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Authorised and published by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority
Level 1, 2 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

ISBN: 978-1-925264-01-2

© Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority 2015
No part of this publication may be reproduced except as specified under the Copyright Act 1968 or by permission from the VCAA.
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Introduction 5

Administration 5

VCE History study design examination specifications, past examination papers and corresponding examination reports can be accessed at: 5

Curriculum 5

Developing a course 5

Historical thinking 6

Employability skills 12

Resources 12

Assessment 13

Scope of tasks 15

Units 1 and 2 16

Units 3 and 4 16

Authentication 17

Learning activities 20

Units 1 and 2 20

Unit 1: Ancient Mesopotamia 20

Unit 2: Ancient Egypt 23

Unit 2: Early China 26

Learning activities and School-assessed Coursework (SAC) 27

Ancient history Units 3 and 4 27

School-assessed Coursework (SAC): Sample approach to developing an assessment task 36

Greece 36

Egypt 37

Greece 38

Rome 39

Performance descriptors 40

Appendix 1: Employability skills 43

Appendix 2: Example of a weekly course outline: Units 1 and 2 44

Example of a weekly course outline: Units 3 and 4 49


The VCE Ancient History Advice for teachers’ handbook provides curriculum and assessment advice for Units 1 to 4. It contains advice for developing a course with examples of teaching and learning activities and resources for each unit.

Assessment information is provided for school-based assessment in Units 3 and 4 and advice for teachers on how to construct assessment tasks with suggested performance descriptors and rubrics.

The course developed and delivered to students must be in accordance with the VCE History Study Design 2016–2020.


Advice on matters related to the administration of Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) assessment is published annually in the VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook. Updates to matters related to the administration of VCE assessment are published in the VCAA Bulletin.

VCE History study design examination specifications, past examination papers and corresponding examination reports can be accessed at:

Graded Distributions for Graded Assessment can be accessed at


Developing a course

A course outlines the nature and sequence of teaching and learning necessary for students to demonstrate achievement of the set of outcomes for a unit. The areas of study describe the learning context and the knowledge and skills required for the demonstration of each outcome.

Teachers must develop courses that include appropriate learning activities to enable students to develop the knowledge and skills identified in the outcomes in each unit.

All units in VCE History are constructed on the basis of 50 hours class contact time.

Example weekly course outlines are provided in Appendix 2. They are not intended as prescriptions.

Historical thinking

Specific historical thinking concepts that underpin the treatment of key knowledge and skills are outlined in the Characteristics of the study on page 10 of the VCE History Study Design. Teachers are advised to explicitly teach the skills that characterise historical thinking. These include: ask historical questions, establish historical significance, use sources as evidence, identify continuity and change, analyse cause and consequence, explore historical perspectives, examine ethical dimensions of history and construct historical arguments. These skills should shape the teaching program and assessment and should not be taught in isolation. They should inform students’ historical inquiry. A single assessment should provide the opportunity for students to demonstrate understanding and application of more than one skill.

Ask historical questions

At the core of historical inquiry is the ability to ask questions about the past. These should be drawn from the key concepts relating to the knowledge and skills that underpin the outcome statements. Teachers are advised to encourage students to examine the questions framing each area of study by asking: What type of question is it? What type of thinking is involved in this question? What is this question asking you to think about? What focus questions do you need to ask to help explain, analyse and evaluate key knowledge? What questions do you need to ask when exploring the outcome?

A good historical question could include the following components:

Type of thinking

Type of question

Historical thinking concepts

Key knowledge






Who... ?

What... ?


Where... ?

How... ?

Why... ?



Continuity and


Cause and



Ethical dimensions

Historical arguments

Use key knowledge from the Study Design when contextualising a question.

Historical questions could include: What caused the expansion of New Kingdom Egypt? What were the perspectives of the coloniser and the indigenous peoples in North America? Who significantly contributed to change during the Enlightenment? What were the consequences of post-World War One reparations for Germany? How did the Bauhaus movement influence cultural change? What were the consequences of the Boston Massacre? Why did Mao Zedong introduce the Great Leap Forward? How did the anti-war movement change attitudes to international involvement in the Vietnam War? Who significantly contributed to changing attitudes towards Australian immigration policy? How did differing conceptions of identity within American settler societies affect their actions and choices during the American War of Independence?
Establish historical significance

Ascribing historical significance involves applying evaluative judgments about the past. To establish the historical significance of an event, an idea, an individual or a group, students should use questions or criteria to construct an evidence-based historical argument. When making an evaluative judgment, students could ask questions such as:

How important was it to people who lived at that time?

How many people were affected?

To what extent were people’s lives changed?

What does it reveal about the period?

How long lasting were the consequences?

Can the consequences still be felt today?

What is its legacy?

Establishing historical significance often requires the application of other historical thinking skills. For example, the question: What were the most significant causes of the American Revolution? requires students to identify and analyse multiple causes, organise them into the conditional factors (social, cultural, historical, economic, environmental, political causes), use questions or criteria to judge, and draw on multiple sources of evidence to construct their historical arguments, establishing the most significant. This is an example of using multiple historical skills to engage students’ historical thinking.

Use sources as evidence

Developing historical thinking requires students to apply the historian’s method of interrogating and corroborating sources so that they can be used as evidence when constructing historical inquiry.

Primary sources are the building blocks of historical thinking and are fundamental to students’ understanding and interpretation of the past. They are created at the time of the event or shortly afterwards and may be visual, written, audio, audiovisual and artefacts. Secondary sources, such as textbooks or historical interpretations made by historians or commentators, often draw on primary sources to present an argument or interpretation of the past. Students should be encouraged to find, collect, select and evaluate the significance of sources to illuminate the historical questions they ask.

Just as they ask historical questions, students should ask questions of sources, such as: What type of source is it? Who wrote or created it? When and where and who was the intended audience? This can be followed by questions that contextualise the source in a time and place: When and where was it written? What was happening at the time of creation? What events are described in the source? Who is represented? How might the events or conditions at the time in which the document was created affect its content? Teachers are advised to teach students to read sources not only as a means of finding information, or ‘proof’ or evidence for an argument, but also to investigate the language and meaning in the context in which they were created.

Students should also read sources closely, asking questions about literal and symbolic elements, and considering questions such as: What claims does the author make? and How does the author use language, words, symbols, gestures, colours to persuade the audience? Students can then pose questions about the purpose, accuracy and reliability of sources: What is the author’s perspective or intention? What claims is the author making? Why did they create it? Can the source be corroborated by other sources? What do other sources say? Do they agree or contradict this source? Is it an accurate representation? Is it a reliable source? Why or why not? Corroborating sources is an important skill for developing historical thinking. It is advised that students use multiple sources when drawing on key knowledge or constructing arguments; for example, an assessment task could include a primary visual, primary written, and two contrasting historical interpretations.

Identify continuity and change

Developing students’ ability to make judgments and construct arguments about the past requires developing the ability to identify when change occurred or when things continued unchanged, as well as causes of change. Students’ ability to make sense of the past requires discerning patterns, such as the ability to place events in chronological order and to understand the sequence and order of events as a process of change. Students can link causation and turning points to the moments of change in direction, change in pace and depth of change.

To identify and then construct arguments about continuity and change, students should understand the key knowledge, events, ideas, individuals, movements and turning points. The use of narratives and timelines as a starting point helps support students’ understanding of the sequence of events. When exploring, for example, how the storming of the Bastille changed the political conditions in France, students could discuss questions such as: How would you describe the changes? How did X event change Y? What changed most? Least? Why did some things change while others stayed the same? Did the changes improve things or did they make things worse? What do historians X and Y identify as the most significant change? Turning points are a useful way of identifying change; for example, students should think about an event such as the October Revolution 1917 as a turning point. Students should be able to identify the type of change and whether, for example, it was social, cultural, economic, environmental, political, and/or technological.

When evaluating the impacts of change, students should think about: What was the direction of change (progress, decline, erosion of conditions)? What was the quality of change, were things better or worse? What was the rate or speed of change? What was the impact of change? Exploring questions like these allows students to understand that continuity and change are multifaceted and involve ongoing processes that have a variety of patterns and speeds.

Analyse cause and consequence

Students are required to identify chains of cause and consequence, to identify turning points and explore how and why things happened in the past. In so doing, they should be able to identify many different kinds of causes, including social, political, economic, short-term catalysts and long-term trends, and immediate and underlying causes. They should also be able to organise causes and consequences using chronology and to examine the role of individuals and movements in shaping, promoting and resisting change. It is advised that teachers avoid suggesting an event was inevitable because of a series of causes and that they encourage reflection on the unpredictability of events by asking 'What if…' questions that encourage students to develop analytical and evaluative thinking.

Narratives are a good starting point for identifying significant causes. Students should use timelines to map and organise events, people, ideas, movements and turning points to identify links between causes and consequences and to distinguish between long-term (trends) and short-term (triggers) causes of events. Listing causes or consequences and grouping them according to conditional factors can help support analytical thinking. When evaluating the most significant cause, it is helpful to ask students to rank causes or consequences and to use questions (outlined above under ‘Establish historical significance’) to justify their choice.

Getting students to identify causes or consequences that were intended and unintended can be useful discussion points. Using graphic organisers such as concept maps, causal spider webs, fishbone or ripple effect charts are useful in the organisation of thinking. Students could use a selection of primary sources, organising them in chronological order in relation to causes and annotating how each piece of evidence triggered the next event or cause. Students should also use multiple primary sources or historical interpretations as a way of identifying causation or corroborating consequences. Students’ understanding of causation allows them to construct evidence-based arguments.

Explore historical perspectives

Exploring historical perspectives requires students to consider the mindsets of historical actors and to understand how context shaped the ways they saw and acted in the world. It involves the identification and description of the viewpoints of witnesses to dramatic events who experienced the consequences or lived with their changes. It invites students to consider, for example, what it was like for someone who was a member of the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution, or who lived in ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome, or how ordinary people’s lives were affected by the Enlightenment or Scientific Revolution, or what it was like to be a slave in the American colonies, or why boys and girls joined the Hitler Youth. It is advised that in exploring historical perspectives, teachers also explore with students the risks of imposing contemporary experiences onto historical actors and of making assumptions that they know how people in the past thought or felt.

Student’s exploration of historical perspectives is grounded in close reading of a range of historical sources and making inferences about the ideas, values and beliefs of historical actors, their thoughts and feelings or reasons for action. Using historical sources to make inferences allows students to value the role of human actions in contributing to historical causes, the consequences they have for individuals or groups within society and the changes brought to their everyday lives.

Students should be encouraged to engage with multiple and if possible contradictory perspectives. People in the past may have seen and interpreted events differently from different perspectives. Students could also explore the silent voices of the past such as Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the illiterate, or women, to provide a rich narrative and inquiry. This allows students to critically challenge or corroborate sources and to assess their reliability. Constructing arguments about the experiences of those in the past must be grounded in evidence-based arguments drawn from historical sources.

Examine ethical dimensions of history

As students develop understanding of people in the past, their actions and their intended and unintended consequences, they may begin to make ethical judgments about the beliefs, values and attitudes of historical actors. The making of implicit or explicit judgments can be problematic and teachers are advised to remind students not to impose contemporary moral standards upon the actions of those in the past, and to understand that it is too simplistic to
label actions as right or wrong or reduce historical individuals to 'goodies' or 'baddies'. Often people in the past acted according to different moral frameworks and understanding this context can allow students to make informed judgments. Students who can make informed ethical judgments of the actions of those in the past can better explain and evaluate the consequences of those events, how people responded and the changes brought to society.

It is advised that students engage in close reading of sources, narratives and historical interpretations and ask questions about the implicitly and explicitly expressed beliefs, values and attitudes of the author and about the audience and purpose of the source. Exploring the context that informed the actions of people in the past should help students understand the ethical dimensions of history.

Construct historical arguments

Developing well-supported arguments is the culmination of historical inquiry. Students’ arguments should be based on the questions asked, the establishment of historical significance, the use of sources as evidence, identification of continuity and change, the analysis of cause and consequence, the exploration of historical perspectives and the examination of ethical dimensions of history. Students should develop their own narratives and historical interpretations about the past that demonstrate understanding of key knowledge and key skills of the outcomes. Constructing an argument is a creative process grounded in and restrained by source-based evidence. It is through this creative and communicative process that students demonstrate historical understanding.

Employability skills

This study provides students with the opportunity to engage in a range of learning activities. In addition to demonstrating their understanding and mastery of the content and skills specific to the study, students may also develop employability skills through their learning activities.

The nationally agreed employability skills are: Communication; Planning and organising; Teamwork; Problem solving; Self-management; Initiative and enterprise; Technology; and Learning.

The table links those facets that may be understood and applied in a school or non-employment related setting, to the types of assessment commonly undertaken within the VCE study.


A list of resources is published online on the VCAA website and is updated annually. The list includes teaching, learning and assessment resources such as texts, websites and films and documentaries.


Assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning. At the senior secondary level it:

identifies opportunities for further learning

describes student achievement

articulates and maintains standards

provides the basis for the award of a certificate.

As part of VCE studies, assessment tasks enable:

the demonstration of the achievement of an outcome or set of outcomes for satisfactory completion of a unit

judgment and reporting of a level of achievement for school-based assessments at Units 3 and 4.

The following are the principles that underpin all VCE assessment practices. These are extracted from the VCAA Principles and guidelines for the development and review of VCE Studies published on the VCAA website.

VCE assessment will be valid

This means that it will enable judgments to be made about demonstration of the outcomes and levels of achievement on assessment tasks fairly, in a balanced way and without adverse effects on the curriculum or for the education system. The overarching concept of validity is elaborated as follows.

VCE assessment should be fair and reasonable

Assessment should be acceptable to stakeholders including students, schools, government and the community. The system for assessing the progress and achievement of students must be accessible, effective, equitable, reasonable and transparent.

The curriculum content to be assessed must be explicitly described to teachers in each study design and related VCAA documents. Assessment instruments should not assess learning that is outside the scope of a study design.

Each assessment instrument (for example, examination, assignment, test, project, practical, oral, performance, portfolio, presentation or observational schedule) should give students clear instructions. It should be administered under conditions (degree of supervision, access to resources, notice and duration) that are substantially the same for all students undertaking that assessment.

Authentication and school moderation of assessment and the processes of external review and statistical moderation are to ensure that assessment results are fair and comparable across the student cohort for that study.

VCE assessment should be equitable

Assessment instruments should neither privilege nor disadvantage certain groups of students or exclude others on the basis of gender, culture, linguistic background, physical disability, socioeconomic status and geographical location.

Assessment instruments should be designed so that, under the same or similar conditions, they provide consistent information about student performance. This may be the case when, for example, alternatives are offered at the same time for assessment of an outcome (which could be based on a choice of context) or at a different time due to a student’s absence.

VCE assessment will be balanced

The set of assessment instruments used in a VCE study will be designed to provide a range of opportunities for a student to demonstrate in different contexts and modes the knowledge, skills, understanding and capacities set out in the curriculum. This assessment will also provide the opportunity for students to demonstrate different levels of achievement specified by suitable criteria, descriptors, rubrics or marking schemes.

Judgment about student level of achievement should be based on the results from a variety of practical and theoretical situations and contexts relevant to a study. Students may be required to respond in written, oral, performance, product, folio, multimedia or other suitable modes as applicable to the distinctive nature of a study or group of related studies.

VCE assessment will be efficient

The minimum number of assessments for teachers and assessors to make a robust judgment about each student’s progress and learning will be set out in the study design. Each assessment instrument must balance the demands of precision with those of efficiency. Assessment should not generate workload and/or stress that unduly diminish the performance of students under fair and reasonable circumstances.

Scope of tasks

For Units 1–4 in all VCE studies assessment tasks must be a part of the regular teaching and learning program and must not unduly add to the workload associated with that program. They must be completed mainly in class and within a limited timeframe.

Points to consider in developing an assessment task:

1.List the key knowledge and key skills.

2.Choose the assessment task where there is a range of options listed in the study design. It is possible for students in the same class to undertake different options; however, teachers must ensure that the tasks are comparable in scope and demand.

3.Identify the qualities and characteristics that you are looking for in a student response and design the criteria and a marking scheme

4.Identify the nature and sequence of teaching and learning activities to cover the key knowledge and key skills outlined in the study design and provide for different learning styles.

5.Decide the most appropriate time to set the task. This decision is the result of several considerations including:

the estimated time it will take to cover the key knowledge and key skills for the outcome

the possible need to provide a practice, indicative task

the likely length of time required for students to complete the task

when tasks are being conducted in other studies and the workload implications for students.

Units 1 and 2

The student’s level of achievement in Units 1 and 2 is a matter for school decision. Assessments of levels of achievement for these units will not be reported to the VCAA. Schools may choose to report levels of achievement using grades, descriptive statements or other indicators.

In each VCE study at Units 1 and 2, teachers determine the assessment tasks to be used for each outcome in accordance with the study design.

Teachers should select a variety of assessment tasks for their program to reflect the key knowledge and key skills being assessed and to provide for different learning styles. Tasks do not have to be lengthy to make a decision about student demonstration of achievement of an outcome.

A number of options are provided in each study design to encourage use of a broad range of assessment activities. Teachers can exercise great flexibility when devising assessment tasks at this level, within the parameters of the study design.

Note that more than one assessment task can be used to assess satisfactory completion of each outcome in the units.

There is no requirement to teach the areas of study in the order in which they appear in the units in the study design.

Units 3 and 4

The VCAA supervises the assessment for levels of achievement of all students undertaking Units 3 and 4.

There are two main forms of school-based assessment: School-assessed Coursework (SAC) and in some studies, the School-assessed Task (SAT).

School–assessed Coursework

A SAC is selected from the prescribed list of assessment tasks designated for that outcome in the study design. A mark allocation is prescribed for each SAC. Teachers may develop their own marking schemes and rubrics or may use the performance descriptors.

The VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook provides more detailed information about School-assessed Coursework.

School-assessed Task

A SAT is a mandated task prescribed in the study design. The SAT is assessed using prescribed assessment criteria and accompanying performance descriptors published annually on the relevant study page on the VCAA website. Notification of their publication is given in the February VCAA Bulletin. Teachers will provide to the VCAA a score against each criterion that represents an assessment of the student’s level of performance. Details of authentication requirements and administrative arrangements for School-assessed Tasks are published annually in the current year’s VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook.

In VCE History the student’s level of achievement will be determined by School-assessed Coursework and an end-of-year examination. The VCAA will report the student’s level of performance as a grade from A+ to E or UG (ungraded) for each of three Graded Assessment components: Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework, Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework and the end-of-year examination.

In Units 3 and 4 school-based assessment provides the VCAA with two judgments:

S (satisfactory) or N (not satisfactory) for each outcome and for the unit; and levels of achievement determined through specified assessment tasks prescribed for each outcome.

School-assessed Coursework provides teachers with the opportunity to:

select from the designated assessment task/s in the study design

develop and administer their own assessment program for their students

monitor the progress and work of their students

provide important feedback to the student

gather information about the teaching program.

Teachers should design an assessment task that is representative of the content (key knowledge and key skills underpinning the outcome) and allows students the opportunity to demonstrate the highest level of performance. It is important that students know what is expected of them in an assessment task. This means providing students with advice about the outcome’s key knowledge and key skills to be assessed. Students should know in advance how and when they are going to be assessed and the conditions under which they will be assessed.

Assessment tasks should be part of the teaching and learning program. For each assessment task students should be provided with the:

type of assessment task as listed in the study design and approximate date for completion

time allowed for the task

allocation of marks

nature of any materials they can utilise when completing the task

information about the relationship between the task and learning activities, as appropriate.

Following an assessment task:

teachers can use the performance of their students to evaluate the teaching and learning program

a topic may need to be carefully revised prior to the end of the unit to ensure students fully understand the key knowledge and key skills required in preparation for the examination

feedback provides students with important advice about which aspect or aspects of the key knowledge they need to learn and in which key skills they need more practice.


Teachers should have in place strategies for ensuring that work submitted for assessment is the student’s own. Where aspects of tasks for school-based assessment are completed outside class time teachers must monitor and record each student’s progress through to completion. This requires regular sightings of the work by the teacher and the keeping of records. The teacher may consider it appropriate to ask the student to demonstrate their understanding of the task at the time of submission of the work.

If any part of the work cannot be authenticated, then the matter should be dealt with as a breach of rules. To reduce the possibility of authentication problems arising, or being difficult to resolve, the following strategies are useful:

Ensure that tasks are kept secure prior to administration, to avoid unauthorised release to students and compromising the assessment. They should not be sent by mail or electronically without due care.

Ensure that a significant amount of classroom time is spent on the task so that the teacher is familiar with each student’s work and can regularly monitor and discuss aspects of the work with the student.

Ensure that students document the specific development stages of work, starting with an early part of the task such as topic choice, list of resources and/or preliminary research.

Filing of copies of each student’s work at given stages in its development.

Regular rotation of topics from year to year to ensure that students are unable to use student work from the previous year.

Where there is more than one class of a particular study in the school, the VCAA expects the school to apply internal moderation/cross-marking procedures to ensure consistency of assessment between teachers. Teachers are advised to apply the same approach to authentication and record-keeping, as cross-marking sometimes reveals possible breaches of authentication. Early liaison on topics, and sharing of draft student work between teachers, enables earlier identification of possible authentication problems and the implementation of appropriate action.

Encourage students to acknowledge tutors, if they have them, and to discuss and show the work done with tutors. Ideally, liaison between the class teacher and the tutor can provide the maximum benefit for the student and ensure that the tutor is aware of the authentication requirements. Similar advice applies if students receive regular help from a family member.

Learning activities

Units 1 and 2

Unit 1: Ancient Mesopotamia

Area of Study 1: Discovering civilization

Outcome 1:

Examples of learning activities

Explain the development of civilisation in Mesopotamia.

create an ongoing glossary of the key terms and concepts that underpin an understanding of discovering civilisation, including terms like civilisation, agriculture, domestication, social stratification, specialisation, city-state, assembly and priest-kings

create an annotated map of the region, highlighting the different geographical features including the ‘boundary’ indicating where rain-fed agriculture is possible compared to where crops can only be grown by irrigation

create an annotated timeline which covers major developments during the period

compare and contrast the different theories about the invention and development of agriculture and make an assessment as to which theory is most convincing

investigate both the material remains and the translated cuneiform tablets from Ebla, Tell Mardikh in Syria as an example of a key northern Mesopotamian city; consider what may be learnt about the economy and trade by examining the tablets and reflect on how the idea of a large urban centre ‘travelled’ from southern Mesopotamia to northern Syria

undertake an inquiry into the social, economic and political features of one or more city states from Southern Mesopotamia which considers both the material record and written texts

Detailed example


Students investigate different city-states from Southern Mesopotamia: Ur, Uruk, Kish, Lagash, Nippur, Eridu, Larsa, Umma and Shuruppak using both the material record and written sources. Discuss the differences between the material records and written sources, given that some sites have been excavated more extensively than other sites, and some sites were excavated before modern archaeological techniques were utilised, and some are only known from written texts

Working in pairs on different city-states, students prepare a report on the political structure and economy of their city-state to present to the class, using:

the analysis of the material remains by archaeologists

the analysis of written texts by historians.

Based on the presentations, students then create a table comparing these key Southern city-states, including the rise and fall of their power base and changing alliances.

Area of Study 2: Ancient empires

Outcome 1:

Examples of learning activities

Explain continuity and change in Mesopotamia as new peoples and ruling elites emerged.

create a table that compares the social, economic, political and cultural features of the following three main ruling elites: First Babylonian Dynasty under Hammurabi (southern Mesopotamia); Assyria under Shamshi-Adad at Shubat-Enlil (northern Mesopotamia); and the kingdom of Mari on the middle Euphrates

create an annotated timeline that plots the chronology of the rise and fall of the kings Hammurabi, Shamshi-Adad and Zimri-Lim

drawing on primary sources and historical interpretations, examine the causes and consequences of the fall of the First Babylonian Dynasty and the Assyrian Empire and develop an hypothesis explaining their fall

read a range of historical interpretations of continuity and change in the political, economic, social and cultural features of the succeeding empires; write a report identifying key similarities and differences in the historical interpretations

compare and contrast the Laws of Hammurabi with the laws from the tablets of the library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh nearly 1000 years later

undertake an analysis of the key developments in astronomy, the measurement of time and medicine in ancient Mesopotamia and consider the significance of these achievements

Detailed example


Students compare and contrast the Laws of Hammurabi with the laws from the tablets of the library of

Ashurbanipal in Nineveh nearly 1000 years later.

In pairs or groups, students undertake the comparison with a focus on the following:

historical context for each of the records

motives behind its creation

intended audience for each of the records

content of each of the records

what is revealed about the attitudes, values and beliefs of people from each society

significance of each of the records

explanation of continuity and change in the societies.

Unit 2: Ancient Egypt

Area of Study 1: Egypt: the double crown

Outcome 1:

Examples of learning activities

Explain the distribution of power in Old Kingdom Egypt and the First Intermediate Period, the social, political and economic reasons for the construction of pyramids, and Egyptian beliefs concerning the afterlife.

continue developing the glossary of key terms, including those that underpin an understanding of Ancient Egypt, such as Lower Egypt, Upper Egypt, delta, dynasty, theocracy, bureaucracy and nomarchs

annotate on a map the physical environment of the Nile Valley (Upper Egypt) and Delta (Lower Egypt), the oases region and the Sinai Peninsula and major centres along the Nile such as Memphis and Thebes

hold a class debate on the topic: ‘The management of resources are important but this was not what made Egypt into a state’; support arguments with evidence drawn from a range of sources

annotate a timeline starting with the Predynastic Period and finishing with the Second Intermediate Period; provide blocks for each Kingdom, Intermediate Period and Dynasty

using the form of a pyramid, create a diagram representing the social hierarchy of the Old Kingdom; annotate the diagram with an explanation of each of the key individual roles and general classes in the Old Kingdom

analyse the stories of Uni and Harkhuf; explore the way the noble Uni and the governor Harkhuf provide insight into journeys into Nubia to secure trade and of Old Kingdom society

research the importance of the King as both political and religious ruler of Egypt using pyramid texts (specifically Cannibal Hymn) as evidence

annotate a timeline showing the construction and size of individual Pyramids during the Old Kingdom

evaluate the pyramids as a reflection of rulers’ prestige and beliefs concerning the afterlife

‘Did the Old Kingdom Simply Wear itself out?’ write a research essay based on historical inquiry investigating the reasons and evidence for the demise of the Old Kingdom

undertake a written evaluation of what continuities from the Old Kingdom can be observed in the subsequent First Intermediate Period

Detailed example


Students analyse the Pyramid texts and in particular the ‘Cannibal Hymn’ where the King threatens to eat the entire pantheon of Egyptian Deities to acquire their power. King Unas grades the pantheon of gods as to whom he will eat (the most powerful) while others will be burnt on the flames.

(Breasted’s text is available online.)

Students develop questions, based on the text, about the motives of the king and what his threats reveal about the nature of kingship.

Students then draw on the ‘Cannibal Hymn’ and historical interpretations of it to inform an inquiry focused on the power and prestige of the King and of the Divinities.

Area of Study 2: Middle Kingdom Egypt: Power and propaganda

Outcome 1:

Examples of learning activities

Explain the use and representation of power in Middle Kingdom Egypt and the Second Intermediate Period.

create a map and timeline showing the extent of reunification of the Nile Valley and Delta and the usurpation of Nubia and Canaan territories under Mentuhotep II’s reign

make an archaeological site study of Deir-el-Bahri, with particular focus on the mastaba architecture of Mentuhotep II’s funerary complex

research the religious and political reasons behind the unusual construction and location of the mortuary temple at Deir-el-Bahri’s and suggest possible theories

make an archaeological site study of the Fortress of Buhen in Nubia, with a focus on border control, economic/trade implications and control of gold coming from this subjugated region into Egyptian treasuries

analyse literary texts used as propaganda

analyse the social and political implications of the Story of the Eloquent Peasant

make an archaeological site study of Beni Hasan, burial ground for many of the governors of the Middle Kingdom; suggest what it reveals about the social and political power of the regional governors

make an archaeological site analysis of Avaris, Delta capital of the Hyksos foreign rulers, and first truly multicultural city in Egypt; suggest what it reveals about the social and economic pursuits and political power of the Hyksos

create a table that compares contemporary Seventeenth Dynasty (Egyptian) views of the Hyksos period with evidence from the site of Avaris

based on the table of comparison, write an essay evaluating representations of the authority of the Hyksos

Detailed example


Students analyse the following sources, each of which were produced by the Twelfth Dynasty King

Amenemhet I as propaganda:

The Prophesy of Neferti

the Pyramid of Amenemhet

The Story of Sinhue

the Instructions of Amenemhet

Students initially respond to the following questions about the Prophesy of Neferti:

Who was the possible author?

What was the context in which the text was produced?

What does the text say?

How is royal power represented?

What may have motivated the creation of the text?

Who was its intended audience?

Was it a reliable account?

What other sources of evidence were produced during the Twelfth Dynasty?

Based on their research, students consider the question: ‘Why was the source created in this particular form at this specific time in the Middle Kingdom?’

Students research the possible reasons behind the building of Pyramid of Amenhemet I and the images and texts of the pyramid compounds. They then respond to the questions above using two later sources, which alluded to the death of Amenemhet I:

The Story of Sinhue

The Instructions of Amenemhet

... and compare their answers to draw conclusions about whether and how the kings of the Twelfth Dynasty used literary texts as propaganda.

Unit 2: Early China

Area of Study 1: Ancient China

Outcome 1:

Examples of learning activities

Explain the development of civilisation in Ancient China.

(To be provided.)

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