the community
  • newspaper and magazine articles about the community
  • analyses of the community by sociologists and other scholars
  • published interviews with residents of the community
  • minutes from meetings of the community’s council or other policy-making body
The goal of this phase of research is to determine what people like and what people don’t like about the planned community under study. Students may consider the opinions of people who live or lived in the planned community as well as the opinions of people who don’t live there but have spent time studying the community.
5. Each group of students should plan and generate a written report based on their research.
6. Now move the groups of students into the next project phase: planning their own communities. Begin by brainstorming with the whole class about the community features that each group must consider. You may want to compare your class’s list of features with the following checklist to make sure the brainstorming session is comprehensive:
  • homes of various types (e.g., freestanding houses, joined townhouses, apartments), sizes, and prices
  • employment opportunities (What proportion of the people will work in the planned community, and what proportion will travel out of the community to work? Why?)
  • communication facilities (e.g., a post office, computer services)
  • financial services (e.g., bank, stockbrokers)
  • educational, cultural, and religious facilities (e.g., schools, theaters, libraries or media centers, meeting spaces, houses of worship)
  • shops and services (What kinds would be allowed? What kinds would be banned?)
  • medical facilities (Consider also disabled people.)
  • athletic facilities
  • transportation within the community and beyond the community
  • total population of the community
7. After the class members agree on the features to consider as they plan their communities, let them reconvene in small groups and proceed with specifying what features they will and won’t put in their communities, how many of each feature they will start out with, and where the features will be located in relation to one another.
8. Have students put their ideas in written and illustrated form. That is, direct students to write a report as well as submit drawings (hand drawn or computer assisted) of what their planned community will look like.
9. When the groups have finished, they can present their ideas to the class. Then lead a discussion on how the various plans compare and contrast. Take a vote to see if one planned community is more appealing than the others. If so, try with the class to figure out what it is about that community that attracts students.
Back to Top

Adaptations for Older Students:
Students should extend their research into planned communities by interviewing people—including themselves, if appropriate—who have lived in, planned, or personally studied such a community.
Back to Top
Discussion Questions

1. Examine the different factors that led to the decline of the Roman Empire. Which do you think could have been avoided and how could they have been avoided?
2. Discuss what you think are the great advantages and great challenges of cultural diversity.
3. Explain the meaning ofcultural decay. What various elements compose a culture? How does one recognize signs of decay in these elements?
4. Discuss what lessons you think modern global powers might learn from studying the history of the Roman Empire.
5. Debate the argument that in studying the Roman Empire we idealize it and do not look at its negative aspects. What images do you have of the Roman Empire? Are they positive or negative?
6. Discuss what obligations you think a government has to its citizens. Did the Roman Empire succeed or fail in fulfilling these obligations? Do you feel your government is succeeding or failing in fulfilling its obligations to its citizens? Defend your views.
Back to Top

You can evaluate your students on their group’s written reports and illustrations using the three-point rubric:
  • Three points:well-written report with clear thesis statement and many supporting details; easy-to-understand graphics that match written description
  • Two points:adequate report with clear thesis statement and some supporting details; acceptable graphics that partially match written description
  • One point:inadequate report, lacking thesis statement and details; incomplete or hard-to-read graphics that don’t adequately match written description
You can ask your class to contribute to the assessment rubric by specifying how many supporting details should be required and what features the illustrations should include (e.g., symbols and legend).
Back to Top

“Now Showing”—at the Circus Maximus and the Colosseum
In a study of the Roman Empire, teachers and texts often emphasize the contributions of the empire to law, the military, and engineering. There was a more earthy side to the Romans, however. The public arenas of Rome, for example, were the main source of free entertainment for the masses. The largest and most famous of these arenas were the Circus Maximus and the Colosseum (known to Romans as the Flavian Amphitheater). Have small groups of students research the activities that took place in these arenas—including activities that involved only men and those that involved men and animals. Direct each group to prepare a playbill or large advertising poster that represents a day’s or week’s offerings at the Circus Maximus and the Colosseum in ancient times. The groups’ finished products might also include a diagram of the arena (showing, perhaps, seating plans and entrances).

A Tale of Two (Roman) Cities
The two great capitals of the Roman world were, at different times, Rome and Constantinople. Divide the class in half, with each half researching one of the cities when it flourished most spectacularly. Then, by leading a class discussion, create with the students a chart or Venn diagram that shows how the two cities were similar and how they were different.

Back to Top
Suggested Readings

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Edward Gibbon. Viking Penguin, 1996.
This comprehensive classic work about ancient Rome covers the years from 30 B.C. to A.D. 476. Compare the interpretations in this classic work to that of newer books. Is there a difference in interpretation?

Chronicles of the Barbarians: Firsthand Accounts of Pillage and Conquest, from the Ancient World to the Fall of Constantinople
David W. McCullough, ed. Random House, Times Books, 1998.
What did the “barbarians” think of Rome? Read these fascinating primary sources to see the world through their eyes.

Back to Top

Roman History, Coins, and Technology
A site which is easily navigated and contains information on various Roman topics listed at the bottom of each page.

The Roman Empire
Example of student work summarizing and organizing the main events of ancient Rome.

Mythology in Western Art
Examples of paintings and sculpture from ancient to modern times based on Greek/Roman gods and myths.

Project Gutenberg
Explore the online version ofHistory of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empireby Edward Gibbon as well reading the works of Plutarch and Cicero.

Lepicis Magna: The Roman Empire in Africa.
Explore this well preserved African Roman City which produced Emperor Septimius Severus.

Back to Top

Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    affront
Definition:A deliberate offense; insult.
Context:The emperor’s behavior was an affront to his respected position.

speaker    cult
Definition:A system of religious beliefs and ritual or a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious.
Context:Christianity was a cult that was a threat to the Roman belief in hierarchy and social division.

speaker    fester
Definition:To cause increasing poisoning, irritation, or bitterness.
Context:Resentment festered among the poor when they saw the excesses of the elite.

speaker    hierarchy
Definition:The classification of a group of people according to ability or economic, social, or professional standing.
Context:Roman society was built on a rigid social hierarchy.

speaker    undermine
Definition:To subvert or weaken insidiously or secretly.
Context:Chaos and corruption undermined the Roman Empire from within.

Back to Top

This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:6-8, 9-12
Subject area:world history
Understands how major religious and large-scale empires arose in the Mediterranean basin, China, and India from 500 B.C. to A.D. 300.
Benchmark 6-8:
Understands the significant individuals and achievements of Roman society (e.g., the major legal, artistic, architectural, technological, and literary achievements of the Roman Republic; the influence of Hellenistic cultural traditions; and the accomplishments of famous Roman citizens [e.g., Cincinnatus, the Gracchi, Cicero, Constantine, Nero, Marcus Aurelius]).

Benchmark 6-8:
Understands the concept and importance of classical civilizations (e.g., the enduring importance of ideas, institutions, and art forms that emerged in the classical periods; the significance of Greek or Hellenistic ideas and cultural styles in the history of the Mediterranean basin, Europe, Southwest Asia, and India).

Benchmark 9-12:
Understands shifts in the political framework of Roman society (e.g., major phases in the empire’s expansion through the first century A.D.; how imperial rule over a vast area transformed Roman society, economy, and culture; the causes and consequences of the transition from republic to empire under Augustus in Rome; how Rome governed its provinces from the late republic to the empire; and how innovations in ancient military technology affected patterns of warfare and empire building).

Benchmark 9-12:
Understands the spread of Christianity and how it related to other belief systems (e.g., the extent and consequences of Christian expansion in Asia, Africa, and Europe to the fourth century; the events and circumstances, including the role of the martyr, that helped this expansion; comparisons between Jewish and Christian approaches to monotheism; and the influence of other faiths upon the development of Christianity and those teachings that are distinctive to Christianity).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:world history
Understands the imperial crises and their aftermath in various regions from A.D. 300 to 700.
Benchmark 1:
Understands shifts in the status of women from pagan Roman society to Christian society (e.g., the shifting importance of social class and marital status).

Benchmark 2:
Understands political and social elements during the decline of the Roman and Han Empires and the rise of the Byzantine Empire (e.g., the strengths and weaknesses of the Eastern and Western Roman Empires and the factors that enabled the Byzantine Empire to continue as Rome fell; how Constantine selectively supported aspects of Western rule with Eastern institutions to create a new, independent, Byzantine state in the fourth century A.D.; the links between military, social, and economic causes for the decline in the Han and Roman Empires; the impact of barbarian movements on the regions of Europe, China, and India by the end of the seventh century A.D.; and the life of Germanic peoples and society, including the status and role of women).

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:geography
Understands the physical and human characteristics of places.
Knows the human characteristics of places (e.g., cultural characteristics, such as religion, language, politics, technology, family structure, and gender; population characteristics; land uses; and levels of development).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:geography
Understands the concept of regions.
Understands how regional boundaries change (e.g., changes resulting from shifts in population, environmental degradation, shifts in production and market patterns, and wars).

Grade level:6-8, 9-12
Subject area:technology
Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual.
Benchmark 6-8:
Knows ways in which technology has influenced the course of history (e.g., revolutions in agriculture, manufacturing, sanitation, medicine, warfare, transportation, information processing, and communication).

Benchmark 9-12:
Knows that science and technology are pursued for different purposes (scientific inquiry is driven by the desire to understand the natural world and seeks to answer questions that may or may not directly influence humans; technology is driven by the need to meet human needs and solve human problems).

Back to Top

Alicia Soderquist, an English teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia.
Back to Top