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In Search of Ancient Ireland
Cartographer's Journey
Fortress Ireland
Culture and Commerce
About the Film
Lesson Plans

Related Resources

Language Arts
Lesson Plans -- Lesson Plan One
In this section:
Lesson Plan One
Lesson Plan Two

Overview Procedures for Teachers

Background Activities

Activity One

The purpose of this introductory activity is to provide students with background knowledge on Ireland. Students will also focus on varied ways to evaluate information sources.

1. Divide the students into small groups and ask each group to collect 15-20 facts on Ireland. Have the students record the source of their information next to each fact collected. Cut the paper into strips that each contain one fact.

2. As a class, generate a list of categories based on the facts the students have collected. These categories will serve to organize the information collected. Record these categories on a wall chart. Ask each group to paste its facts in the appropriate categories on the wall chart.

The following is a list of resources that students may use to begin researching: (Scroll down page)

3. As the students move through the lesson activities, encourage them to continue to record information about Ireland on the wall chart. Post this chart as a shared resource for further lesson activities.

4. After the wall chart is complete, ask each group to create a brief paragraph describing how it collected and categorized its information. Have each group share its paragraph with the class. Lead a class discussion on the following questions:
  • What were the most useful sources of information?
  • What would you do if you were to find conflicting information?
  • What were the most effective strategies for categorizing information?
  • What did you learn from your research about searching for information, summarizing information, and analyzing information?
5. Ask each group to select one information source that it found to be extremely helpful, and share it with the class. Have the students discuss the reasons for their selections, and compare similarities and differences in each group's choices. After all the groups have presented their favorites, create a class rubric for rating information sources. After completing their rubric, have the students visit the following Web site:

Cornell University Library:

Compare and contrast the class rubric with suggestions from this Web site.


Activity One

1. Ask the students to brainstorm answers to the following question:
  • How do we learn about the past?
2. Review with the students the following statements from the film:

By 3500 B.C., the Irish were building huge tombs for their dead, often precisely aligned with the rising or setting sun ... The importance of the site is the hilltop location. They were far more than simple burial mounds. I think these must have been ceremonial places, central places within the tribal landscape ... places which symbolized the importance, the uniformity, of the tribal area.

If you look around you, you can see the wide vista, the expanse of countryside. This means that people up here, the dead, could look down on the living, and more importantly, the living could look up to the dead. These were here as memorials to earlier people ... These burial tombs are found all over Western Europe. Ireland was never isolated from the Continent but part of a greater European culture. People and ideas passed freely across the Irish Sea.

Across thousands of years, the mounds generated new myth and folklore ... later people thought they'd been built by giants, magical entrances to the Otherworld where gods and spirits lived ... Religious centers for thousands of years, the mounds were also places of assembly for a farming people. Today they offer clues to a complex and sophisticated society.

3. Divide the class into small groups and ask the students to select a tomb or stone circle that interested them in the film.

Each group should create a presentation that highlights the following information:
  • The origin of the tomb or stone circle
  • The archaeological significance of the tomb or stone circle
  • The historical significance of the tomb or stone circle
  • A brochure, a poster, a model, or a drawing of the tomb or stone circle
The following is a list of Web sites that may be used to begin researching:

4. Ask each group to share its work with the entire class.

Activity Two

The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to examine the methods, philosophy, and tools that varied disciplines employ to learn about the past. They will research a specific discipline, and then be asked to apply their knowledge to a current-day scenario.

1. Divide the class into two groups to conduct research. Each group should answer two sets of questions: Research Questions and Application Questions.

-- Group One: Archaeologists --

Research Questions:
  • What do archaeologists study?
  • What methods do they use?
The following list of Web sites may be helpful in answering the Research Questions:

Application Question:

First, read the following statement from the film:

In every century, what matters most about Ireland is not tillage farming, it's cattle raising. That is the key to the understanding of Ireland. Irish history, Irish archaeology, Irish culture, the great sagas, everything is based on cattle. Cows are everything and everywhere.
  • What aspect of life in Ireland today do you predict that archaeologists will study in the future?
-- Group Two: Dendrochronologists --

Research Questions
  • What do dendrochronologists study?
  • What methods do they use?
The following list of Web sites may be helpful in answering the Research Questions:

Application Question:

Read the following statement from the film:

Once you look at a sample like this under the microscope, you're brought face to face with, really, quite an interesting phenomenon. You are actually looking at the response of a living organism to what was happening to its environment. These trees preserve this information in a way that really nothing else does.
  • What phenomena in current-day Ireland do you predict that dendrochronologists will study in the future?

Extension Activities

Activity One

1. Ask the students to research the varied ways we study the past. Some possible topics include paleontology, anthropology, paleobotany, chemistry, environmental science, geography, and microbiology.

Activity Two

1. Ask the students to respond in writing to the following prompt:
  • If you were to create a Time Capsule for future generations that reflects where you live, what would you include in it?
Activity Three

1. Visit the section of the Web site titled "Culture and Commerce." Write an imaginary diary entry chronicling a day in the life of a person in ancient Ireland.

Continue to Lesson Plan Two