Egypt and Ancient Civilizations

The Four Cradles of of Eastern Civilization: A frustration in teaching social studies is the lack of time.  Of the four ancient cradles (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Indus, China), I have decided to focus on Egypt rather than “brush” all four... however it is important that we know where the “cradles of civilization were located,” so today’s lesson will stress that.

The Fine Print: Content Standards.... A. (Geography)  Students in Wisconsin will learn about geography through the study of the relationships among people, places, and  environments. B. (History) Students in Wisconsin will learn about the history of Wisconsin, the United States, and the world, examining change and continuity over time in order to develop historical perspective, explain historical relationships, and analyze issues that affect the present and the future.

Performance Standards....A.8.7 Describe the movement of people, ideas, diseases, and products throughout the world   A.8.8 Describe and analyze the ways in which people in different regions of the world interact with their physical environments through vocational and recreational activities  A.8.9 Describe how buildings and their decoration reflect cultural values and ideas, providing examples such as cave paintings, pyramids, sacred cities, castles, and cathedrals  A.8.10 Identify major discoveries in science and technology and describe their social and economic effects on the physical and human environment  A.8.11 Give examples of the causes and consequences of current global issues, such as the expansion of global markets, the urbanization of the developing world, the consumption of natural resources, and the extinction of species, and suggest possible responses by various individuals, groups, and nations --B.8.7 Identify significant events and people in the major eras of United States and world history B.8.8 Identify major scientific discoveries and technological innovations and describe their social and economic effects on society  B.8.10 Analyze examples of conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among groups, societies, or nations  B.8.12 Describe how history can be organized and analyzed using various criteria to group people and events chronologically, geographically, thematically, topically, and by issues.

Unit Objectives.... The students will learn… 1) the four original places of ancient civilization, 2) necessary conditions for the founding of a civilization, 3) conditions in Egypt that allowed the development of thought and invention, 4) the influence of geography on ancient Egypt, 5) the rise and fall of Egypt based on conflict and economic expansion.


The student in grades 5-12 should understand

  • the major characteristics of civilization and how civilizations emerged in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus valley.
  • how agrarian societies spread and new states emerged in the third and second millennia BCE.
  • the political, social, and cultural consequences of population movements and militarization in Eurasia in the second millennium BCE.
  • major trends in Eurasia and Africa from 4000 to 1000 BCE.
    The student in grades 5-12 should understand
  • innovation and change from 1000-600 BCE: horses, ships, iron, and monotheistic faith.
  • the emergence of Aegean civilization and how interrelations developed among peoples of the eastern Mediterranean and Southwest Asia, 600-200 BCE.
  • how major religions and large-scale empires arose in the Mediterranean basin, China, and India, 500 BCE-300 CE.
  • the development of early agrarian civilizations in Mesoamerica.
  • major global trends from 1000 BCE-300 CE.
The "Four Cradles" were: Nile River (Egypt), Tigris-Euphrates Rivers (Mesopotamia), Indus River (India-Pakistan), and Yellow River (China).

Friday, September 12th Introduction to Ancient Civilizations  repeat... Monday, September 15th

What We are Doing:
1) There is evidence that human beings in our current form have populated the earth for at least 200,000 years, with the advent of primitive tools being used around 50,000 years ago.  Humans survived in mostly nomadic, small tribes, going to where they were most likely to find food.  In four separate places around the Eastern Hemisphere, four civilizations developed, all along rivers that flooded.  Because of this, humans living in these areas were able to grow crops, save food, erect protective walls and begin the development of things like art, science, literature, that make us truly human!

1A) Here is a video review (Ancient Civilizations 01) of what we will be learning today...

2) I'll have the students use "sketch it" on their Ipads to design a place that they would want to settle their "tribe" if they were looking to start a new society.  We'll discuss what natural features they found and why those features are important.

3) I'll use the whiteboard to show on a world map the location of the first four Eastern Hemisphere Ancient Civilizations.  They were Egypt (Nile), Mesopotamia (Tigris-Euphrates), India (Indus), and China (Yellow).

4) I'll use Google Earth to show them the four rivers as they look like today.  How have modern societies controlled the flooding of these rivers?  Are they still important?


• Civiilization: A group of people settling permanently with a consistent food supply.

• All needed a steady water supply that occasionally flooded and to be surrounded by natural protection from enemies.
• Each of the four developed incredible inventions and technologies when most of the rest of the world was throwing rocks at bunnies.

• Nomads/nomadic: Moving from place to place in search of food.
• Rivers... Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Indus, Yellow
• Civilizations... Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China


National Skills: 2) Identifying Cause and Effect, 3) Identifying Implications, 10) Summarizing Ideas, 11) Identifying the Main Idea, 12) Photographs, 15) Maps.

Four pages of reading fun!

Egypt Class Activity Monday, Sept. 12

Quiz of the Day Egypt 1
With Key!

This relief was found from Ancient Mesopotamia. All of these cultures developed beautiful art and buildings.

Tuesday, September 16th Comparing and Contrasting Ancient Civlizations

What We are Doing:

1) I have found an excellent website that breaks down the separate components of each of the four Ancient Civilizations in nice, easy to read, detail.  It can be found by clicking this link.... The River Valley Civilizations.  I have also turned it into a 'text' that kids can download into ghostwriter below in case they don't have an internet connection at home.

2) We are going to do an activity that investigates the similarities and differences between all of these ancient cultures.



• Geography: the land of a particular area.
• Social Structure: the class system of a society as defined by her people and government.
• Polytheistic Religion: Worshipping many gods.
• Monotheistic Religion: Worshipping a single God.
• Economy: How people make money and acquire goods through trade.

• Architecture: How buildings are designed and built.
• Military: How a country or society defends itself from invasion or attacks other countries.

ASSIGNMENT: The students show make four slides, each slide showing a different early civilization with a map, a photo of the river, and some building from that ancient culture.

National Skills: 1) Drawing Conclussions, 3) Making Inferences, 6) Restating Information, 10) Summarizing Ideas, 11) Identifying the Main Idea.

Ancient Civilizations Text Packet
From the River Valley Civilizations, on line at

Compare and Contrast Activity for the Ancient Civlilizations
Done in class, mostly.

The Nile River gently floods every spring, bringing new top soil to the fields around the river.

Wednesday, September 17th Focus on Egypt

What We are Doing:

The Egyptians founded a civilization 5000 years ago that put humanity on the path of discovery, invention, science, and exploration.  The set the course of world history that will always affect our lives everyday.

1) I"ll show the students a video I made on the Major Features of Egypt...A Google Earth Tour!

2) We'll look at a map of modern Egypt on Google Earth, noticing where Egypt's major geographical features are.

3) We'll watch excerpts of a video: Egypt, Gift of the Nile (7 minutes)



• Egypt was divided into two separate kingdoms, the Upper and Lower Kingdoms.
• The Nile River gently floods every spring, bringing new top soil to the fields.  This allowed the Egyptians to remain in one place for several generations.

• 99% of Egyptians live within 10 miles of the Nile... or in 1% of the country.


National Skills: 1) Drawing Conclussions, 2) Identifying Cause and Effect, 3) Making Inferences, 12) Photographs, 14) Drawing and Diagrams, 15) Maps.

Thursday, September 18th Egyptian Geography

What We are Doing:


2) I passed out a paper sheet of a map of Egypt, asking the students to label the most important geographical features on these maps.  We've had a lot of technical difficulties with the wireless and this is plan B.

Extension: if you complete the map activity and are confident that you could get an A on a Egyptian geography quiz, you can watch some of the following...

Egyptian Culture cartoon video

How much do you know about Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt: National Geographic

Egypts Geographic Challenge


Societies throughout history are divided into social classes based on jobs and money

Wednesday, September 18th Ancient Egyptian Social Order
Thursday, September 19th, Friday, September 20th
Monday, September 21st 
Ancient Egyptian Social Order Imovies

What We are Doing:

1ST, WE WILL REVIEW IMPORTANT EGYPTIAN GEOGRAPHICAL POINTS: Watch this video from the Egyptian Pharoah, Fuzzmohse, as he explains important Egyptian geographical points.

I will organize students into groups of four. Each student in the first group will draw a card from a container, record his or her role in ancient Egypt, and return the cards to the container. I'll repeat the procedure with each group. Each student in each group will have a different role to play; students in one group might have peers in another group who will be investigating the same role or job.

Students in each group pool their cards. The four members of each group are responsible for using print and online sources to gather information about all four of the roles or jobs their team has drawn. I'll give students two or three class periods to complete their research. As students do the research, they should consider the following question:

Based on the information you have been able to gather, where on the social scale do you think the people who held those positions stood? Which of the four positions you are investigating probably was the most important, had the highest prestige, or was held in the highest regard?

I'll challenge students to envision a class structure and to organize the jobs or roles they research in order of their importance.  Each student will be responsible for making a single keynote page that they will email to the highest among them who will then form it into a single keynote.

When students complete their research, we'll write all 12 roles or jobs on a board or chart. One job or role at a time, I'll ask students to tell me what they learned about the people who held those positions. We'll take notes off the whiteboard. As students learn about the roles their group did not explore, they should try to envision where each group might have fit into the hierarchy of class or importance in the Egyptian culture.

Next, I'll have each group draw a triangle on a sheet of paper. Students will transform this triangle, which happens to be in the shape of an Egyptian pyramid, into a diagram reflecting the ancient Egyptian culture. I'll ask: Who was the most important person in Egyptian culture? Who was next in importance? Explain that those positions should appear near the top of the pyramid. I'll ask: What were the more common jobs held by the largest number of people? I'll explain that those jobs should appear near the bottom of the chart. The students will talk about the jobs in their groups as they use their pyramids to create a diagram of Egyptian class structure.

I'll then bring the groups together to share their diagrams and their thoughts. Was there a consensus or were there differences in the hierarchy in which the student groups placed the jobs?

at which students will find a diagram offering a view of where people who filled each role or job stood in the social order, is a good place to start the research.  Here is a good site. • SITE #2SITE #3SITE #4

Graded:  Students create pyramid structures that reflects some of the jobs in today's society. Then they write brief essays comparing the social structure in ancient Egypt with the social structure they see in society today.Due Thursday.

The jobs:

  • craftspeople
  • doctors
  • engineers
  • farmers
  • high priests
  • nobles
  • pharaoh
  • priests
  • scribes (writers)
  • soldiers
  • tomb builders
  • vizier (high governmental official)


Society: how people fullfil functions in a large group such as a country, a city, etc.
pharaoh: the monarch (king or queen) of Egypt.
pyramid: funeral structures for Egyptian nobles.

PROJECT: Each student writes about their roll and then will get filmed as we make an imovie about the Egyptian Social Classes.  There are two groups 1st and 3rd hour and a single group 2nd hour for a total of five movies being made.

While this is going on, students who have completed their tapings will begin work on a five slide (minimum) keynote featuring four (minimum) Egyptian gods or goddesses.  This keynote will be due on Wednesday.

National Skills: 1) Drawing Conclussions, 4) Making Inferences, 5) Restating Information, 9) Using Ideas in New Contexts, 11) Identifying Main idea, 14) Drawings and Diagrams.




Tuesday, September 24th Ancient Egyptian Mythology- Research

Today will be working on keynotes that show at least four Egyptian gods.  The students are to use their google skills for finding information and then present at least four gods or goddesses on a five slide keynote that will be due tomorrow.  We started these yesterday during the filming for the Egyptian Social Structure projects.

Here is a good website to get started!

This was the first of over 100 pyramids built in ancient Egypt

Wednesday, September 25th Ancient Egyptian Building: The Pyramids

What We are Doing:

1) We are going to look at early Egyptian engineering.  As we study particular structures, we'll study the Pharaohs who made them.

2) I'll be showing parts of a video called "Engineering an Empire - Egypt".  As I do with any video that I show, I will be stopping it frequently and teaching.

3) Students will be recording their notes onto the their Ipads using the Keynote application.  I do not slap in a video and 'let it ride.'  I use it as a teaching tool to show students pictures and video from places that I can't afford to take them too!

There will be a short quiz tomorrow..


Engineer means to "design and build"

MENES (3000BC)
•built first dam at Memphis
•1st to control the Nile
•United Upper and Lower Egypt
•Was the 1st Great Builder

•Built first great pyramid (step pyramid)
•Started pyrmaid building by other pharohs
•Built pyramid so that it was on the west side of the Nile but faced east.


National Skills: 2) Identifying Cause and Effect, 10) Summarizing Ideas, 14) Diagrams and Drawings.

Quiz of the Day for Egyptian Engineering: Menes and Djoser

If the Great Pyramid were dropped directly on top of us, this is how big it would be. 450' high too!

Thursday, September 26th Ancient Egyptian Building: The Pyramids

What We are Doing:

1st, we'll take a short quiz.

1) We're continuing with Pyramid Week and will continue the theme through Friday.

2) I showed the kids how much surface area the Great Pyramid would cover if placed over the school campus (see photo at left).

3) We talked about the human toll of making the Pyramid.  I showed a parts of a film called BBC's Building the Great Pyramid... continue on to part 4

A description of the film follows... Based on the latest archaeological discoveries, and combining dramatic reconstruction, location shooting and state-of-the-art CGI computer effects, this epic film travels back in time to reveal how the mighty structure of the Great Pyramid was built. In the middle of the desert stands an extraordinary human-made monument. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that has survived. With realistic special effects, the film takes us back to ancient Egypt 4,500 years ago, where Nakht (voiced by Omar Sharif), a fictitious laborer, is conscripted from his village by the Nile to join the 25,000-strong workforce in the desert plateau, where an impressive burial site is being constructed for King Khufu. From water-bearer in the limestone quarries, he works his way up through the ranks to senior overseer. Through his eyes viewers can see the construction of the greatest tomb ever known. Brilliantly polished casing stones clad the pyramid and the top (which Nakht helps nudge into place) sparkles with a gold capstone. The base covers 13 acres and is level to within less than one inch. It is aligned to the four points of the compass to near-perfect precision. Inside, an intricate network of passageways leads to three chambers. In one the King will be laid to rest in a vast granite sarcophagus along with unimaginable riches. Here, he will become a medium for all his subjects between heaven and earth, god and man, life and death and all order will depend on him. Why did an ancient people go to these incredible lengths to create such a monument? And how did they go about it?

Discussions will include...
1) We started with a discussion on the "human cost" of building such a massive monument.
2) We discussed if money were no object, would it be a good thing or a bad thing to build a massive multi-billion dollar monument today.
3) We finished the video which does a great job of showing how the Egyptians probably built the Great Pyramid of Khufu.


National Skills: 2) Identifying Cause and Effect, 10) Summarizing Ideas, 14) Diagrams and Drawings.

Friday, September 27th Ancient Egyptian Building: The Pyramids continued

What We are Doing:

There is a new theory on how the Great Pyramid was constructed.  I want the students to check it out while observing the science involved.


I am hoping they will want to finish this on their own!

The Indus River flows through a part of the world that is very important to America today.

Monday, September 30th Ancient Civilizations: The Indus River Valley

What We are Doing:

What We are Doing:

1) We'll be learning about the Ancient Indus River Valley civilization today.  We are going to be using an outstanding website from the BBC for the basis of today's activities.

The outline of what we are going to be looking at is below.  To go to that section, click here!

Indus River Valley Artifacts Activity
We are going to make a trip to the Indus River Valley and Pakistan and try to determine what different artifacts from the Ancient Indus River people were used for.

Ancient Babylon was a great empire in Mesopotamia

Tuesday, October 1st Mesopotamia

What We are Doing:

1) We are going to learn about the great ancient cities and geographical landforms of Mesopotamia that existed between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern day Iraq.

2) We'll begin by looking at different maps of the region.  Click here to enter the site we will be working on.

3) We'll next become Babylonian farmers and try to produce enough crops to stay alive on this simulation.  Unfortunately, this uses ShockWave technology and does not work with Ipads...only with computers.  We'll do it as a class activity today.

4) Next will discuss the famous Ziggaurat of Ur. Click here to open a pict of the building. Click on different parts of the complex to find out what each part was needed for.  Sketch this in Sketch it! Be ready to explain what you learned.

5) Check this out: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Watch this short documentary.

Part II of the Hanging Gardens Video


The Fertile Crescent: stretches from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.  Many early civilizations developed there.
Tigris and Euphrates Rivers: One of the four early birthplaces of Eastern Hemisphere civilization.
Mesopotamia: The name generally given to the civilizations that developed on the on the banks of the Tigris-Euphrates.
Babylon: One of the largest cities and empires to develop in Mesopotamia.
Tributary: A small branch of a larger river.  A tributary flows into the bigger river.
Source: The beginning of a river.
Mouth: The end of a river...larger rivers often form a delta, which fans out before reaching a sea or ocean.

National Skills: 1) Drawing Conclussions, 2) Identifying Cause and Effect, 3), Identifying Implications, 4) Making Inferences, 10) Summarizing Ideas, 12) Photographs, 14) Drawing and Diagrams, 15) Maps.


Over 8000 life size soldiers, all unique from each other, we're unearthed in 1974. They are over 2000 years old.

Wednesday, October 2nd: Yellow River and Ancient China

What We are Doing:

1) We'll watch a short video on the discovery of Chin's famous Terracotta army.  It's one of the greatest, recent, archeological finds.

2) Go to this site: The Minneapolis Institute of Art China's Exhibit.  Collect one artifact from the following dynasties (save these to a keynote, each with a new slide)... Shang, Chou, Ch'in, and Han.  Explain what each artifact is and make sure the name of the dynasty that the artifact was from is at the top of the slide.



Dynasty: A family that rules a country for a long period of time.  Not just a single person, but child after child.

The Shang were the first dynasty to leave written records.
The Chou gained power in part from their ability to extract iron.
In a feudal system, the rulers appoint nobles to control smaller parts of an empire.
Confucius tried to develop good government.
The Ch'in rulers clearly explained and strictly enforced laws.
The Legalists tried to suppress all thoughts that disagreed with their philosophy.
China grew into a powerful empire during the Han Dynasty
During the Han Dynasty, the Chinese invented paper, Chinese writers recorded the history of their land, and the Chinese first learned of Buddhism.

Thursday, October 3rd Review

What We are Doing:

1) We are going to reviewing what we learned from all four Ancient Civilizations.

2) The kids will play a Jeopardy! Review game against partners.  It can be accessed by clicking here.

Egypt and Ancient Civilization Practice Test


Friday, October 4th Exam

What We are Doing:

The Exam will take all period.