How to Teach the Byzantine Empire and Keep Students Engaged in the Unit


I was chatting with a good friend of mine who is so graciously helping her granddaughter with school this year during remote learning. Being a 6th grader and just starting middle school completely online is tough. At this stage of early adolescence, students are seeking autonomy and independence. If you teach middle school, you probably already know that keeping students engaged while finding a balance of teacher-led lessons and time for independent learning is key at this age. Add virtual learning on top of this, and we have to rethink some of the lessons and ways that we present information. I've found virtual field trips to be a great option that works for both in-person or online learning that offers a good learning balance.


If you are approaching a unit on the Byzantine Empire, one way to hand the reigns over to your students is through a virtual field trip. Through interactive Google Slides, students have time to learn and experience history up close. I've put together a virtual field trip to Constantinople that includes informational text, video, and the best part...Google Earth exploration!



With this tour, students have an opportunity to "walk" along the Walls of Constantine, and "look around" at the city from atop one of the incredible defensive walls. Throughout the virtual field trip, students answer questions that focus on making observations and connections to history. I get that it's easy to ask questions like "summarize the text," but rather these trips ask students to pay attention to their surroundings as they walk around the exterior of the Hagia Sophia, for example. This digital activity asks students to notice how the city has changed over time as they "walk" under the Aqueduct of Valens. When students experience history, they are able to make connections and virtual field trips are a great option for middle school.



We know that students can spend hours scrolling social media, so how do we get students engaged with social studies content in the same way? Virtual field trips allow students the opportunity to move through the content at their own pace. They can interact with the slides, watch short video clips, and maneuver ancient sites using the tools of Google Earth. Critical thinking questions have students take in what they are experiencing at a deeper level.


Teachers tell me continually that virtual field trips are keeping their students engaged and their students are asking for more. If you want to spice up your social studies lessons, check out what teachers have to say about virtual field trips:


"The students loved this virtual field trip! They wanted more!!!" -M.D.


"It was great to see the students engaged in a different type of online learning." -K.F.


"I've used 3 or 4 of your virtual field trips with my SpEd World History students and they're fantastic! I've used it as a way to introduce the next unit that we're studying - it's so easy to use as the links and questions are all included in the presentation. Precious little holds their attention but these certainly do - thank you!" -A.G.


To check out the details of this virtual field trip use the link below.

Byzantine Empire: Constantinople Virtual Field Trip


Looking for something else? Check out the entire collection of virtual field trips HERE.