Ancient Greek Olympics Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, our students learn about the ancient Greek Olympics with the help of a text lesson. The students also do group research to investigate one ancient Olympic event in particular and then compare it to modern events.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain the genesis of the ancient Greek Olympics and how they changed over time
  • Detail specifics of ancient Olympic events
  • Identify similarities and differences between the ancient and modern Olympics


2 hours

Key Vocabulary

At the conclusion of this lesson, students should be able to identify and define the following vocabulary terms:

  • Olympics
  • Zeus
  • Olympia
  • Polytheistic
  • Stadion

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1

Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4

Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.


  • Have students read the lesson The Olympic Games in Ancient Greece.
  • Ask students to stop reading when they reach the 'Events' heading. Hold a short discussion on the material thus far to ensure students understand the core concepts of the lesson. Some example questions include:
    • Who did the ancient Olympics honor? Where did they take place?
    • How were participants chosen? How did they compete?
  • Have students read the rest of the lesson.
  • Have students take the quiz, then review the answers as a class.

Activity 1

  • Break your students up into four groups. Assign each group one of the traditional ancient Greek Olympic event categories (equestrian, pentathlon, running, boxing).
  • Together, groups should use the internet or other text resources to research their individual event and how it changed over time in ancient Greece. Students' research should attempt to answer certain questions (it may be helpful to write them on the board) such as:
    • How many events were part of your category when it was first included in the ancient Olympic games? Did this change over time?
    • How were your events contested in the ancient games? Were there any notable winners?
  • Once complete, have each group designate a spokesperson to present their findings to the rest of the class.
  • Have each group give a short 2-3 minutes presentation on the details of their sport.

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