History · PBL · resources

Experimenting with Viking Things

I had a super awesome lesson this week, and feel it’s about time to do more than just talk about it.


My PBL unit have been exploring the ideas of Community through a metaphorical approach. Specifically, we have been using Harry Potter and the Vikings to explore different philosophies and methods of Communities. Students have now progressed to making their own community using a fictional world of their choice as inspiration. One difficulty we identified  was our students didn’t quite have the skills to independently make judgements and decisions for the future of their community. More importantly, we hoped to guide them into being self-sufficient learners, and learners who can take control of their own learning.

Time for a lesson on Democracy.

Now, I hate politics. Politics in the workplace, gross. Politics in the government, snooorrre. Politics in ancient civilisations however, is something I can get behind.

Using Vikings, we created a lesson where students would roleplay a Viking Thing:

Things – from the Old Norse word þing, meaning assembly – were an early system of justice and administration.

Thingsites.com. (2017). THING Sites – Discover the Viking Cradle of Democracy. [online] Available at: http://www.thingsites.com/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2017].

I won’t go into too much detail describing the lesson, as you can read all about it in my super-descriptive and reflective Lesson Plan! It’s a view-only google doc, but feel free to make a copy of it and the linked resources.


It’s heavily Skyrim-themed (because a) it fits into our teaching theme and b) because Skyrim is amazing), which engages a select group of students without excluding the general group. You don’t actually have to know anything about Skyrim for it to work.

How did it Go?

This had the potential to be a complete disaster, and some students thought so. However, for a class of 44 students trying to independently make decisions as a group, I think they did extremely well.

Some students took their role cards to heart, and performed them with enthusiasm. Others spoke well-reasoned arguments about the agenda items. There were times when many students had their hand up, waiting for their turn to speak. The best part was when they started adding on or rebutting others’ ideas.

But, in a class of 44 there is still many ways to improve the lesson, and many ways my class have to improve. Some students couldn’t hear, so became disengaged. Others didn’t (or felt like they didn’t) have a specific role, so weren’t sure how they could contribute. And there was of course, those speaking and adding to the chaos of the lesson.

Post-Thing Discussion

Room for improvement means room for discussion! We divided into two teams for the post-Thing discussion. Students commented that it was too loud, others didn’t contribute, but also acknowledged that they had achieved all 3 discussion agenda items.

They also suggested how they could do it better! Specifically, in a smaller group. One student suggested combining it with our Round-Robin style of lesson, where we have four things running, and groups rotate through each scenario. The best thing was I actually had students come up to me after class and asked if we could do another lesson like this. #achievementunlocked

Where to Next?

We had a deliberate purpose in teaching a Thing – in a follow-up lesson, students divided into their Project Teams and held their own Thing (with a prepared agenda). This was to hopefully give them the skills to independently manage themselves in their team and give them direction. Which most groups did somewhat efficiently (in time, they’ll be pros).

However there’s a lot of other directions to go from managing a Thing. (disclaimer, these ideas are based around Australian Curriculum units/learning areas)

  • You could use this lesson as a segway from teaching History to Civics and Citizenship, or as a means of exploring government on a deeper level.
  • Compare and contrast a Viking Thing roleplay with a Medieval Europe roleyplay, again, as a means of exploring government on a deeper level.
  • With enough practice, a ‘Thing’ could be used as a routine exercise to develop students’ persuasive skills, or as a way of debating ideas in other curriculum areas (I’m currently trying to convince my math/science team members to use this method!)

I’ve always struggled with how to teach History/Geography in an engaging way, especially as I’m not history/geography trained myself! Working with a partner and a class of 40+ has made me rethink how to approach such ideas, and teaching in an (somewhat) unrestricted PBL approach has been a big factor.

This lesson was my first accomplishment in achieving a connected, realistic and engaging history lesson. I hope others (especially students) find it just as fun and useful!

Resources Used:


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