Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
A Message of Ancient Days

Understanding Primary Sources:
Plato's Crito

Objective: Students read and analyze an excerpt from Plato's description of Socrates' reasons for not avoiding a death sentence.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
3-4 hours over 2-3 days

Building Background:
Review who Socrates and Plato were, and the story of Socrates trial and death. Explain that Plato wrote an imaginary conversation, called a dialog, between Socrates and a friend, in which Socrates describes his reasons for not avoiding the death sentence. Tell students they will read and analyze an excerpt from this dialog, called the Crito, and rewrite it in their own words.

What To Do:

1. Distribute the Excerpt from Plato's Crito. Allow students time to read it, then discuss any questions or confusions they may have.

2. Distribute the Plato's Crito worksheet. Give students time to reread the excerpt and answer the questions.

3. Send students to the library to learn more about Plato and his writings. Students can use encyclopedias and books listed in our Unit 5 Bibliography. If you have Internet access, students can explore this site for information:

Plato for the Young Inquirer

This site offers an in-depth exploration of Plato, his life and times, his family and community, his ideas and conclusions, his impact on us today, a visit with a Plato expert, and links to other sites.

4. When students have completed their research, have them review their worksheet answers. Would they answer any of the questions differently now that they know more about Plato? Discuss.

5. Have students rewrite the excerpt from Plato's Crito in their own words, using the dialog form. Remind them to use the excerpt, their worksheet answers, and all they have learned about Plato in their writing.

6. Have students share their dialogs by reading aloud. Encourage students to enlist partners to help them read their dialogs.

As a class, discuss whether Socrates' ideas about an "implied contract" between a community and its individuals is relevant today.


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