Exploring Ancient Civilizations: Rome

Students explore the rise and fall of the ancient Roman Empire and Roman civilization, its various leaders, routines, and rituals while practicing multiple informational reading strategies.



Alternate Unit 2

3rd Grade

Unit Summary

Please Note: One of the core texts in our original Exploring Ancient Civilizations: Rome unit (Eye Wonder: Ancient Rome by DK Children, 2004) has gone out of print. This is an updated version of the unit that uses DKfindout! Ancient Rome by DK Children (Penguin Random House, 2016) and Eyewitness Ancient Rome by DK Children (Penguin Random House, 2022). If you wish to access the original unit, you can find it in our 3rd Grade Archive.

In this unit, students explore the rise and fall of the ancient Roman Empire. Over the course of the unit, students learn about different characteristics of the Roman Empire, what led to the Empire’s growth and success, and what eventually led to the Empire’s demise. Through learning about the daily routines, structures, and rituals of the Roman Empire, students will be challenged to draw conclusions about what the civilization valued and how those values compare to societal values today. 

The mentor texts for this unit, Ancient Rome and Pompeii: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Treehouse #13 and DKfindout! Ancient Rome, allow students to practice multiple informational reading strategies in two very different text structures. Students practice using a multitude of text features and illustrations as a way of learning new information about a topic, including determining the main idea of the text. To understand key historical events, students think about the connection between events, particularly what happens and why. Over the course of this unit, students also think about how the information from one text builds on and connects to the information in another text, using multiple texts to build a deeper understanding of the content. Then at the end of the unit, students will be asked to critically analyze the similarities and differences between the texts, noticing how authors include different types of details.

Throughout the unit, students prepare for class discussions, determining which evidence best supports a particular idea and how to elaborate on that evidence. By writing daily in response to the Target Task question, students build their writing fluency, seeing the power of writing as a tool for understanding what they are reading. Lessons focused on crafting strong sentences also provide students with the tools for clearly articulating their ideas in writing. At the end of the unit, students have the opportunity to write an informational text of their own, using the mentor texts as a guide. 

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials


These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.

Essential Questions

  • How did the city of Rome expand and grow? 
  • What was life like in the Roman Empire? What did the Romans value? 
  • What led to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire? 
  • What were some of the key contributions of ancient Roman civilization? How have they influenced the present?

Reading Focus Areas

  • Text features and graphic elements help readers locate and make sense of information.

  • To understand key events in a historical text, readers need to think about what happened and why.

  • The main idea is the central point or big picture understanding that the reader should get from the text.

  • Authors include different types of details in a text.

Writing Focus Areas

Informational Writing

  • Conduct short research projects to build knowledge.

  • Take notes and sort evidence into categories.

  • Introduce a topic and group related information together.

  • Develop the topic with facts.

  • Include illustrations and text features to aid in comprehension.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Prepare for discussion.

  • Elaborate to support ideas. Provide evidence or examples to justify and defend a point clearly.

  • Use specific vocabulary. Use vocabulary that is specific to the subject and task to clarify and share their thoughts.



amphitheater citizen conquer decline eternal eventually exquisite fit found hurl influenced overthrew privileges prosperous republic resent renowned rights rule sacrifice shrine siege sturdy triumph tragic tunic


-ence -ous amphi- over-

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 7, view our 3rd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections

Previous Fishtank ELA Connections

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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