Napoleon Lesson Plan

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

If you're about to start a unit on Napoleon Bonaparte, consider using this lesson plan. Help students understand the timeline of events that lead to the rise and fall of Napoleon using a short video, class discussion, and a classroom activity.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define 'Napoleonic Complex'
  • describe how Napoleon's bold actions in Russia lead to his first major defeat
  • identify the events that led to the rise and fall of Napoleon
  • create a timeline of events in Napoleon's life


45 to 60 minutes


  • Large note cards

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.


  • Begin by watching the video lesson The Rise & Fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, pausing at 00:40.
  • Ask students to define the term 'Napoleonic Complex.' For a fun way to illustrate the term, ask students if they think the Napoleon Complex exists in the animal world (i.e. a small animal dominating a larger animal, such as a Chihuahua barking at a German Shepard.)
  • Continue playing the video, pausing at 1:24.
  • Ask students to describe the events that happened in France that opened the door for Napoleon's rise to power.
  • Continue playing the video, pausing at 4:03.
  • Ask students to describe how the Russian army outsmarted Napoleon. What were the repercussions of losing to the Russians?
  • Finish playing the video.

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