I teach Stonehenge in both my AP Art History and Humanities classes. Although there is a good deal of overlap, I teach it quiet differently in each classes (mostly because I have a few students who take me for both and I do not want them to be bored!). These lessons can also be adapted for a World History or Civilizations course – just change-up the articles used depending on your focus.
As groups of 4, each student grabs a different article from the center (see Archaeology & Smithsonian articles in the Resources section below). I try to make sure there are a diverse amount of articles floating around the classroom at various reading levels. Once I start to notice students are finished reading, I signal them to build a full discussion of the form, function, content, and context (FFCC) of Stonehenge in their small groups as I walk around to hear their remarks.
After their small group discussion, I pull up a PowerPoint slide of vocabulary words they need to know and actively use in our whole-class discussion to follow. Here are the words I teach:
- Henge: Neolithic monument characterized by a circular ground-plan which was believed to be used for rituals and marking astronomical events
- Lintel: horizontal beam over an opening
- Megalith: an uncut stone of great size
- Mortise-and-tenon: a method of construction in which a groove is cut into stone or wood, called a mortise, that is shaped to receive a projection, a tenon
- Post-and-Lintel: a method of construction in which two vertical posts support a horizontal beam, a lintel
Then, as a class, we build a very in-depth FFCC (sometimes there are different ideas for function and construction and we discuss the viability of each theory in turn). After our discussion I show a short video, English Heritage: Who built Stonehenge?, to end the class.
I take three days to teach this Prehistoric site in Humanities because the kids really enjoy learning about such a well-known monument and they get into deep discussion.
As groups of 4, each student grabs a different article from the center (the same articles as AP Art History plus a few more “fun” ones like “Stonehenge Visitors Used To Be Handed Chisels to Take Home Souvenirs“). Once I start to notice the groups are finished reading, I signal them to discuss the similarities and differences in their small group, walking around to hear their discussions.
After their small group discussion, I have a set of PowerPoint images with questions about Stonehenge’s creation, materials, function, culture or society, recent news, oddities (hello aliens!) and so on. 🙂 We go through the questions as a class and students that had articles that answer parts of the questions get to share their knowledge. Once we have exhausted our whole-class discussion, I have a short clip, Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (UNESCO/NHK) (3:15 minutes long) to pull together all the important information.
As you can see, I do little direct teaching here but I use my questions to guide them to important information and I make sure my questions can be answered by at least 2 different articles in the crowd.
I’ve recently included a kinesthetic way to finish up Stonehenge and my kids love it!!! On the final day they use a sketch that they made on day 1 to recreate Stonehenge out of Rice Krispie treats. It’s a great review for them.
There are numerous resources on Stonehenge so these are just the ones in my personal arsenal:
- Art History Teaching Resources: Prehistory and Prehistoric Art in Europe
- Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global View, 15th edition, pg. 28
- English Heritage: Stonehenge
- The Annotated Mona Lisa, 2nd edition, by Carol Strickland, pgs. 4-5
- Art History & the Art of History: Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, England (2550-1600 BCE)
- Art History & the Art of History: Neolithic Art in Western Europe
- Archaeology: Stonehenge Skeleton Mystery
- Archaeology: Under Stonehenge
- Gateways to Art: Understanding the Visual Arts, pgs. 456-457
- Khan Academy: Stonehenge
- Archaeology: Solstice at the Stones
- Exploring the Humanities: Creativity and Culture in the West by Laurie Schneider Adams, pgs. 12, 14
- Smithsonian: Stonehenge Visitors Used To Be Handed Chisels to Take Home Souvenirs
- Google Arts & Culture: Stonehenge
- 100 Landmarks of the World: A Journey to the most Fascinating Landmarks around the Globe, pgs. 72-73
- UNESCO, World Heritage Convention: Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
- Smithsonian: What Lies Beneath Stonehenge?
- Smithsonian: Stonehenge’s Stones Can Sing
- Archaeology Magazine (January/February 2015), pg. 31
- World Heritage Sites: A Complete Guide to 1031 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 7th edition, pg. 254