Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Greeks or Romans?

Ancient Philosophy

Cheryl Dezell | Published: June 2nd, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course World History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 110 minutes


Students will analyze and summarize the philosophical and political principles of ancient and classical societies. Students will work independently and in groups using discussion, text, handouts, and video to identify the impact of Greek and Roman philosophy on the modern world.

Essential Question(s)

Who had the greater contribution of political ideas, the Greek philosophers or the Roman philosophers?    Who has had the greater impact on later political thought in Western societies?     



Students will work with a partner to discuss the impact of Greek and Roman philosophers on Western society. Students will revise and expand their views after watching two short videos.


Students will read and generate main ideas from three texts to share with their partner and further expand their knowledge of Greek and Roman philosophy.


Students will choose which philosophy was more influential to Western thought—Greek or Roman. They will cite evidence and use reasoning to defend their stance.


Students will view the video "Plato VS Aristotle" and engage in a Tug of War activity.


Students will complete two written assignments in this lesson that can be used as assessments.


  • Student reading packets containing the three texts mentioned in the Engage section below

  • Access to view three YouTube videos during the lesson

  • Sticky notes

  • I Used To Think, but Now I Know charts for all students

  • CER Graphic Organizer for all students


Lesson Preparation: Prior to beginning the lesson with students, print and prepare the reading packets and the I Used to Think/But Now I Know charts. There should be one reading packet for each student. To conserve paper, ask students not to write on packets and to return them at the end of class. Readings can be found using the following links:

Beginning the Lesson: Show slide three, which states the two essential questions of this lesson. Hand out "I Used To Think, But Now I Know" charts (see attachments) or instruct students to take out a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle, and copy the essential questions from the slide: "Who had the greater contribution of political ideas, the Greek philosophers or Roman philosophers?" and "Which has the greater impact on later political thought in Western societies today?" Ask students to write individual responses to the two questions in the "I Used to Think" column.

Show students two short videos: These links are also on slides four and five for your convenience.

Assign students in working pairs or in groups of threes in the class. Have students work together and discuss what they observed in the two videos. Have pairs or groups create at least two or three statements about what they learned from each video. They should record this new information in the second column—"Now I Know." Call on a few groups to share some of their responses with the class.

This entire activity should take approximately 20-25 minutes.


Greek and Roman Readings: Pass out the reading packets to all students and instruct them to read the three articles independently. As students are reading, they should make notes on notebook paper of main ideas from each reading or record the most important ideas from each reading on the "Now I Know" section of their chart.

After reading, pairs or groups should discuss what they read. Using their notes from the readings, they should discuss and add any new information to their "Now I Know" section of their charts. Call on different student pairs and ask about their additional responses. During the discussion, try to clear up any misconceptions that the students might have.

The entire activity should take approximately 35 to 40 min.


Day 2 or 3: Creating a Claim with Evidence and Reasoning. Begin the class with a discussion about the essential questions displayed on slide three, "Who had the greater contribution of political ideas, the Greek or Roman philosophers?" and "Which has the greatest impact on later political thought in Western societies today?" Ask Elbow Partners to share their thoughts about these questions now that they have seen the videos and completed the readings. Ask pairs to discuss their reasoning for choosing either the Greeks or the Romans. Call on pairs that might have opposing viewpoints so that a wide variety of opinions is expressed.

Pass out copies of the CER Graphic Organizer from the attachments to all students. Using their reading notes, and/or the I Used to Think, But Now I Know chart, students will individually complete a Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) paper. Discuss with students how to complete the Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning sections using the information on the graphic organizer as a guide. Encourage students to write paragraphs for each section, not just one or two sentences. An optional rubric is provided in the attachments that shares guidelines for quality writing, which you can use if needed. An example of how to begin the Claim, Evidence, Response (CER) paper is provided on slide six.

  1. CLAIM: Using their notes, students will individually make a claim or opinion.

  2. EVIDENCE: The evidence comes from the videos, the readings, and the notes and discussions during the entire lesson.

  3. REASONING: Students provide their opinion about why this evidence matters and how it supports their claim.


Students will view the YouTube video Aristotle VS Plato, located at This is a fun video that provides additional information about Greek and Roman ideas.

After the video, instruct students to take a stand and choose which philosophers were the most influential in their opinion—Greeks or Romans. Using all the resources they have, including their CER paper, any notes they've taken, and their I Used to Think... chart, tell students that they will now play Tug of War and see which side "wins."

Appoint three students in the class to act as impartial judges for this activity. Show the Tug of War rules on slide seven.

Pass out sticky notes to all remaining students. From their CER statements, ask students to choose a side—Greek philosophy or Roman philosophy. Have students physically move to one side of the room or the other, depending on which philosophy they chose.

Have each side huddle together and write as many sticky note statements as they can about why their chosen philosophy is better and more influential to Western thought. Emphasize with students that these statements should be high quality to impress the judges.

Draw a line (rope) vertically on the board. Label the left side of the rope "the Greeks" and the right side "the Romans." Have each side take turns placing and discussing their sticky notes, which represent their side in the Tug-of-War activity. Call time when most of the sticky notes have been shared.

Have the impartial judges determine a winner of the Tug of War.


During the course of this lesson, students will have completed an "I Used To Think, But Now I Know" chart and the CER graphic organizer that can be used as assessments for this lesson.