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Are We Walking in Roman Sandals?

Unit Summary

Students look for parallels between the Roman Empire and the United States. They conduct in-depth research on the social, economic, and political aspects of ancient Rome, then student teams organize and synthesize their thinking using the Showing Evidence Tool. Students take a position on the question: Is the United States following in the same path as the Roman Empire? They support their position with facts from their research and discussions. The unit culminates with teams presenting their positions and a whole-class debate.


Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    Does history repeat itself?
  • Unit Questions
    What lessons should the United States learn from the collapse of the Roman Empire?
    How was globalization manifested in the Roman Empire and how is it manifested today?
  • Content Questions
    What similarities exist between Rome and the United States?
    What causes the weakening and decline of great civilizations and major world empires?



Students brainstorm answers to the Essential Question: Does history repeat itself? After a few minutes of thinking time, students share their ideas in a round-robin discussion. The teacher lists various interpretations of what the question means to the students and also any examples students give of history repeating itself.

Students discuss the concepts of empires. They hypothesize key trends leading to the establishment and also the weakening of empires. Students then create a Know-Wonder-Learn (K-W-L) chart describing what they know about the Roman Empire, what they wonder, and what they would like to learn.

After the initial discussion and development of the K-W-L chart, students work in pairs to research the Roman Empire. They describe and analyze the factors contributing to the development of ancient Rome and its enduring contribution to Western Civilization. They identify and give examples of the political, economic, and social characteristics of the Roman Republic and Empire and how they are reflected in the law, government, economy, and society of the United States.

Individually, students respond to the following statement: The United States is following the same pattern as the Roman Empire. They use examples from their research and classroom discussion to defend their position. Each student shares his or her ideas and examples with a partner. Partners begin compiling a list defending their position(s). Finally, each pair partners with another pair of students to compare and discuss the group’s ideas.

Working in teams, students use the Showing Evidence Tool to take a position on the question: Is the United States following in the same path as the Roman Empire? They synthesize their research and discussion notes to create evidence that either supports or weakens their position. Students complete an initial stage of building their case, then teams peer review another group’s evidence and position. Using the feedback from the review, student teams continue their research if needed, and revise their position, evidence, and conclusion to make a more solid argument.

As a culminating activity, students communicate their findings by creating a multimedia presentation and then participate in an informal classroom debate. A final writing piece has students take what they learned throughout the unit and reflect on the curriculum framing questions.


Examine the Showing Evidence Activity

The Showing Evidence Tool space below represents one team's investigation in this project. You can double-click on the evidence to read the team's descriptions.

Project Name: Are We Walking in Roman Sandals? (Click here to set up this project in your workspace)

Prompt: Is the United States following in the same path as the Roman Empire?

Explore an interactive demo.

Are We Walking in Roman Sandals?
Are We Walking in Roman Sandals?

At a Glance

Grade Level: 6-8

Subject: Social Studies

Key Learnings: Roman Empire, United States, Compare and Contrast

Time Needed: Two to three weeks, 45-minute lessons, three times per week