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12 — Representing ancient Rome in the context of 21st-century Rome

The cover of 'Rome Antics' by David Macaulay showing a sketched view of building facades as seen from the street below and the book title and author name in a red box

Above: Cover of Rome Antics by David Macaulay, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997 reproduced with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This final sequence is a stand-alone study of the text Rome Antics by David Macaulay. This sequence enables the students to explore the way one author presents information about surviving buildings from ancient Rome, which he ‘storied’ and presented using a variety of unusual visual perspectives.

The sequence leads the students to focus on the use of visual images as a way of presenting information, which is a recurrent theme throughout the unit. At the end of this sequence the students should be given an opportunity to complete the Unit reflection questions in their student journals.

Introduction: How can images be used to develop deeper understandings?

Show students the first 19 seconds of the TED video talk by David Macaulay where he states ‘Sometimes I draw to better understand things’. Ask the students how they think drawing could help them to better understand something. How might drawing help people to understand more about ancient Rome?

Depending on time restrictions, continue viewing the video (see Resources). ACELT1803

Activity 1: How can ‘story’ be used as a structure for an information text?

Read and view Rome Antics. Display the following quote from David Macaulay: ‘I went back to the notion of story, which is always a good thing to have if you’re trying to get people to pay attention to a book and pick up information along the way’. Ask the students why they think ‘story’ might be a useful tool to ‘get people to … pick up information’? If ‘story’ is just a tool, could the purpose of a book, and the information it tells the reader, be different to the story? Is this the case with Rome Antics? How might the story differ from the text’s purpose and information? ACELT1803ACELT1622ACDSEH039

Activity 2: How can visual techniques be used to reveal information?

The author uses the device of a pigeon’s flight to play with perspective and angle and enable the viewer to learn about architectural details that would not usually be visible from a side or front view (Hint: When there is no red line, the viewer is the pigeon; when there is a red line we view the pigeon’s journey.) Students annotate a double-page spread (see Resources) to draw attention to information that is revealed by the author’s use of unusual perspectives and angles. Ask the students what information the image provides about ancient Rome. ACELA1764ACDSEH039

Activity 3: How else could information be presented in a visual text?

If the story is simply a device for leading the reader through the buildings of ancient Rome, ask the students to suggest alternative ways the author could have developed text to accompany the visual information. What other text formats or types could be used? Encourage creative suggestions such as a poem, a scene from a comic, a tourist guide, a news report or a film review. Divide the students into pairs and assign each pair a double-page spread (see Resources). Students create their own text to accompany the image. ACELA1764ACELY1725ACDSEH039

Student reflective journal

Students should spend 5–10 minutes responding to the reflection questions for this sequence, either in written form or orally, and then assess their responses against the success criteria using the rubric provided. If students have studied all 12 sequences in the unit, also ask the following unit reflection questions (on Page 16 of the Student reflective journal, where space is provided for answers).

Unit reflection questions:

Have students complete the journal by rating a series of statements about the unit and providing a comment on any possible improvement.