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Vermilion Parish Schools
Activity 1: What is a “classical” civilization? (GLE: 38)

Materials List: 30 pennies, 10 index cards per student

This unit focuses on four classical civilizations and on the rise and fall of those civilizations as empires.  Write the word classical on the board and ask students if they have ever heard of a book, a movie, or a car referred to as a “classic”.  What do people mean when they say something is a classic?  List some examples of classic movies, books, or cars.  Discuss what makes those items on the list classical.  Then tell students that they are about to learn about the key characteristics of classical civilizations.  These are civilizations whose legacies – cultural, political, or otherwise – have endured since their collapse.  Demonstrate the concept by handing every student a penny and telling them to study the back of the coin.  What do they see?  (The building they see is the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and the words they see are:  E PLURIBUS UNUM which is Latin for “Out of many, one.”)  Tell students that the building is designed like an ancient Greek temple and is an example of how the classical architecture of ancient Greece influences our society today.  The words are written in Latin, the language of the ancient Roman Empire and the basis for many of our English words today.  Ask students why they think those words in Latin were put on the back of a penny.  Emphasize to students that even on a penny, one can see how Greece and Rome continue to influence our lives today.

Use a learning log (view literacy strategy descriptions) to have students keep a written record of any examples of how the four classical civilizations they are studying in this unit influence their lives today.  Distribute ten index cards to each student and have them staple the cards together to create their logs.  Entitle the log “Examples of how my life and society are influenced by the classical civilizations”.  Remind students to always date their entries in a learning log.  Have students write down their first entry, the penny, and describe what they observed on it about classical influences.  Instruct students to keep this log with them when they’re at school, traveling to and from school, and at home.  As this unit transpires, have them keep a list of all examples of classical influences that they come across in their daily lives.  Have them write a “G” for Greece, “R” for Rome, “P” for Persia, and “C” for China to indicate the origin of the example.  Students can share their log entries with a partner and discuss similarities and differences in their responses.



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