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The Medical Marketplace – Ancient Egypt exemplar


This activity comes from Julia Huber, Louise Sillince and Elizabeth Nuttall who teach in Wandsworth. The generic ‘marketplace’ activity is quite well-known but if you don’t know it or use it then this example may persuade you to try this technique. The exemplar content relates to GCSE Medicine through time but the technique can be used across a wide range of topics and ages to build students’ ability to learn independently and their awareness that learning can and should be co-operative – it’s the exact opposite of the primary school experience I had c.1960 when everyone sat with an arm curved round a book or paper to hide their answers from ‘copying’! Therefore if you do want to use this technique at GCSE and A level it’s important to develop it during KS3. For other ideas for opportunities to use this technique see below under Notes and Variations.

Now over to Julia and Louise-Marie’s description of the activity.

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Or, a WORD version of this activity and accompanying resources can be downloaded:

This activity is based on the ’Market Place ’ style of model; for more examples of this model, click here.


The aim of this lesson is to help students gain an overview of medicine and health in ancient Egypt. By asking students to research a particular aspect of ancient Egyptian medicine and then teach what they know to each other, students develop ownership over their own learning. Teachers can use the format of the “marketplace” (the original idea came from P. Ginnis Teacher’s Toolkit) for a range of different topics, but this particular lesson is useful as an introductory lesson to medicine and health in ancient Egypt. The activity can be done in one lesson, but ideally needs two lessons.

Setting Up

Ideally arrange classroom with at least 5 group tables for groups of 4-5 students. If you need more than 5 groups of students then 2 groups can tackle the same topic.

Try to arrange the tables with as much space as the classroom allows ensuring easy transition points.

On each group table place:

a large piece of sugar paper

several felt-tip pens (one per student)

envelope containing 1 page of research material (each group gets a different topic)

a set of research questions for all topics (PowerPoint screen 4)

The Activity

Note - timings are approximate. They vary from class to class. They are here to give you a sense of the balance of the stages of the activity.

a) Divide students into at least five groups of 4-5 students and explain activity (PowerPoint screens 2 and 3). The 5 groups are: Doctors, Hygiene, Causes of disease, Anatomy, Everyday treatments.

b) Students read through the test questions that they will complete at the end of the lesson or in the next lesson (PowerPoint screen 4). (1 minute)

c) Each group of students converts the resource material on their own group topic into a visual display, a “poster” using the sugar paper. The poster must be designed for visitors to their stall to view and understand. The poster can have up to twenty words and no more. Students can use as many numbers, diagrams, symbols, pictures, graphs, cartoons, maps and initial letters as you wish. Students can use the research/test questions on their topic to help them focus their research and poster. (20 minutes)

d) Students decide which member will stay “home” and be the group’s “stallholder”. The other members will go into the “marketplace” as visitors to gather information.

i) The stallholder must tout for business, proclaiming their topic and how well-explained it is, so visitors can find their way around. The stallholder explains the poster to visitors, but is allowed to answer only questions asked by visitors.

ii) The visitors need to visit stalls for all topics and should take notes, so that they can teach their group effectively at the next stage. Their job is to look at the other groups’ posters, try to work out the information portrayed and ask the stallholders questions for clarification, explanation and expansion. The visitors from each group will need a strategy – do they stay as one group or split up and visit other topics individually? (15 minutes)

e) All students return to their home base. Those who went into the marketplace to research information should now teach the stallholder of their own topic/original market place what they found out. Everyone should try to take notes. The aim is for everyone by the end of this stage to be ready for the test. (15 minutes)

f) All notes, posters and original source materials are put out of sight. The test is conducted under exam conditions, individually and in silence. (10 minutes)

g) In class students discuss correct answers and mark their test. This is a nice opportunity for peer assessment if you wish. (15 minutes)


The test is a good way to assess student learning and fill in any gaps and address any misconceptions. Rather than asking students to peer mark or self assess, the teacher can also collect the tests in and give students grades. If used as an introduction to a topic this quickly identifies gaps in learning and misunderstandings. You can use PowerPoint screens 5-9 here for consolidation.

After the activity has been completed it is always useful to discuss with students what helped them do well in the activity and what they could have done better. Generally the groups that work hardest as a team tend to get the best test results.


As part of the email discussion of this activity I asked Julia some follow-up questions. Here are her answers.

1. How often do you use this activity within the Medicine course - a couple of times so they get used to it?

We actually use this activity in KS3, 4 and 5, so our kids are used to it by the time they reach GCSE. I think we use it a couple of times overall in the Medicine course. 

2. Have you used it at KS3 and for what topic? 

Yes. In terms of topic it depends on the teacher, but I have used it for teaching Apartheid and different aspects of life under the Nazis. Louise has used it for teaching different aspects of the life of Tudor women. 

3. Do you use this approach at A level?

Yes - with different aspects of American foreign policy in the 1920s as well as different organisations within the African-American civil rights movement.

4. Is the word-limit for the initial poster important? Why include pictures?

I have found that when I don’t give them a limit they would end up copying word-by-word from the research material. Having to translate the research material into pictures, etc helps their understanding and then also their ability to teach others. Also, if the poster is basically a shorter copy of the research material the stall visitors simply copy from the poster as opposed to asking questions, which pictures and diagrams encourage.

5. What reactions do you get from the students?

I think generally students really enjoy the activity, as it gives control back to them and encourages everyone to participate in their own way. However, they do need some getting used to the activity and it definitely makes sense to use it several times, as the more often they do it, the better they get.

6. How effective would you say this activity is?

As students are in charge of their own learning, but the teacher also has the opportunity at the end to check that students have all the information they need, I think it is very effective. It is particularly effective when large chunks of information have to be covered and you don't want to go down the route of teaching it lecture-style from the front.

7. Is there too much on the first PPT screen though I can see you want it all visible so they can get an overview of what they're doing?

I know this is a difficult one. I tend to talk them through it very slowly the first time, but have not yet found a way of shortening it. Saying that, they do tend to get it as we proceed through the activity. Fortunately, since Y10 will have done it before, they actually don't need the screen anymore.

Regarding the questions we provide to the students to help them summarise the topic (and which later become the test questions) - some teachers might want just to show the test questions quickly at the beginning and then leave the students to summarise without any guidance. My kids would struggle with that, but I think it might work in a different school. Would definitely be a way to stretch the more able.

Notes & Variations

a) In the context of Medicine through time students should spend some time before they begin considering what kinds of ‘answers’ they’d expect from stallholders, especially if you use this strategy later in the course. For example, if you use the marketplace strategy to find out the basics of Renaissance Medicine students should begin with an understanding of medieval medicine so should be on the lookout for changes and continuities – e.g are Renaissance ideas about the cause of disease any different?

b) Again for medicine through time or for Crime and Punishment through time this strategy could be used for introducing or consolidating knowledge and understanding of themes (e.g. public health, surgery, policing).

c) As with all strategies it’s important to use this kind of activity at least twice a year so that students learn what is expected of them and tackle it a second time with more sense of direction and confidence, so making effective learning much more likely. When using this a second time make sure you begin with a recap – how did it work before? What strategies did we use to collect information effectively? What could we have done better?

d) This technique can be used at all levels – see the introduction to Marketplace activities for suggestions of a range of possibilities [ click here ].


1. How clear were the instructions to students? Could anything be done next time to make this activity more efficient?

2. How did students respond to the task of ‘teaching’ each other? What does this suggest about their attitudes to collaboration and teamwork?

3. What gaps in students’ understanding of this topic did the test show up and how will that dictate the nature of the next lesson?

4. Where else in your courses could this strategy be used effectively?

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Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

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Setting Up

The Activity


Q & A

Notes & Variations





Teacher's Toolkit: Raise Classroom Achievement with Strategies for Every Learner

by Paul Ginnis