I am thrilled to share with you today these easy steps to help you teach ancient history. My name is Hillary Midgley, and I am a teacher blogger who is passionate about helping 6th grade teachers.
5 Easy Steps for Teaching Ancient History
Ancient history can be quite overwhelming, especially when you are not a history major. If you’re like me, you graduated with a degree in Elementary Education. Finding yourself in a 6th grade classroom, with ancient history curriculum can make you feel a bit like a deer caught in the headlights.
Too many teachers are finding themselves brand new to 6th grade and with very little support. What’s worse, is having little to no curriculum to use either. I know, because I’ve been there. And I was there years ago, before the days of Teachers Pay Teachers and the internet full of resources.
After fumbling through, figuring it out on my own, and 15+ years teaching 6th grade, helping teachers who find themselves in the same position I was in has become a real passion. This post will provide you with a 5 step guide to what you should focus on, so you can teach history with confidence.
First, decide on an organizational system for your students.
Many students of this age struggle with organization skills. Whether you are teaching 6th grade in a self-contained or middle school setting, you will want to provide a system for your students.
The easiest system is to have a folder and notebook specifically for this class. In the folder, have students keep important papers like study materials on the left and graded papers on the right. For the notebook, use a table of contents and include a title, page number, and date at the top of every page.
Do yourself a favor, and keep a teacher notebook too. It should be a model for your students when you’re teaching history. Use your document camera and fill in your table of contents, take notes, and do activities with your students. This is the perfect way to model expectations for your students.
Second, map out your school year on the calendar.
Gather up a blank calendar, pencil, school calendar, and district curriculum.
On your blank calendar, fill in school events. Mark the grading periods, days off, and early dismissals. Using your curriculum guide, mark when you will start and end each unit of study. If your district does not provide a guide, then do this:
- Quarter 1: Prehistory and Mesopotamia
- Quarter 2: Egypt and India
- Quarter 3: China and Greece
- Quarter 4: Rome, the Americas, and End of Year Projects
Third, make sure you teach students how to read a timeline.
6th grade is often the first time students encounter timelines. It’s easy to relate the concept to a positive and negative number line, but instead of symbols, letters are used.
Also be sure to teach the abbreviations BC/AD and BCE/CE. Chances are, students will encounter both in your instructional materials.
Expect to practice and work with timelines during each unit throughout the school year.
Fourth, make sure you teach where in the world these societies are located.
Many 6th graders still struggle with distinguishing the difference between continent and country. At the start of the year, focus on learning the continents and major oceans.
Then, at the start of each unit, use world and region maps to help students identify the continent and present-day countries of where this ancient society was located.
Fifth, teach each unit with the same structure.
If ancient history is overwhelming for us as teachers, then just imagine what your students feel like!
For each society that you study, give students direction on where to put their focus. It doesn’t matter what instructional resources you use: textbooks, presentations, online materials, primary resources, etc.
For each unit, focus on the following concepts:
- Stable Food Supply
- Social Structure
- Written Language
The goal for each unit should be for students to understand and explain these key concepts. This structure gives students a focus for each lesson and for studying.
Now, go back to your calendar and fill in these concepts for each unit. If you’re unsure the order in which to teach these concepts, then use the order in which they are listed above. A good rule of thumb is no more than two days per concept.
Using this simple approach will not only save you from frustration, it will also keep you from focusing too much on things that are not quite as important.
Plan out your year, include timeline and map skills, and teach each unit with the same structure. Focusing your lessons on these key concepts, will ensure you are covering the essentials. Then you can spend the extra time you have within each unit to do projects and dive deeper into the ideas that intrigue your students. Now you can go teach ancient history with confidence!
About the Author
Hillary Midgley is a teacher and blogger at Teach Like Midgley, where she strives to help other 6th grade teachers. Hillary spends her time developing study skills curriculum and engaging ancient history resources with foundations in academic skills. All of these resources and more, you can find in her Teachers Pay Teachers Store: Teach Like Midgley. Hillary loves ice cream, puppies, and a good book! Be sure to connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.