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Justinian & Theodora of Byzantium Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Educate your students about Justinian and Theodora with this lesson plan. They will study a text lesson, take a related quiz to follow-up, and participate in three fun activities to solidify their comprehension.

Learning Objectives

After studying this lesson, your students will be able to:

  • Describe the early lives of Justinian and Theodora
  • Name some of their greatest accomplishments
  • Recount how they worked together and were perceived by their citizens

Length

1-1.5 Hours

Materials

Key Vocabulary

  • Byzantine empire
  • Constantinople
  • Eastern Orthodox
  • Roman empire
  • San Vitale
  • Social classes

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.3

Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Instructions

  • Inform your students they are going to study Justinian and Theodora.
  • Display images of the couple.
  • Ask your students if anyone is familiar with their story.
  • Hand out copies of the text lesson Justinian & Theodora: Marriage, Facts & Mosaics, one copy per student.
  • Read the introduction and the first section 'Byzantium's Power Couple.'
    • What was the Byzantine empire?
    • Out of which city was it based?
    • In what century did the couple rule?
  • Now read the section 'Justinian.'
    • When was he born? Where?
    • Was his family wealthy?
    • What did his Uncle Justin do?
    • What happened when his uncle died?
  • Next read the section 'Theodora.'
    • When was she born? Where?
    • What was her father's profession?
    • What were her two professions?
    • How did she change her life after moving to Egypt?
    • Where did she move to next?
    • What was her profession when Justinian spotted her?
    • Why couldn't they marry at first?
    • What year did they wed?
  • Next read the section 'Emperor and Empress.'
    • What did the aristocracy think of Theodora initially? Why?
    • How did she eventually gain their respect?
    • What happened in the year 532?
    • What did they do to the stagnating empire of Rome?
    • On what social issues did Theodora focus?
    • Who died first?
  • Next read the section 'The Mosaic of San Vitale.'
    • The church known as San Vitale is located in which city?
    • What is the art style represented in the church?
    • How are Justinian and Theodora represented?
    • Are they seen as equals by the people?
  • Lastly, read the section 'Lesson Summary.'
  • Review the entire text lesson.
  • Answer any further questions your students may pose.
  • Have them take the lesson quiz to demonstrate their grasp of the text lesson.

Activity One

  • Inform your students they will be having a debate.
  • Divide your students up into two large groups.
    • Both Justinian and Theodora came from incredibly humble beginnings to rise to power.
      • You are going to debate as to who had to overcome the biggest odds to change their lives.
      • You are also going to debate what was the greatest accomplishment of each.
    • Group One, you will be Team Theodora.
    • Group Two, you will be Team Justinian.
  • Allow each group a 10 or so minutes to do some research on their person on the Internet and to look over the lesson again.
  • Now allow them to raise their hands and have each group take turns justifying their positions and defending their candidate.

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