Teacher Guidance – Classical Civilizations


The great classical civilizations of the Eastern Hemisphere, 500 BC to AD 500

This unit introduces the great classical civilizations of the Eastern Hemisphere to students: Greece and Rome, Persia, India and China. It gives suggestions for activities which involve enquires using this Timemap of World History.

The aim is to encourage students to acquaint themselves with this period of world history by researching it themselves.

Accompanying this teachers’s guidance are:

  • Student worksheet, with instructions for students, and
  • Premium supplement, offering guidance to teachers as to what the website will enable students to cover in their responses.


The unit addresses

  • chronology,
  • change and continuity,
  • cause and consequence,
  • similarity and difference,
  • connections and linkages.

It looks at the role of geography and the environment in shaping human society, and asks students to look at technological developments, as well as developments in governmental, economic and belief systems. The unit seeks to give practice in critical thinking skills such as interpretation, analysis and significance.

Specifically, the unit sets out to

  • provide students with a historical and geographical context for the study of the different classical civilizations;
  • explore the distinctive features of these civilizations;
  • ask how and why they arose;
  • assess how they changed over time;
  • discover what belief systems arose in them; and
  • uncover the linkages between them.

The activities will take at least four, and probably more, lessons to complete. If you would like a quicker way to introduce this period to your students, consider using the relevant units in Timemaps Premium:

China: the Classical Age

India: the Classical Age

Greece and Persia

The Roman Empire

These will give students a quick panoramic overview of their topics. Just as with the maps in the free area of the site, they can be used with the tasks below. They can also be used as a way of helping to wrap up this unit and reinforcing the points covered.


Students should use the worksheet provided for this unit.

If used in class: It would be best to divide students into groups, of no more than 3 or 4 students each. Each group takes a specific region, with two or three groups to a region. Make sure all the regions are covered.

If used as student project work: In this case each student takes one of the regions. Make sure all the regions are covered.

1. Enquiry

Students go to the map of the world in 500 BC.

To do this, they either follow the above link, or they go to the Atlas (on the main menu at the top of the page) and use the “TimeMaps by Region” column to find the entry “World”.

They select the appropriate date and follow the links through to one of the following regions: Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia.

Hints and tips:

Students should mainly use the regional maps and information, but feel free to follow the in-map links to the countries in the region, if you wish. These will give them more details. (A region where it might definitely be a good idea to visit the country level might be East Asia, where China has a dominant importance in the region at that time.) 

Students should focus on the spread of civilization in their selected region, the causes and consequences of the spread, and the changes that occurred within it.

It might be a good idea for students to quickly familiarise themselves with the previous history of the region by glancing at the maps/information for the previous dates.

The students make notes on the maps/information.

2. Presentation

They then distill their notes into a concise presentation for the rest of the class. This could be by way of a PowerPoint or other presentation tool, or a simple talk.

The presentation should be 5-10 minutes in length, structured around 3 to 5 headings, with up to 5 key points under each.

They should begin their presentation with a brief look at developments in the centuries leading up to 500 BC.

These presentations should be submitted as an assignment.

By creating a concise presentation built up of key organising headings and subheadings, students should move away from simple fact-collection to actually understating what was going on in their respective regions.

3. Follow-up

Selected groups give presentations, so that all students in the class hear about the histories of all the regions.

After each presentation, quiz the students on the following points:

Which is/are the key area(s) from which civilization spreads out from?

Key features: are there any features that give civilization in the region a special character?

Influences from other regions: did developments in your region owe anything to other regions?

Geographical location and environment: how might these have effected the development of civilization in the region (you may have to delve back to the origins of civilization to answer this)

Developments in government and politics, society and economics

Developments in culture, religion and ideas

Developments in technology

Key individuals: how did they contribute to the histories of their civilizations?

4. Class discussion

Below are a series of discussion questions to finish this unit. Choose the ones you would like your students to tackle.

i. Identify developments which encompassed more than one region: where did they originate? How did they spread? What impact did they have?

ii. Which civilizations were based in major rivers, which were not?

iii. How did their civilizations change over time?

iv. Who, in your class’s opinion, were the historical figures of greatest importance? Which of these had an impact beyond their own region of origin?

v. What were the similarities and differences between these regions’

  • writing systems?
  • political systems?
  • belief systems?

vi. By AD 500, which region had had the greatest influence across the Eastern Hemisphere, and in what ways?

vii. As a class, list the 5 most significance episodes (in your opinion) in shaping the later history of the world.

5. Possible reinforcement using premium units

Show the premium presentations referenced at the beginning of this guide, or (if your students have student membership) let them view the units themselves.

In each case either

  • talk through the maps yourself; or
  • let the students describe what’s going on; or, if doing project work,
  • they create a summary history of these civilizations.