Greek Olympics

This is my second year of teaching ancient world history, and even though it is challenging to create in-depth activites related to ancient civilizations, that is one of the reasons why I love teaching it. It is a form of problem solving that helps expand our creativity as teachers. With that said, when there are times when I simply cannot think of an activity, or do not have the time, a little nifty thing called the Internet can be a lifesaver. This happened to be the case when it came to creating my “Greek Olympics” lesson. I first stumbled upon the idea when I was looking for activities for ancient Greece on Edmodo and saw that some teachers did a Greek Olympics. I wanted in. I loved the idea. So, I scouraged the Internet, and found a lesson on Mr. Donn’s website.

When should you plan your activity?

Personally, I like to start the activity at the end of the ancient Greece unit. I especially want to be sure the students are familiar with the city-states of Athens and Sparta, as they will come into play during the games. I also want the students to understand ancient Greek civilization, such as the religion, before we begin the activity.

How should you execute the activity?

Day One:

Before we even start working on the games, I conduct a PowerPoint presentation on the ancient and modern games (I did not create the full powerpoint myself, I got it off the Internet as well, but I have no idea who did it). I give an overview on why the Greeks would hold the games, the ancient rules of the games, when the ancient games ended, and historical events that took place during the modern games.

I then divide the class into four to five groups (depending on the class size) and assign each group a specific city-state. Each group will get a description about their city-state, a game sign-up sheet, and guidelines for receiving a passing grade. I review each document with them, and really stress how to make a passing or failing grade. They will then need to read their city-state profiles as a group. The groups need to be quiet as they read the profile descriptions as it will tell them how to behave during the games, and whom they should form an alliance with. For example, those who are part of the “Sparta” group will be able to lie and cheat to win. Those students are not going to want the others groups to know they can do that. Then, each group needs to design their own flag and a pledge they will chant at the opening of the games. Some students need a visual to help them generate ideas for their flags, so it is handy to have access to various flags for students to look at.


A “Spartan” flag one of my student groups created.

Day Two:

Before coming into the classroom, I have the students line up outside according to their city-states with their flags. Make sure all the desks are moved out of the way because there needs to be plenty of room for the games. I play the theme from Star Wars to set the tone as the students walk in. I have each group claim a side of the room, and then I greet the “atheletes” with “Welcome to the 2nd Annual Greek Olympics!” Mr. Donn’s lesson plan goes into greater detail on how to welcome the students to your class. Have each city-state perform the pledge (if you so choose), hang their flags on the wall, and let the games begin!

Olympic Games

Olympic Tongue Twisters

Sticky Ball (Javelin Throwing)

Music Appreciation (Humming)

Boxing (Items in a box)

Ball in a Basket

Art Recognition

Knucklebones (Jacks)

There are some materials required to execute each of these events. You will need some small items for the “boxing” event for the students to memorize, small balls for the students to throw, and jacks. Everything I had to purchase I found at the Dollar Store. We have forty-five minute classes for history, so it took two days to finish the games.

Why should you do the activity?

The kids love participating in the games! This is more than just an activity for the students to play games. They become knowledgable about other city-states than just Athens and Sparta. The activity also reiterates how the Greek people were loyal to their own city-state. Plus, they understand why the Greeks first started the games and the kind of events they would play. It gets them more active in learning about ancient history, as well as, wanting to know more about the Olympic games after the activity!

This activity would fall under Alabama course of study number four and five for eighth grade social studies.

Anyone else do an Olympic games with your students? Any variations? I would love to hear!

P.S. Also, check out our travel guide page!




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