Australian Capital Territory

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St Thomas the Apostle PS

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Urambi PS

St Thomas the Apostle

Who Rules?


At the beginning of the 1998 school year, the teachers in years 5 & 6 at St Thomas the Apostle Primary School, Kambah, ACT, were interested in developing their Australian Democracy unit in a new way.

A number of teachers had attended the SOSE Summer School and introduced the draft copy of the Discovering Democracy unit to the 5/6 module teachers.

Each teacher took a copy of the unit and met to discuss the content and the way this unit could be developed.

At our first meeting there was a feeling of excitement and expectation as well as a feeling of relief. Even in draft stage, the unit was easy to read and understand. All the teachers felt that they would be able to relate to the content because they had studied it or it was familiar to them through personal research.

The immediate feeling was that the unit had a lot of potential and the group decided to follow the draft as outlined.

The teachers also suggested that:


Five classes in the upper primary were involved and I had the combined or Multi-level class. I found the unit very easy to read and the activities were excellent and very easy to prepare before hand. There was enough variety in activities to arouse the students’ curiosity without making it too difficult for the teacher to prepare. The preparation workload was shared among the teachers.

I also found the section on Democracy in Australia very well planned. The unit was also planned to coincide with an excursion to the Election Centre and Parliament House. Prime Minister Howard also played into our hands by announcing a Federal Election as we started the Australian section of the unit. All teachers were aware of the heightened interest and understanding of the students during this time. The students in my class collected political cartoons from the newspaper. Interpreting the meaning behind the humour allowed me to assess students’ understanding of political events.

There were so many opportunities to integrate into other KLA areas that I had to be careful not to overdo it. In included a lot of Math while doing the Egyptian and Greek sections.

The section that created the most interest, in my class, was Medieval England. The first mention of Robin Hood and Bad King John sent students researching into stories and ballads and the lives of the people in that era. The students worked on personal projects about Medieval life and as a class we wrote out won ballad and dramatised it as a play for a School Assembly.

The whole 5-6 unit worked together to develop an integrated Visual Arts unit. Each teacher took one of the following topics:

and developed activities that fitted with the unit.

Since working through this unit from the draft document I have studied the kit at great length. I believe the distribution of the topics in the primary area has been well planned and should be very successful. Teachers in the upper primary area are sceptical about starting this unit in the Middle Primary. I must agree that I feel the section on Egypt and Greece may be too hard but the other sections appear very suitable. The inclusion of the Aboriginal section is most appropriate. The exclusion of the section on the French revolutions was not surprising. Although an exciting time in history, this section was too involved for primary students.

Now that I realise how the unit can be used in the middle and upper primary to advantage, I intend taking the opportunity to inform all members of our staff about the content of the kit.


I believe this case study will help teachers because:

If I use this unit again I would make the following changes to the teaching/learning process:



KLA Links

Integrating Focus: The development of democracy, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Athens, Medieval England

RE: Biblical Studies (Joseph and Moses)

Maths: Ancient Egypt – pyramids, Assorted 3D shapes, Geometry. Ancient Greece – Archimedes, Venn diagrams.

English: Literature "The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe" (Yr 5), "5 time Dizzy" (Yr 5), "Red Wall". Hieroglyphics.

SOSE "Who Rules" from Discovering Democracy kit.

The Arts: Visual Arts – Masks, Toys, Modelling, Mural paintings, Writing through the ages. Media – video "Ten Commandments", "Lion, Witch & Wardrobe".

Technology: Toys




Teaching/Learning Activities




Ancient Egypt Activity 1 – Ruler for a day. Introduce the concept of absolute power.

Activity 2 – Pharaohs of Egypt



Ancient Egypt Activity 3 – Rights and responsibilities

Activity 4 – Power Pyramid

Activity 5 – Egyptian System



Ancient Egypt Activity 6 – 3D model of a power pyramid

Activity 7 – Majority Rules?



Ancient Athens Activity 8 – Direct democracy in Ancient Athens

Activity 9 – Power



Ancient Athens Activity 10 – compare and contrast

Activity 11 – Write a script for a court in Ancient Athens



Ancient Athens Present scripts from week 5    


Medieval England Activity 12 – Kings of Medieval England

Activity 13 – King John – Feudal Lord



Medieval England Activity 14 – Feudal Power

Activity 15 – Should King John be allowed to rule?



Medieval England Activity 16 – John and the Great Charter

Activity 17 – King John says!

Visual Arts




Review and catch up      


You are asked to do a project on Medieval England. It will need to be done on a large sheet of cardboard, and presented beautifully.

Please include the following in your project:

  1. When and where were the Medieval times?
  2. What did people do for work?
  3. How did people live – what were their homes like? What did they wear?
  4. What are some of the differences about life then and life today?
  5. Name a famous Medieval person and say why he or she was famous.
  6. Draw a castle and label the sections and their uses. What was a castle used for? Who lived in castles? Who protected the castles and how were they attacked? Why are they not used so much now? Name some famous castles. (Extra points if you can name the oldest inhabited castle in the world and who lives in it!)

Make sure that you include pictures, diagrams, or photos in our project. Please make sure that your writing is very neat and has no errors.

Good luck!

From: Jean Watson

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Urambi Primary School

Parliament versus Monarch


At Urambi Primary there are three year 5/6 classes this year. I work in a double unit and the other class, because of the physical structure of the school, works in a single classroom. Parliament versus Monarch was taught across the three classes and I was responsible for teaching the SOSE Unit to the sixty children double classroom.

I followed the Unit for five weeks and then I adapted other material to cover how the Australian Government system works. This included an excursion to Parliament House and the Electoral Education Centre. I will explain my application of the Unit later on in this report.


Having discussed this Unit, Parliament versus Monarch with my colleagues and having looked through the other Middle and Upper Primary Units I have come up with these general statements:

While I selected the above sections to teach I feel the historic comparisons in the unit ‘Stories of the People and Rulers’ could be integrated into an interesting Unit about ancient civilisations. Also the Unit ‘People Power’ could be integrated into a Unit about decision making and choices.

In conclusion I believe that Discovering Democracy is a valuable resource that provides teachers with a great variety of unique activities and ideas. However, it is unrealistic to think that all of the Units could be taught in four years and unless teachers ‘cut and paste’, some major areas, such as how the Australian Government system works, will not be taught thoroughly.

Parliament Versus Monarch, How I used this Unit


Activity 1, Lesson 1. Off with their head’s!

This story and the thought of somebody having absolute power really provoked discussion with the students. After this discussion the answered the following questions:

What is a monarch? What is a monarchy? How did the Queen of hearts display absolute power? Write a paragraph giving your opinion about whether an absolute monarch is a good or bad form of power for a country.

Activity 2, Lesson 2. Let’s Discuss!

This involved a lot of discussion about Australia’s legal system.

Activity 3, Lessons 3-6. History Mystery Case #1215

I broke this into 4 lessons because there was so much content to discuss. I introduced the idea of the History Detectives however there was so much else happening that this became a non-event.

Lesson 3. Medieval society around the time of King John. I used the diagram to discuss King John and life in England at the time. I would have appreciated more activities on this topic as the students had no background knowledge. We spent a lot of time role playing the different groups in the society and the power that King John had.

Lesson 4. The King John Rap

Small groups performed the rap and they learnt a lot from this enjoyable task. One class went on tot write their own raps relevant to the time period.

Lesson 5. History Mystery Case #1215.

Prior to sorting out the ‘evidence’ we role played again the power of the King and discussed how each group in the society would feel living under this sort of rule. The roleplay was essential to their understanding and was a lot of fun. In small groups they then sorted out the evidence.

Lesson 6. Questions related to History Mystery #1215.

The questions on handout 5 were answered.

NB. Note that activity 3 is meant to be a 45-60 minute lesson. I took four 45 minute lessons to cover this material.


Lesson 1. Let’s Parler!

The students knew very little if anything about parliament in Australia and this made me realise that I would have to spend time covering basic information about government in Australia.

Once again I found the best way to teach handout 6 ‘How Parliament Began’ was through role play.

Lessons 2 and 3. Let’s Parler! Continued.

Handout 7 was discussed over two lessons. Once again a lot of time was spent explaining the Westminster system as the students had no prior knowledge eof this. After discussions they wrote a summary of this information.

NB. Here is another example where this was meant to be one 45 minute lesson however in reality it required three 45 minute lessons. At this point in the Unit I felt that I had been doing a lot of talking to explain all of the concepts and I was wishing that there had been more ‘hands-on’ exercises or a video to help with the teaching of this and to make it more interesting for the students. I was also running out of time thus I cut out a lot of the Unit.


Lesson 1. Who’s right?

Followed as written in the Unit.

Lessons 2 and 3. Pass around the hat!

I have always found that students learn a lot from simulations as they become so involved. We followed this simulation however I would have liked to have gone further than it did. It did however help them to write about the following questions:

Lesson 4. Don’t lose your head!

I did not use handout 9 as I felt it was too difficult for the students to understand. In hindsight I would use it next time. I used the History Mystery Case #1640-49 handouts leaving out some of the information that we had not covered eg ‘some of the nineteen propositions’. I found that this activity was a really effective reading activity that had all of the students involved.

I made this my last lesson of the Unit for several reasons: we had an excursion booked to visit Parliament House where we role played the making of a bill so I wanted the students to have some prior knowledge eof our system of government; I knew I would need at least four weeks to cover this new information; I felt they had a fair understanding of the information already covered; I felt that more historical detail was not needed at this time and I felt that the students needed different methods of teaching to keep the motivated.

Once I have covered work about the three levels of government and the student shave learnt about voting and elections I will then go back to the idea of parliament versus monarch. If eel they will then have sufficient knowledge to be able to compare the tow methods of government.

From: Jan Brabazon

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