How Accurate is 'Pirates of the Caribbean'?

This study unit allows students to investigate the key question "How useful is the film 'Pirates of the Caribbean' to historians investigating the 'Golden Age' of Piracy?

An interactive strategy game forms the hub of the unit.

Students write up analyses at different points of the unit, and then turn this into a project which in the case of my own students sometimes ran into 5000 words of highly impressive essay-writing!

Students investigating the following key elements prior to writing their essay at the end of the study:


Powerpoint Slide: Introduction

Have this up on the whiteboard as the students enter the classroom so they can be thinking about the unit before it begins.

Introductory Worksheet: How Accurate is 'Pirates of the Caribbean'? to the historian of the 'Golden Age of Piracy'?

This worksheet gets students familiar with the key areas to be investigated. They organise themselves into 'crews', elect a 'captain' in preparation for the strategy game at the heart of the unit, and name their pirate ship. They also use the following two videos, along with a written account, to develop some basic knowledge. A quick factual test will then be given to each team to decide how many 'gold coins' they will start off with in the game.

Starter video: How accurate is 'Pirates of the Caribbean'?

Starter Video: The 'Golden Age of Piracy'

How far is Jack Sparrow based on genuine Pirates?

Display Work from the 'who was Jack Sparrow?' research

Research instructions | 'Wanted Poster' Template

The first thing we investigate is how far “Jack Sparrow” is based on actual pirates.
The class conducts a discussion about the sorts of things we know about “Jack Sparrow” from “Pirates of the Caribbean”.
Students are then allocated different pirates to research. They record their findings in the 'Wanted Poster' Template (which can be printed off as a display piece in class).

Feedback Phase - How far is Jack Sparrow based on genuine pirates?

Each 'crew' pool their findings to complete this worksheet, which encourages them to test key points about Jack Sparrow to determine if they match what we know about one or more of the pirates that they have now researched. This is followed by a quiz round which enables each 'ship' and its crew to win gold coins in preparation for the strategy game that will follow. A completed teacher version is available.

Useful Video Clips:
William Kidd (9 mins)
Henry Jennings (9 mins)
Henry Morgan (20 mins)
Jack Rackham (10 mins)
Ann Bonney / Mary Read (7 mins)
Bart Roberts (15 mins)
Blackbeard [1] (13 mins)
Blackbeard [2] (13 mins)

Caribbean Pirates - The Strategy Game!

Fearsome Pirates at the International School of Toulouse!

In the game - which is played at various points throughout the remainder of the unit - groups of students (each representing a ‘crew’) move their ships around a board representing the Caribbean. They aim to build up their store of gold by successfully attacking settlements in the region and by attacking each other’s ships. A successful attack is only possible by answering factual questions correctly.

The game gives students a fantastic incentive to build up their factual knowledge throughout the unit - because progress in the game is determined by how successfully the team is able to answer questions based on what they have learned about the Golden Age of Piracy.
The game is played across various lessons (the positions of each ship / the amount of gold held by each team should roll over to each subsequent ‘round).
The first ‘round’ of the game can be played after have completed their initial research about pirates (which forms the basis of one batch of the available questions).
Thereafter, it should be alternated with the other worksheets (e.g. on the Pirates Code) which broaden the amount of test questions available: a format of 30m on worksheets and 30m on the activity is a good idea.
At the end of the main unit, and just before students start on their individual write-up, the ‘gold’ held by each team can be traded in for chocolates. Let students know this outcome before they start the game - it really fires them up!

How accurately is Weaponry used in the Pirates of the Caribbean?

Weaponry in the films: Evidence of Accuracy | Video Clip

The Pirates of the Caribbean films do a good job in using historically accurate weaponry. This worksheet and this accompanying video clip helps students understand how and why.

How accurately is the Pirate Code reflected in the Pirates of the Caribbean?

Pirate Code - Introduction Video Clip (1 minute)

The Pirate Code: Overview

In this activity students will get an overview of some of the central rules of Pirates and consider why they existed. A teacher version is available.

To complete this task they will use the following resources in addition:

Pirate Codes: Comparisons and Contrasts with the film

This exercise gets students to compare and contrast the different pirate codes side by side to help decide which pirate had the most reasonable terms of service. A teacher version is available.

Table: Comparisons and Contrasts between different pirates
and / or
Venn: Comparisons and Contrasts between different pirates

This could be used as an extension activity if time is pressing, but otherwise should be used as a standard part of the unit.

How far are Sea Myths accurately portrayed in the Pirates of the Caribbean?

The Flying Dutchman, Davy Jones, the Kraken and Calypso | Primary Sources on the Flying Dutchman

Students are presented with information about the ways in which various sea myths are depicted in the film. Firstly, we use some primary sources which show the evolution of the Flying Dutchman myth to test the accuracy of the film. Then students conduct their own research on the remaining aspects of the film to reach a conclusion. There are teacher notes available.

Conclusions: End of Unit Project Task

End of Unit Project: Instructions / Markscheme

To round the unit off, students produce an individual research project bringing their findings together using this helpsheet. The mark scheme is based closely on those used for the ActiveHistory Mysteries so that students can build upon their previous progress.

Revision / End of Unit Quizzes


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High Park Lodge, Edstaston Wem, Shropshire, England, SY4 5RD. Telephone/Fax: 01939 233909

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ActiveHistory is the work of full-time history teacher Russel Tarr

1998-2021 Russel Tarr, Limited (Reg. 6111680)

High Park Lodge, Edstaston Wem, Shropshire, England, SY4 5RD. Telephone/Fax: 01939 233909

All rights reserved


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