Introduction | Lesson Objectives | Tools & Materials | Time Needed | Relevant National Standards | Teaching Strategy | Assessment Recommendations | Extensions, Adaptations, Further Resources

The following lesson plan draws on the information provided in the 'Character Stories' part of this Web site - specifically the stories of Cleisthenes, Themistocles, Pericles, Aspasia and Socrates (use the navigation to the left to choose a character). Using this resource, as well as any additional materials listed in the Research Links & Resources page, students will present their interviews in pairs (interviewee and interviewer) to the class as a whole. The interviews can be either formal 60-Minute-style interviews or more conversational 'celebrity-style' talkshows.

Teachers wishing to provide an extra challenge may want to include an expanded range or characters also discussed in the documentary or Web site; e.g. people such as Pisistratus, Hippias, Isagoras, Phidippides, or even Solon, Dracon, Artemisia, Xerxes, Plato and Aristotle (references to the appropriate pages within this site are given in the Extensions, Adaptations, Further Resources at the end of this page).

Teachers may want to explore using the interview technique to interview an ordinary Greek using generic non-famous characters (e.g. an Athenian slave, a Spartan hoplite, etc.) to explore everyday lives. However, this will require students to have greater preparation time in order to more fully explore the range of research available.

Lesson Objectives
Students will:

  • become better acquainted with historical people of Greece through research and role playing
  • develop interview and research strategies which get to an historical person's achievements and personality
  • through creative role playing [see Extensions, Adaptations, Further Resources], students will be able to combine historical characters in order to highlight their differences and similarities

    Tools & Materials
  • Access for students to computers in the classroom, library or lab for further research.
  • Students will need scissors, card, and colored pens to make 'Character Briefing Cards' as prompts for their interviews.
  • Access to the Web pages suggested in the Extensions, Adaptations, Further Resources section below.

    The following parts of the documentary will also be helpful for introducing some of the main characters:

    Starts: 3.54 'One man looked on, an Athenian nobleman called Cleisthenes…'
    Ends: 5.44 '…a small settlement called Athens.'
    Starts: 40.51 'In this new dawn the Athenians people…'
    Ends: 45.24 '… for a new generation of Athenians would take up his legacy.'

    Starts: 17.01 'There's a big change in the middle of the 6th century…'
    Ends: 26.33 '… he died and was laid to rest in the Athenian graveyard.'

    Starts: 26.41 'At first Hippias followed in his father's footsteps…'
    Ends: 30.25 '… and Cleisthenes was now one of the most powerful men in Athens.'

    Starts: 34.14 'As soon as Cleisthenes gained power…'
    Ends: 40.47 '… the question is what happens now ?'

    Starts: 46.01 '490 BC, eighteen years after the founding of democracy…'
    Ends: 52.31 'In fact, the Greeks would win a glorious victory.'

    Starts: 53.41 'But among them was one for whom the war with Persia…'
    Ends: 1.19.56 '… the country, whose defeat had been his greates triumph.'

    Starts: 1.20.10 'The Athenians were now looking for a leader…'
    Ends: 1.31.10 'The highest achievements of art and culture were not restricted to the elite.'
    Starts: 1.34.12 'Periclean Athens belongs in the smallish collection of cities…'
    Ends: 1.39.38 'They assumed Pericles' strategy could only bring them victory.'
    Starts: 1.46.46 'The Athenians became increasingly anxious…'
    Ends: 1.51.45 'Pericles' death would have far-reaching consequences.'

    Starts: 1.29.42 'Even Pericles' partner, a woman named Aspasia…'
    Ends: 1.30.59 '… most famous and influential in history.'

    Starts: 1.39.41 'But among the teeming multitude could be found one man…'
    Ends: 1.46.23 ' "A life without this sort of examination is not worth living." '
    Starts: 2.06.32 'Humiliated, their empire lost, the Athenians…'
    Ends: 2.18.18 'Socrates' principles of reason, of questioning assumptions and the world around you still endure.'

    Time Needed
    Half an hour to allocate pairs of students to specific characters, at least one hour to research and prepare 'Character Briefing Cards', and a further 10 minutes per interview for class presentation. Ideally, a further 20 minutes would be used to discuss the best interviews and to elect characters to a Hall of Fame.

    Relevant National Standards
    This activity addresses the Standards in Historical Thinking for Grades 5-12 developed by the National Center for History in the Schools.

    Teaching Strategy
  • Under teacher supervision pairs of students should compile 'Character Briefing Cards' containing important events in their chosen character's lives.
  • In pairs, students are asked to develop questions for an interview of the person they have been assigned. Students should be told that the quality of their questions - as well as the information that the questions reveal - will be evaluated. (It may be necessary to model good questions for an interview - questions that reveal personality, motivation, background information, achievements and failures, etc. Good interview questions are often open-ended allowing the person to speak. Good questions will be higher level/critical thinking: Why? What made you come to that conclusion? (evaluation) In retrospect, what would you do differently? How would you compare your views with [another historical character]? (comparison)
  • In the television talk show format, students may plan to interrupt the interview with t.v. ads for ancient Greek products. (Optional - this will also allow teachers to organize groups in threes rather than pairs.)
  • The partners may enlist the help of other classmates to be surprise guests to challenge or support the famous person. This may lead to debates and introduction of another point of view of the person's accomplishments. (Optional)
  • At the end of the interviews, the class (the Assembly of Citizens) will vote on the top five most influential characters for the Greek Hall of Fame.

    During the Interview

  • The teacher may require students to take notes, be active listeners by asking additional questions, or compare one character's comments with another at the end of the interviews. As an "Assembly of Citizens" they may also be given a task of ranking the characters to be selected in a "Greek Hall of Fame" - open only to the top five characters who have been the most influential during this period of Greek history.
  • Student partners should come up before the class and present their interview - best if chronological order (as is found on the form).

    After the Interview

  • Follow up each interview with positive comments (and if appropriate, clarifying questions).
  • Follow up after all of the interviews with the selection of the top five characters to make it into the Greek Hall of Fame. Students may nominate the character and tell why that person should or should not be selected. (Optional.) Then vote and determine the winners in the Greek Hall of Fame. (Winners may be given a wreath of laurel leaves. A few characters may be ostracized from Greece!)
  • Role Playing Extensions: Have pairs or groups of historical characters interact. For example: Cleisthenes (the "father of Athenian democracy") could debate with Isagoras or Pisistratus about the best form of government for Athens. The Persian King Xerxes and the Athenian general Themistocles could discuss their roles in the war of 580 BC. Artemisia, Warrior-Queen of Halicarnassus who fought for the Persians against the Greeks in the same war, could debate and explain her actions to the Spartan King Leonides, who led the suicide mission at Thermopylae.

    Assessment Recommendations
    The teacher should evaluate each interview presentation on a rubric which assesses:
  • Research
  • Gathering of information from sources
  • Note taking and organizing of information
  • Presentation
  • In the form of an interview; both partners stayed in character.
  • Entertaining, yet informative. A definite personality emerged.
  • Could be heard by the audience
  • Quality of questions and answers [content]
  • Preparation of good questions (includes open-ended questions, higher level/critical thinking questions, and basic questions) that get to the personality and achievements of the historical characters and the society in which they lived.
  • Information presented was accurate according to research.
    The class should determine the three (or four) top winners for the Greek Hall of Fame.

    Other ways teachers could use the 'Interview a famous Greek' exercise:
  • Role Playing - Students may be asked to take on the identity of one of the characters. Distribute the 'Character Briefing Cards' to students for research. The students are asked to learn about and then introduce themselves as that character in a roll playing activity. This is especially effective as a culminating activity or even as a classroom "Greek Banquet" in which students try to stay in character.
  • "21 Questions Guessing Game" - Students may be asked to take on the identity of one of the characters. Distribute the cards to students for research. The students are asked to learn about and then introduce themselves as that character in a guessing game activity. The "mystery guest" goes to the front of the class while the other students try to guess the character by asking yes or no questions they discover the identify. The number of questions are counted. If the identity is not solved within 21 questions, the class is defeated.
  • Matching Names and Bios - These cards can be reproduced on hard-copy, making enough copies for five or six groups. Cut the names from the brief bios and further cut the name papers to be of equal size. Time groups of students as they try to match the names with the biographical information. - Another task would be to put the characters into chronological order. - Another task for review would be to put the names on a "Bingo" card form (4 rows by 4 rows with one name left over). Have students put an X on the name as the teacher (or student) calls out the most famous accomplishments of each.

    Extensions, Adaptations, Further Resources
    Links to Major Characters:
    Cleisthenes - Character Summary
    Themistocles - Character Summary
    Pericles - Character Summary
    Socrates Character Summary
    Aspasia - Character Summary

    Links to Other Characters:
    Who was Solon? (Event Page: 594: Solon becomes lawmaker of Athens)
    The Law-maker Dracon
    How Pisistratus took power
    Pisistratus Rules as Tyrant & Reforms The Economy (Event Page: 547 BC: Pisistratus becomes Tyrant of Athens)
    Phidippides' & the First Marathon
    Hippias is driven out of Athens
    Isagoras Seizes Power (also an Event Page)
    507 BC: Revolution in Athens
    The Persians Invade - Thermopylae (Event Page: 480 BC: The Battle of Thermopylae) - Xerxes
    How Salamis was remembered - Aeshylus' The Persians (Event Page: 472 BC - The earliest surviving tragedy) - Xerxes
    The Sophists (Event Page: c.460 - New thinkers arrive in Athens)
    418: War By Other Means (Alcibiades becomes leader of Athens)
    Plato and the legacy of Socrates
    Plato and the legacy of Socrates: Aristotle
    Artemisia, Warrior-Queen of Halicarnassus

    Links to specific classes and or non-Athenians
    The Populace of Athens
    The Populace of Athens - Slaves
    The Populace of Athens - Metics
    The Populace of Athens - Women
    The Populace of Athens - Freemen
    Sparta: Origins
    Sparta: Government and classes
    Sparta: Famous quotes about Spartan life

    Other potential sources of additional information are suggested in the Research Links & Resources Page page.