How did the Roman Empire become the greatest in the world?

At a glance

  • Category: History
  • Ages: 10 & under
  • Suggested length: 1-2 class periods (45-55 minutes each) 
    • It is recommended that the students explore the Kialo Edu discussion at home prior to the lesson. This way, they can dedicate the time in class to complete the writing activity.
  • Device accessibility: 1 device per student

In this lesson, students will explore a Kialo discussion that weighs different answers to the question, “how did the Roman Empire become the greatest in the world?

Students will write a letter pretending to be a Roman soldier in the field, taking a stance in the above debate. They will be assessed on their individual work, taking into account the coherence and depth of the arguments they use.

Lesson information

Learning objectives

In this lesson, students will:

  • Develop information retrieval skills.
  • Identify key events and facts about the Roman Empire.

Prior knowledge

Students should understand processes such as conquest and imperial expansion. Ideally, students should also be somewhat familiar with key facts in relation to the Roman Empire.

Teacher preparation

  • Make 1 clone of the discussion for each class.
  • If it is important for students to see each other’s comments in real time, give them Writer permissions when inviting them to the discussion. 
  • If it is only important that you see students’ comments, give students Suggester permissions when inviting them to the discussion.

Provided materials

  • The Kialo discussion, “How Did the Roman Empire Become the Greatest in the World?” This includes:
    • Instructions for students and a glossary.
    • A fully developed Kialo discussion for students to explore. The discussion covers the diverse factors that could have determined the Roman Empire’s military success.
  • Lesson plan for educators (downloadable in .docx / .pdf).

Lesson plan

Suggested length: 1-2 class periods (45-55 minutes each)

Lesson components:

  • Pre-activity (25-30 minutes)
  • Opener (focus of partial class period )
  • Activity (focus of one class period)
  • Optional closer (5-10 minutes)


  • Students will each write a letter in which they pretend to be a Roman soldier, explaining the reason for the empire’s greatness to their daughter.

Pre-activity (25-30 minutes)

  1. To prepare for this lesson, direct students to explore the Kialo discussion “How Did the Roman Empire Become the Greatest in the World?” at home. Students should spend about 30 minutes to:
    • Read the discussion, following any links that interest them.
    • Comment on any claims that they would like to discuss in class.
    • Vote on the 5 claims that students find most important, giving each a score of “4.”

TIP: You may wish to demonstrate voting to your students. Pick any claim and model how to give it a score of “4.” You can then revoke your vote by clicking on the “4” again.

TIP: This portion of the lesson can be done in class as well, if at-home home device access is a concern. In this case, it is recommended to adapt this lesson for a double-block period or two class periods.

Opener (10-20 minutes)

  1. Watch this TED-Ed video, “A day in the life of a Roman Soldier,” to activate student knowledge and spark interest.
  2. Discuss any points of interest that arose from the Pre-activity, such as highly-voted claims, embedded sources, student comments, or questions.

Activity (focus of one class period)

  1. Review the student instructions located in the discussion Background Info (this can be found by clicking the button in the top-left corner of the discussion).
  2. Direct students to begin the writing activity, consulting the Kialo Edu discussion or other resources as necessary.

TIP: Encourage students to imagine how a soldier would feel about Rome: Would they like their emperor? What would they feel proud of? What would they hate?

Optional closer (5-10 minutes)

  1. Ask students what they think was the most important factor that determined the Roman Empire’s unprecedented expansion. Encourage them to support their answer with reasons.

Related Kialo Edu discussion

How did the Roman Empire become the greatest in the world?