Skip Discover Education Main Navigation
Skip Discover Education Main Navigation

Home> Teachers> Free Lesson Plans> Dictator For A Day

Dictator For A DayDictator-For-A-Day

  • Subject: Geography
  • |
  • Grade(s): K-5
  • |
  • Duration: One day

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will:
1. experience and analyze the pros and cons of a dictatorship; and
2. apply these ideas to their understanding of life in ancient Rome.


For this lesson, you will need:
chart paper


1. Explain to your students that the most famous general of the Roman Republic was Julius Caesar. He defeated all of his rivals and eventually ruled Rome as a permanent dictator. This enraged the Roman senators, who eventually arranged Julius Caesar's death. In this activity, your students will experience firsthand the pros and cons of living with a dictator right in their own classroom by having one of their classmates play the role for the day.
2. Discuss with your students what they believe to be the positive and negative aspects of a dictatorship. List their answers on a chart for later referral.
3. Select one student to serve as dictator for the day. Allow him or her to make many decisions concerning the daily routine of your class (who will be first for lunch, who will get the playground equipment, who is at the front of the line, and so on).
4. At the end of the day, hold a class meeting and discuss the impact of one person making all of these decisions for the class. Add any new opinions to the pro and con pro-and-con chart that you made earlier in the day. Did students' opinions change? Were there any positive aspects to the dictatorship that they had not expected?
5. Continue the class discussion and analyze the experience. Did problems arise that they did not anticipate? How did the person who served as dictator feel about the experience? Was it an easy job? Was he or she worried about others' opinions? How did that student feel when he or she was initially chosen? Did his or her feelings change by the end of the day?
6. Would the students like to have one student chosen every day to serve as dictator? Using the class chart as a reference, have the students write a persuasive paragraph that supports their opinion about whether or not such a change would benefit the class.
7. After they share their paragraphs, have your students apply their new personal knowledge of dictatorship to life in ancient Rome. How do they think people felt about dictatorships at that time? Who would have liked such a system and who would not have liked it? Why?

Back to Top


Younger students may have difficulty handling this experience. To keep their feelings from being hurt, you can easily use a puppet or stuffed animal as the dictator. Allow this character to "make the decisions" and then hold a class meeting at the end of the day to give students a chance to share their opinions about the experience.
After experiencing the dictator for the day dictator-for-the-day activity, have your students write a story that predicts what might have happened if the activity had continued for a week, a month, or an entire school year. What problems might have arisen? How might they have been handled?

Back to Top

Discussion Questions

1. Rome was an important city in ancient times. If you lived at that time, why do you think your family would want to live there?
2. If you could use a time machine to go back to ancient Rome, what clothes would you pack to wear? What items would you want to take for your home so that you would be comfortable?
3. Many items from ancient Rome are still used today. If an ancient Roman traveled in your time machine back to today, what things would he recognize?
4. The United States conducts a census every few years. What is a census? Why do you think the ancient Romans conducted a census?
5. During the Roman republic, the citizens experienced two types of government. What were they and how were they different? Which do you think that you would prefer and why?
6. Members of the Roman senate weren't paid for their work. They wanted to serve because they thought it was an honor to be chosen for the job. How are our senators chosen? Are they paid? Do you think they should be? Why?

Back to Top


You can use a simple assessment tool such as a rubric to evaluate their students' paragraphs:
  • Student followed directions.
  • Student's paragraph included a topic sentence.
  • Student's paragraph included three supporting-detail detail sentences.
  • Student's paragraph included a concluding sentence.

Back to Top


When in Rome . . . Make Mosaics
The Romans used mosaics to decorate the walls and floors of their homes with scenes from mythology or their daily life. Mosaics are pictures or designs made out of tiny pieces of glass, stone, or tile. Have your students try their hands at making mosaics in the ancient Roman tradition. After researching a character from Roman mythology, have them draw an outline of a the monster or god on a piece of cardboard and fill in the picture with tiny pieces of colored paper that have been brushed with glue. For a fancier mosaic, students can use tinted broken eggshells that have been cleaned and saved.

Top-of-the-Line Tools for Attack in Ancient Rome
The Romans developed many assault weapons in the fourth century B.C. Two of these are the battering ram and the assault tower. Have your students work in groups to research these tools of war and build a small model of each for display. A great reference book for this activity is Ancient Rome: A Civilization Project Book, by Susan Purdy and Cass R. Sandak.

Back to Top

Suggested Readings

Roman Town
Hazel Mary Martell. Franklin Watts, Incorporated, 1997.
Visit a typical Roman town, with its villa, theater, forum, marketplace, temple, baths, homes, and cemetery. Complete with a time traveler's guide and tour, as well as a glossary of terms, this book will make you feel right at home in the past.

Ancient Rome
Judith Simpson. Time-Life Books, 1997.
Learn about life in ancient Rome—its government, religion, and family life. Filled with interesting sidebars, pictures of Roman art and artifacts, and a complete list of Roman emperors, this is an excellent introduction to a time and culture that has helped shape our own.

Back to Top


Mr Donn's Ancient History Page
Mr. Donn's Ancient History Page is an award winning curriculum resource for teachers on the ancient world.

Roman Emperors
The Roman Emperors Online Encyclopedia provides a wealth of information on the Roman emperors, with essays and informational text.

The Forum Romanum is a complete guide to the daily life of ancient Romans.

Back to Top


Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    forum
Definition: The marketplace or public place of an ancient Roman city forming the center of judicial and public business.
Context: Imagine a square in the center of town where people would gather to buy and sell things: this This was the Roman forum.

speaker    primitive
Definition: Belonging to or characteristic of an early stage of development.
Context: Rome grew from a primitive town of mud and thatch huts to a thriving city of brick.

speaker    senate
Definition: An assembly or council usually possessing high deliberative and legislative functions; the supreme council of the ancient Roman republic and empire.
Context: Servius, like all rulers since the founding of Rome, had a group of advisorsadvisers. They were called the Senate.

speaker    toga
Definition: The loose outer garment worn in public by citizens of ancient Rome.
Context: We often think of Romans dressed in togas, but it was only the wealthy who wore them.

speaker    tunic
Definition: A simple slip-on garment made with or without sleeves and usually knee-length or longer, belted at the waist, and worn as an under- or outer garment by men and women of ancient Greece and Rome.
Context: Since the weather in Rome is warm most of the year, Romans wore garments called tunics that left their legs bare.

Back to Top


This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 3-4
Subject area: history
Understands selected attributes and historical developments of societies in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe.
Knows the effects geography has had on the different aspects of societies (e.g., the development of urban centers, food, clothing, industry, agriculture, shelter, trade).
Knows about life in urban areas and communities of various cultures of the world at various times in their history (e.g., Rome, Tenochtitl?n, Timbuktu, a medieval European city).

Grade level: 3-4
Subject area: geography
Understands how geography is used to interpret the past.
Knows the factors that have contributed to changing land use in a community (e.g., street and road development, population shifts, regulations governing land use).

Back to Top


Wendy Goldfein, a fourth-grade grade teacher at Newington Forest Elementary and a doctoral student at George Mason University in Virginia.

Back to Top