Alexander the Great
Lesson Idea: Alexander the Great and Johnny Appleseed: The question we asked as kids is what did Alexander do that was so great? He conquered a whole bunch of people, and a few years later, they were all independent again. He sounded like a big bully to us. We just didn't get it. I had a great teacher in school who helped us to understand. She told us to think of Alexander the Great as if he was Johnny Appleseed. We knew the story of Johnny Appleseed and how he planted apple seeds all over the place. We understood that people have created a great many recipes using apples. We brainstormed ways to use apples. We ate some apple cookies that our teacher had brought to class. As our teacher told us, Alexander the Great did not plant apple seeds - he planted Greek knowledge and ideas. He spread that knowledge over a very large area, thus helping to insure its survival and growth. Why do we care? Because Greek knowledge and ideas still affect our lives today. (Even today, when I think of Alexander the Great, I think of those apple cookies, and how in part, thanks to Alexander, that so many good Greek things did not get lost in the past.)
Then, as she did, brainstorm Gifts the Greeks gave the world - trial by jury, advances in medicine and science and math and astronomy, the Olympics, the theatre, comedy, tragedy, the wheelbarrow, architectural wonders like the ancient Greek columns, incredible myths, and tales of legends, heroes, and fables.
Explain to the kids that the death of Alexander the Great ends the period historians call ancient Greece - it's about a 500 year period, from around 800 BC until Alexander's death. But Greece did not end. In fact, after Alexander's death and his empire fell apart, the Greek city-states regained their independence. But historians have assigned a new term to the next 200 years after Alexander's death - they call it Hellenistic Greece, or a time period of copying Greek ways. Alexander may have died, but the knowledge and ideas he spread across his empire continued and some even grew. That lasted for a while, until the Romans came to town and once again conquered all the civilizations around the Mediterranean, including Egypt and the Greek city-states. The Romans also adopted much of the Greek culture, changing it a bit to better reflect Roman ways.
Transition: Open the next unit, the study of ancient Rome by quickly comparing Rome and Greece by saying something like: The ancient Romans were very different from the ancient Greeks. The ancient Romans were down-to-earth realists, not idealists. You can see this in their statues. The Greeks made statues of perfect people. The Romans created real life statues. A statue of one of the Roman emperors is a good example. His nose is huge! The ancient Greeks would never have done that. The ancient Greeks had roads, but they were not built nearly as well, and their roads did not connect in any particular order. Connect to what? Each Greek city-state was its own unit. In ancient Rome, Rome was the heart of the empire! All roads led back to Rome. But Rome was not built in a day. 2,500 years ago, Rome was just starting on their path to glamour and greatness.
And there you go. An easy transition from the 6th grade study of ancient Greece to the 6th grade study of ancient Rome. And all it took was some apple cookies.
Lesson Plan: Was Alexander Truly Great? (beacon learning center)
- Alexander Video (from the biography station)
- Alexander pptx
- Alexander the Great Questions
- Alexander - Five Scenarios
- Alexander Report Card
See Also: Units & Overviews for Ancient Greece