Cleopatra Lesson Plan: Exploring legacies and our own digital footprints

Submitted by: Emily Silverman

In this lesson, students use BrainPOP’s Cleopatra unit to introduce or reinforce the consideration of context and perspective when working with historical and contemporary sources.

Students will:

  1. Analyze strengths and limits of primary sources.
  2. Recognize power of interpretation, recounting a story or event from two (or more) sides.
  3. Given the digital trails we create today, consider more fully the prospect of one's current and, ultimately, historical legacy.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP. Teacher-generated project guidelines.


Cleopatra's pervasive cultural and historical presence means this lesson could be used at a variety of places within your plans (and as a plan when you are unexpectedly absent. If used this way, consider having small groups pre-arranged and providing a starter list of trusted sources for research). Develop the project guidelines you'd like students to follow and make them available for the class.

This activity involves critical thinking, analysis, interpretation, collaboration, and imagination.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. As a class, record what the students think about when they think Cleopatra.
  2. Watch the Cleopatra Movie and take the quiz.
  3. In groups, size depending on availability of computers for the class, read through the FYI. Re-gather to address original responses to Cleopatra and modify.
  4. In small groups, research Cleopatra more fully (ancient sources, fine arts, literature, etc.) Provide some class time for research and for groups to organize themselves and their findings.
  5. Each group will report back to class (2 - 5 minutes as warranted). Discuss impact of author's/artist's contemporary world and/or personal circumstances on representation and interpretation of facts.
  6. In small groups or pairs, research another historical or contemporary figure whose profile has also been altered along the way or presented from different angles at the same time. Present to class.
  7. Discuss how our own stories can be viewed in different ways and whether or not that affects our behavior.

Extension Activity:

Encourage students to apply their perceptions and conclusions from the lesson in a personal, creative way. This will further deepen students' sensitivity to considering the context and perspective of media and historical material.

Have students imagine an event of note in their own lives. They can: A) write two brief newspaper articles from opposing sides that report the event, or B) create a visual (photo, sketch, etc.) and show from two angles or one whole and one cropped and write a caption for each that interprets the image for different purposes.