Kids enjoy learning about gladiators because the time period is so different from their own. Although the games that gladiators participated in were often bloody and cruel, learning about how the Romans treated the common gladiator gives kids a better understanding of the ancient Roman culture. Teach kids about gladiators by explaining things, such as the location of the games and the types of weapons used.
Create a Colosseum
The Colosseum where the gladiators competed was a very complex structure, even by today's standards. Research the structure and design of the Colosseum on the Internet, in textbooks or at the library. Help students better understand the different aspects of the Colosseum by having them draw or create a model of one. Let students be creative with their interpretation of the assignment; for example, one student might make the Colosseum out of Popsicle sticks while another might make it out of foam pieces. Ask students to identify where royalty or government officials sat in the Colosseum and where more common folk would have viewed the fights.
Advertise the Games
Despite the fact that most Roman citizens knew about the gladiator games, there was still advertising created to let everyone know about the games. Create a poster indicating the time and place, and list some of the names of the competing players. Keep in mind that gladiators often named themselves based upon a favourite animal or their preferred god, and dressed accordingly. Consider sketching the arena or a costumed player on the poster.
Choose Your Weapon
Gladiators had a variety of weapons to choose from, such as the bow and arrow, trident, sword, dagger and javelin. Research the different types of weapons and how they were used, then predict how successful gladiators would be when matched up against each other. For example, a gladiator with armour would be heavily protected but wouldn't be able to move about freely. Refer your students to BBC History's video game "Dressed to Kill," which lets kids dress a gladiator based upon certain clues. For example, a gladiator that fought with a smaller shield would need better leg protection.
Compete as a Gladiator
While gladiators often played games "to the death," your class can recreate some of the less dangerous games with foam swords and shields. Award points to students who land hits on their opponent's body. Act as the emperor by giving the "thumbs up" signal, indicating that a competitor can live, or the "thumbs down" signal, meaning he should be put to death. Award winners of the mock games with various prizes, such as a wooden sword to symbolise freedom or a palm branch, recognising victory over an opponent.