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Pompeii: the movie

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Construction
Topic: Plate tectonics

Film-makers are making a film about the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius over the Roman town of Pompeii that happened in 79 A.D. In this activity pupils play the part of 'science consultant' for the film, and produce diagrams for a storyboard of the parallel action 'cut away' shots of what is happening inside the volcano while the action is building up to the eruption. The activity is a great opportunity to address two of the commonest misconceptions associated with volcanoes.

Published: 22nd January 2005
Reviews & Comments: 9

Try the activity

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11-14 (KS3)
Rocks and the Rock Cycle QCA 8g and 8h: hot liquid magma flows out of volcanoes as lava and solidifies, or it can be blown out as ash which settles; the rock cycle.
Misconceptions addressed: Volcanoes come out of the top of mountains, rather than volcanoes building their own cones. Volcanoes have a big chamber of magma inside them, just waiting to burst out

Running the activity

In this activity pupils - or groups - fill in the missing pictures of the film's storyboard. The first picture is quite complicated - you may like to go over it with the pupils before asking them to do the other pictures.

To run this activity as a short starter, ask each group to do one of the pictures. For a longer main activity, each group can follow through the whole process and do all the pictures.

Page 1 sets the scene and introduces the task. It can be printed onto transparency or projected.

Pages 2, 3 and 4 show the storyboard. The action above ground is already represented by drawings; pupils draw pictures to show the action under the ground. Frames 2, 4 and 5 offer opportunities to address the misconceptions described above.

News links

Volcano Images
A useful volcano website
Pompeii info

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?


Dec 3rd, 2009

5 Star

I have found the resources to be excellant, good detai as well. The teachers notes are very useful.

Reviewer: saba patel


Feb 6th, 2009

4 Star

This activity is so useful because it can easily be adapted for use with both KS3 and KS4, as a main activity for low ability groups or as a starter for high ability. I took this activity a step further and had the students making their own volcanoes as a follow up activity, using paper mache and sodium bicarbonate/ethanoic acid for the eruption. they absolutely loved it!!

Reviewer: alison meacock

Mixed KS2 & 3 class

Nov 5th, 2007

5 Star

Did this one on a trip to Italy, having just visited Pompeii. The KS2 kids needed to be taken through step by step but they all loved the activity and it worked really well as a plenary to the day.

Reviewer: Janet Hillsdon


Apr 3rd, 2007

3 Star

i set the scene with images of pompeii and vesuvius and then played a part of pompeii the last day before introducing the activity.
more able students managed the whole thing without the set storyboards and were able to extend the activity to include the rock cycle as part og their "movie"

Reviewer: debra johnson

Pompeii: the movie review

Oct 2nd, 2006

3 Star

Tried this with a low ability group. Had to simplify the science a bit, but they enjoyed doing a storyboard on the sequence of events.
Needs careful thought before use. Quite hard to just use "off the peg"

Reviewer: Jill Cadwaladr

Pompeii - GCSE DA Science (lower ability group)

May 2nd, 2006

4 Star

I used this activity during our recent Ofsted inspection with a lower ability double award science group – I wasn't observed for this one!

I made up a PowerPoint presentation containing some of my holiday snaps of Pompeii and Vesuvius and with a few flash animations of how volcanoes erupt that I found on the internet. This helped them visualise what was happening at each stage of the process.

We discussed the overall concept and then each section of the activity in turn. The pupils then completed their reports a section at a time. We completed the activity in a 40 minute period.

It was an excellent activity as it reinforced the knowledge from previous lessons e.g. tectonic activity.

Reviewer: Jeremy Randell


Nov 17th, 2005

4 Star

We enjoyed doing this. I did the activity with a mixed abillity Y8 group. We had seen a video last lesson about rocks and the rock cycle. I captured imagination by getting the class to write down (in pairs) any three things they knew about volcanoes. They had some 'cue cards' with words like 'lava', 'magma' and 'igneous' to help them. Then they acquired two more facts from another pair and one more from another pair - 6 facts in all and quite a range of knowledge and experiences. Some had seen a TV programme about Pompeii, one had been to visit. One even used the word 'pyroclastic' (not supplied by me!) in the correct context - wow!

Then we did some 'reading for understanding' from a text book, followed by a discussion of the evidence for volcanoes and earth movements. I used some pictures of Pompeii as a link to the main activity. Why did these people die? Why didn't they run away? Why are some curled up like babies? What sort of place was Pompeii? What is it like now?

Then we did the activity - which only caused problems when they tried to imagine how a volcano starts in the first place but we got over that with prompts and lots of hand gestures! Very kinaesthetic!

Finally, we had a discussion about how the survivors of Pompeii may have been looked after and how we may deal with an incident like this in modern times. Could it happen again?

The activity allowed me to address a range of learning styes and the students were 100% engaged. (I edited the pictures and inserted them into a Ppt presentation, by the way)

Jill Hicking

Reviewer: Jill Hicking


May 13th, 2005

4 Star

I used this with a low ability Yr8. Having been to Pompeii last summer I used some of my holiday snaps to show them pictures of the 'people casts' on display.

They were very focussed on the task but needed support to draw accurate pictures.

Reviewer: leanne osborne

Pompeii - with lower ability groups

Apr 27th, 2005

4 Star

I used this activity with a low ability year 8 group. They were very keen to do the task and they liked the approach.

Many of the students found it hard to visualise the processes that were occurring, and consequently found it difficult to draw accurate pictures.

It would perhaps have been better to discuss each picture as a group and come to an agreed concensus about what was required before drawing a rough sketch on the board. Then students could have drawn their own pictures using the sketch as a basis, making sure that they labelled them and drew accurate pictures.

The task got the students talking about tectonic processes and there was some high level talking going on.

Reviewer: Mark Gale