Ancient History Lesson Plan: Ancient World Overview

1. Introduction

The idea of this activity is to give students an overview of Period 1.

It is not designed to give them an in-depth introduction to any particular civilization or empire, but it does aim to allow students to place them in their broader historical context.

Making historical judgements

This activity is also designed to make students think about what developments were significant in the past, and form judgements for themselves about why some developments were more significant than others.

Some historical events or episodes do not seem to have a direct bearing on our lives today, but they certainly did on the lives of millions of people who lived through them. Is it important for today’s students to know about such things?


Broadening our vision

It is also true that some events in the past may have more relevance to people in other regions of the world than they do for students in the west (the life and teachings of Confucius, for example, which are still held dear by millions of people in eastern Asia). Are these less important because they do not impact the lives of our own students?

These are some of the issues this simple activity seeks to address.


2. Instructions:

This is an activity best done in small groups.

Enter the Timemaps Atlas of World History here. You will find yourself in a map of the world dated 3500 BC.

Beneath the main world map you will see a sequence of small map icons. Click on these to move forward through history.

By this means, follow world history from 3500 BC to 1000 BC.

At each map you come to, hover your mouse over the red dots on the regions of Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia. You can view brief summaries of what’s happening in those regions at that period.

For the purposes of this activity, there’s no need to follow the links through to the regions concerned, so don’t click on the pointers; just hover the mouse over them.

Read the summaries, and record the historical events and developments they refer to; jot down the developments, the region in which they occur, and the date on the map.

 In a class discussion, share your lists and see if you can agree on a “class” list.

 [A possible list is given below, section 5]

3. Analysis:

List the civilizations you’ve noted.

List the empires.

List the technological innovations.

Consolidate these lists into a timeline of the Ancient World, making sure to place all civilizations, empires and technological developments in chronological order.

 4. Discussion

Discuss the following questions:

Which region of the world was most significant at this period?

Which of the events or episodes you’ve noted directly affect people today?

Which events and episodes were most important for people of the time?

Select 3 items from your list as being the most significant in terms of their impact upon our modern lives.


Select 3 items from your list which had the most impact upon the lives of the people of the time.

In a class discussion, share your lists.


5. For the teacher:

There is no “correct” list of events and episodes which the students will come up with; it is a matter of judgement. However, they will have to be prepared to justify their choices.

A possible (but certainly not comprehensive) list might include:


From the 3500 BC map:

Middle East: First civilization (Sumerian) appears


From the 2500 BC:

Europe: Indo-European migrations

South Asia: Indus Valley civilization appears


From the 1500 BC Map:

East Asia: Civilization appears in China

Europe: Civilization appears in Europe (Minoan and Mycenaean)

South Asia: Indus Valley civilization vanishes


From the 1000 BC Map:

Europe: First European civilizations (Minoan and Mycenaean) vanish

Middle East: Use of iron, alphabet, first major monotheists religion

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