Aztec, Inca, Maya

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Core Knowledge - Lesson Plans
March 13-15, 1997
Aztec, Inca, Maya
Grade Level: 5
Presented by: Laura Eberle and Sherri Milton, Coronado Village Elementary, San Antonio, Texas
Special Thanks to: Murray Mux,, Serna Elementary, San Antonio, Texas Chris Gonzalez, Coronado
Village Elementary
Length of Unit: 20 days
I. ABSTRACT
This is a unit written for fifth grade on the Maya, Aztec and Inca civilizations. It covers, in detail, the
topics outlined in the world civilization strand of the Core Knowledge Sequence for fifth grade, as well as
the geography topics related to those civilizations. The unit is comprised of fifteen lessons. The time
needed to teach the unit may vary from three to six weeks.
This unit is mainly written for social studies, but it also offers suggestions for integration with language
arts. The unit is currently being taught in an inclusion classroom setting, which includes special education
students as well as those in our gifted and talented program. The unit provides suggestions for
modifications and extensions to meet a wide variety of learning needs.
II. OVERVIEW
In studying the three great Meso-American civilizations of the Maya, Aztec, and Inca, it is hoped that the
students will come to understand four main concepts that are woven throughout the unit. These are ideas
that transcend the topics being studied--universal truths that students will remember and apply to other
studies throughout their lives.
First, that students will understand the complex nature of a given culture. They will learn that a
culture such as the Maya or Aztec is a rich combination of history, literature, art, religion, architecture,
education, social structure and so on.
Second, students will understand how belief systems affect a society's actions. The religion of these
three cultures permeated every aspect of the lives of the people, from the practice of human sacrifices to
the game of pok-ol-pok. This unit will give students the opportunity to learn about those belief systems,
and then evaluate how those systems positively or negatively affected each society.
Third, it is our goal that students understand how thriving societies maximize their resources.
Economic success is based on this ability. All of these civilizations adapted to the conditions of the
environment and made good use of their resources, and were thus flourishing civilizations that lasted many
centuries.
Finally, we hope that students will develop an awareness of place. There are reasons why events occur
in certain places, and the rise of these great civilizations is an excellent example of this concept. How did
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the Andes Mountains influence the society of the Inca? What was the result of the Aztec nation being built
on a swamp? These questions will help students begin to think about the importance of geography.
Each lesson in this unit will touch on one or more of these key concepts. In addition, every lesson targets a
specific skill objective that students should meet. Examples of skills that are taught include summarizing,
comparing and contrasting, map skills, research skills, descriptive writing, and so on.
The specific content taught in this unit is based on the Core Knowledge sequence for fifth grade in the
world civilization strand. In some cases, that content has been elaborated upon to maintain fluidity and
heighten student involvement. The unit is comprised of the following fifteen lessons:
Lesson One: Introduction to the Maya
Lesson Two: Maya Social Structure
Lesson Three: Maya Economic System
Lesson Four: Maya Daily Life
Lesson Five: The Maya Mystery
Lesson Six: Origins of the Aztec
Lesson Seven: The City of Tenochtitlan
Lesson Eight: Aztec Religion and Warrior Culture
Lesson Nine: Aztec Social Classes and Daily Life
Lesson Ten: Wrap-up on the Aztec
Lesson Eleven: Introduction to the Inca
Lesson Twelve: Origins of the Inca
Lesson Thirteen: Incan Agriculture and Food
Lesson Fourteen: Incan Social Structure
Lesson Fifteen: Incan Roads and Bridges
III. BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE
As any teacher knows, it is difficult to teach content about which you know little or nothing. In doing
research for this unit, much preparation time was devoted to reading about these fascinating cultures.
There are many excellent books on the Aztec, Inca and Maya. No single source can answer every question
a teacher might have in teaching this unit, but there are two we found to be invaluable. They are:
Mayan, Incan & Aztec Civilizations. (See below). This book is great for a little bit of information on just
about any topic related to all three civilizations. For example, some of the topics on the Maya include
religion, cities, writing, mathematics and astronomy, arts and crafts, agriculture, and trade. The book was
written for high school teachers to use in the classroom. It is a great teacher reference, but also has
corresponding activities on each topic that students can complete.
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Aztec, Inca & Maya Eyewitness Books. (See below) This book is good because it provides an overview of
many different topics which are taught in this unit. It also includes many photographs and illustrations of
artifacts from all three cultures.
IV. RESOURCES
This unit made use of many resources, both for teacher information/ideas and for student reading. While
many of these are interchangeable, in order to teach this unit as it is written there are several resources that
are critical. They are as follows:
Teacher Resources
Baquedano, Elizabeth. Aztec, Inca & Maya Eyewitness Books. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993.
ISBN 0-679-83883-X
Hakim, Joy. The First Americans. (History of U.S. series). New York: Oxford University Press., 1993.
ISBN 0-19-507746-6
3. Kramme, Michael. Mayan, Incan, & Aztec Civilizations. USA: Mark Twain Media Carson-Dellosa
Publishing Company, Inc. 1996. (CD-1886)
Matthies, Susanna. Egyptians, Maya, Minoans. Santa Barbara, CA: The Learning Works, Inc., 1986. ISBN
0-88160-122-5
Nicholson, Robert and Claire Watts. The Aztecs. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1994. ISBN
0-7910-2725-2
Nicholson, Robert. The Maya. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1994.
ISBN 0-7910-2729-5
Strohl, Mary and Susan Schneck. Mayas, Aztecs, Incas: Cooperative Learning Activities. New York:
Scholastic Professional Books, 1994. ISBN 0-59049504-6.
B. Student Resources
The Maya Kids Discover Magazine. New York: KIDS DISCOVER, 1994. ISSN 1054-2868
McKissack, Patricia. The Aztec. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1985. ISBN 0-516-41936-6
McKissack, Patricia. The Inca. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1985. ISBN 0-516-41268-X
(We had class sets of these and used them for several lessons.)
Other Resources found later
1. Bartok, Mira and Christine Ronan. Ancient Mexico (Stencils). USA: GoodYear Books, 1993. ISBN
0-673-36055-5
2. *Bartok, Mira and Christine Ronan. The Incas and Their Ancestors (Stencils). USA: Good Year Books,
1994. ISBN 0-673-36156-X
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3. Green, John. Life in Ancient Mexico Coloring Book. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1991. ISBN
0-486-26705-9
4. Jacobs, William Jay. Pizarro: Conqueror of Peru. New York: Franklin Watts, 1994.
ISBN 0-531-15725-3
5. * Larson, Linda. Thematic Unit Mayans, Aztecs and Incas. Huntington Beach, California,: Teacher
Created Materials, Inc., 1996. ISBN 1-55734-595-3
6. * Maestro, Betsy and Giulio. The Discovery of the Americas. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1991. ISBN
0-590-46515-5
7. * National Geographic. "Lost Kingdoms of the Maya." 60 minutes
FICTION
Clark, Ann Nolan. Secret of the Andes. New York: Puffin Books, 1980. ISBN 0-14-030926-8 (Inca
chapter book)
Dupre, Judith. The Mouse Bride. New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc., 1993. ISBN 0-679-83273-4 (Maya folk
tale)
* Greger, C. Shana. The Fifth and Final Sun. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994. ISBN
0-395-67438-7 (Aztec tale)
4. Lattimore, Deborah Nourse. The Flame of Peace. Mexico: Harper-Trophy, 1987. ISBN 0-06-443272-6
(Aztec tale)
Mathews, Sally Schofer. The Sad Night. New York: Clarion Books, 1994.
ISBN 0-395-63035-5 (account of La Noche Triste--Aztec)
6. Parke, Marilyn and Sharon Panik. Quetzalcoatl--Tale of Chocolate. USA: Fearon Teacher Aids/Simon
and Schuster Supplementary Education Group, 1992. ISBN 0-86653-965-4
7. Parke, Marilyn and Sharon Panik. Quetzalcoatl--Tale of Corn. USA: Fearon Teacher Aids/Simon and
Schuster Supplementary Education Group, 1994. ISBN 0-86653-959-X
Parke, Marilyn and Sharon Panik. Quetzalcoatl--Tale of the Ball Game. USA: Fearon Teacher Aids/Simon
and Schuster Supplementary Education Group, 1992.
ISBN 0-86653-962-X
9. Rhoads, Dorothy. The Corn Grows Ripe. New York: Puffin Books, 1993.
ISBN 0-14-036313-0 (Maya chapter book)
Wisniewski, David. Rain Player. New York: Clarion Books, 1991. ISBN 0-395- 55112-9 (Maya folk tale)
V. LESSONS
A. Lesson One: Introduction to the Maya (2 days)
1. Objectives
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Students will distinguish between present-day and ancient Meso-America and identify the following on a
map: Central America, Mexico, Guatemala, Yucatan Peninsula, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific & Atlantic
oceans.
b. Students will work with a partner to find information in a magazine source.
2. Materials
Kids Discover magazines "The Maya" (class set)
b. Discovery of the Americas, by Maestro
World map
d. Student maps (Appendix A)
Scavenger hunt worksheets (Appendix B)
3. Prior Knowledge
Introduction to the civilizations of Meso-America (1st grade)
4. Key Vocabulary
Meso-America, civilization
5. Procedures
a. Using a large world map, tell students that we are about to begin a study of three great early civilizations
that arose in Central and South America. Remind them that the countries we see today on the map were at
first uninhabited lands.
Review how the first Americans crossed the land bridge, spread through the Americas, and eventually
began to settle down, farm, and develop civilizations. Read Discovery of the Americas through p. 11. Tell
students that the Maya are the first great civilization we will be studying and show pictures of some the
great Mayan temples and cities to arouse their interest.
Locate on large map the regions, countries, and bodies of water listed above. Discuss climate and
vegetation in the tropic region. Students will then label and color individual current-day maps correctly
(Appendix A).
(Next class period)
d. Initiate study of the Maya by holding a class scavenger hunt using the Kids Discover magazine.
Students will work with a partner to scour the magazine looking for answers to worksheet questions
(Appendix B).
Go over the answers together and chart their responses to question #10. These should focus the students'
interest and provide a starting point for the rest of the unit. This would also be a good time to do a KWL
chart if desired.
6. Modifications
Provide a typed list of regions, countries, and bodies of water. Allow students to cut and paste list if
necessary (for poor fine-motor skills). Plot points on the map for easy location. Provide a clear and
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accurate map example.
Provide magazine page numbers next to each question. Shorten assignment; target main idea information.
Highlight text, identifying the important information to answer questions. Use cooperative grouping and
peer tutoring (select appropriate partners).
7. Evaluation
Assess student maps for accuracy and neatness. Scavenger hunt sheets may be graded if desired.
B. Lesson Two: Mayan Social Structure
1. Objective
a. Students will identify the four class levels of Mayan society, and describe the duties and privileges of
each.
2. Materials
Overhead--class pyramid (Appendix C)
"Complex Social Structure" from Egyptians, Maya, Minoans pp. 62-63
2 sheets of plain white paper and 1 sheet of stiff paper per student
The Maya (Nicholson) or any book with pictures of peasant huts
and city temples
3. Prior Knowledge
Class distinctions in the feudal society of the Middle Ages (4th grade) Class distinctions in Ancient Rome
(patricians and plebeians - 3rd grade)
4. Key Vocabulary
pyramid, social classes, priest, nobility, peasant, slave
5. Procedures
a. Discuss "pyramid of power." Use school hierarchy to model: principal,
vice-principal, teachers, students
See if students can develop a pyramid for USA (do with partner and share).
Tell students that the Maya were divided into strict social classes that determined their way of life. Discuss
pyramid of power in Mayan civilization using overhead of Appendix C:
ruler, priests, nobility: merchants, military, peasant farmers, slaves
Read about each of the levels from handout "Complex Social Structure" and The Maya pp. 10-11. Show
the differences between peasant huts and the temples which the priests and nobility lived in.
Activity: Students will create a Maya pyramid of power (Dinah Zike flap book--see example in Appendix
CC). Each level should include an illustration and several sentences describing the duties/privileges of that
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level.
6. Modifications
a. Cooperative grouping and peer tutoring (select appropriate partners).
Highlight text, identifying important information. Provide outline of teacher lecture and key terms.
Provide a clear and accurate example of flap book. Pre-fold and pre-label flap book if necessary. Provide a
typed list of sentences describing the duties/privileges of each level for student to cut, match, paste and
illustrate.
7. Evaluation
Assess student pyramids for accuracy and depth of information.
8. Extension
a. Discuss with students which level they would want to be if they were Maya people. How do you think
the peasants felt? etc.
*Thanks to Murray Mux at Serna Elementary in San Antonio for these great ideas!
C. Lesson Three: Mayan Economic System (2 days?)
1. Objectives
a. Students will describe the Mayan tribute system and identify the roles of each of the following: batab,
plom, nacom, holpop, tupil, priest, lord and ruler, and peasant.
b. Students will compare and contrast the economic system of the Maya to that of the United States today.
2. Materials
Handout: "Trade is Lifeblood to the Maya" (Appendix D)
"Collecting Taxes" drama--1 copy per student (Appendix E)
Props for drama: paper sacks, construction paper, cookies
Pictures of Tulum
3. Prior Knowledge
Understanding of the purpose and effects of taxation in colonial America
(3rd grade)
4. Key Vocabulary
a. batab, plom, nacom, holpop, tupil, priest, lord and ruler, peasant
5. Procedures
Show students an American tax form. Ask if they know what it is and lead a discussion on how and why
Americans support the government by paying taxes every year. If desired, review issues of taxation in
Colonial
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America.
Explain to students that all civilizations have some type of organized economic system to share goods and
services. Review from Lesson Two the Mayan pyramid of power, and brainstorm how they think the
Mayan system might work (point out that the Maya did not have money).
c. Write the following on the board: "Trade is lifeblood to the Maya." Allow for student analysis and then
explain that the Maya met their need for goods and services through trade instead of money. Explain that
because the climate was so conducive to farming, the Maya only had to work their land about 50 days out
of the year. This gave them time to practice a trade as well, and time to provide services for the
government. Trading took place at the market in cities. Have students read "Trade is Lifeblood to the
Maya" (Appendix D) and highlight all the things that were traded in the market. List these on board; each
student chooses one.
Activity: Explain tribute system, which was comprised of a tax and work-service, with the drama
"Collecting Taxes" (Appendix E). List the following roles on the board to define as the drama is read:
batab, plom, lord and ruler, priest, nacom, holpop, tupil and peasant. Read the drama as a class and act it
out by trading market products.
6. Modifications
a. Highlight text, identifying important information. Provide outline of teacher lecture and key terms.
Preview vocabulary and specific participant roles. Assist students with selecting a role (short reading part).
7. Evaluation: Quick-write
Project: Maya marketplace from pp. 56-57 of Mayas Aztecs Incas (Strohl & Schneck)
D. Lesson Four: Daily Life (Research - 2 days)
1. Objectives
a. Students will develop an appreciation of the complex nature of the Maya culture, and how it compares
to our own.
b. Students will develop research and social skills.
c. Students will describe Maya clothing, fashion, recreation, food and family life.
2. Materials
Articles from Egyptians, Maya, Minoans:
b. What Price Beauty (fashion) pp. 50-51
The Maya Look (clothing) pp. 48-49
d. Pok-a-Tok (recreation) pp. 64-65
Excerpts from The Maya
f. Food (pp. 9, 24)
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Families and Children (pp. 20-21)
h. Note-taking sheet (Appendix F)
Legal size white paper and large construction paper
Filmstrip "The Maya" -- Ancient Civilizations of the Americas
3. Prior Knowledge
a. An understanding that different cultures have unique characteristics (all grades) 4. Procedures
a. Review from KWL chart what students want to learn.
Explain that in this lesson, each group of students will become an expert on one aspect of Maya daily life.
Number the categories listed above on the board. Have a member from each group roll a die; the number
rolled will determine which category that group will research.
Give to each group 4 copies of the appropriate handouts. (Each student should have a copy to use.) Instruct
students that they will have the rest of the class period to read their material and come up with a way to
present that information to the rest of the class. Presentations should include some sort of visual aid, and
every member must take part in the presentation. (Students will continue work and additional research
during project time and as homework if necessary.)
(Next class period)
Each group presents its information. The rest of the class should be taking notes (Appendix F) and asking
questions. Participation as presenters and as audience should be evaluated.
e. Show filmstrip "The Maya" (Ancient Civilizations of the Americas) and have students add to their
note-taking as appropriate.
Activity: Students will create a flap book with information and illustrations on each category (use legal
size paper).
5. Modifications
a. Preview vocabulary and specific research topics. Assist students with selecting a topic (possibly a topic
with low level reading material or a topic which is easy to research and present).
b. Highlight text identifying important information from handout. Provide outline of key terms and main
idea for presentation. Provide a written outline of expectations and visual aid requirements. Provide
examples of visual aids and materials if necessary.
Allow students to take notes; however, provide a clear concise copy of notes. Adjust grading requirements
as needed.
Provide a clear and accurate example of flap book. Pre-fold and pre-label flap book if necessary. Provide a
typed list of sentences describing the daily life of the Mayas for students to cut, match, paste and illustrate
for each topic.
6. Evaluation
Students may be assessed on their group work, their participation in group presentation, their participation
as audience members, and on their flap books.
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E. Lesson Five: The Maya Mystery
1. Objective
a. Students will analyze existing theories of the Maya's disappearance.
2. Materials
"The Maya Mystery" from Egyptians, Maya, Minoans pp. 66-67
b. "The Great Mayan Mystery" from M, I, & A Civilizations p. 36
Construction paper
d. Template for booklet (Appendix G)
Video: "Lost Kingdoms of the Maya," National Geographic.
3. Key Vocabulary
theory, abandon, mystery
4. Procedures
Present the following scenario to students: Imagine that all of the people in Houston suddenly abandoned
the city without leaving behind any indication of where they had gone or why they had left. Why might
people abruptly abandon a city? Brainstorm ideas on board. (From Egyptians, Maya, Minoans)
Explain that something similar happened to the Maya between AD 850 and 900. (Add to class time line.)
Read "The Maya Mystery" and/or "The Great Mayan Mystery" and discuss the theories presented.
c. Students will create a combination folder book to present theories of the Maya's sudden disappearance
and to state what they think happened.
(Use construction paper for the cover, and template for writing on the inside--Appendix G.)
To wrap up study of the Maya, fill in the "L" portion of KWL chart.
e. Show National Geographic video on the Maya if time allows.
5. Modifications
a. Highlight text, identifying important information from handout. Provide outline of key terms and
theories from teacher lecture and text.
Provide a clear and accurate example of folder book. Pre-fold and pre-cut folder book if necessary.
Provide a typed list of sentences describing the theories of the Maya's sudden disappearance. To assess
student understanding, add other unrelated theories requiring students to cut and paste only the correct
theories. Adjust grading requirements as needed.
6. Evaluation
Assess folder books for accuracy and creativity, as well as for supporting their ideas.
F. Lesson Six: Origins of the Aztecs
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1. Objective
a. Students will compare and contrast the historical and mythological accounts of the origins of the Aztec
civilization.
2. Materials
"In Search of a Homeland" handout for students (Appendix H)
b. The Aztec (McKissack), pp. 9-15
Picture, overhead or example of Mexican flag
d. White paper for flap books
3. Prior Knowledge
Recognition of Mexico's flag (1st grade)
b. Legend of Rome's origins in myth of Romulus and Remus (3rd grade)
4. Key Vocabulary
origin, civilization, myth
5. Procedures
a. Show students a picture of the Mexican flag. Encourage them to hypothesize about the meaning of the
cactus, eagle and serpent.
Using the maps from Lesson One, review where Mexico is and tell students we are now beginning our
study of the second great Meso-American civilization, the Aztecs. How did the Aztec civilization come
into being?
c. Draw the following chart on the board:
HISTORY MYTH
d. Students read "In Search of a Homeland" (Appendix H). Discuss the mythological origins of the Aztec
nation. Chart information under "myth."
Now have students read from The Aztec, pp. 9-15. Chart information under "History" and give students
additional information from other sources. Also add to "Myth" side. Note important dates and add them to
class time line.
f. Compare and contrast the two versions of the origins of the Aztec civilization. Why did the Aztecs
choose to believe the myth instead of the facts? Can you think of other civilizations who also did this? (the
Romans--myth of Romulus and Remus) Why do you think these symbols still appear on the Mexican flag
today?
Activity: Students will create a two-part flap book that explains the two accounts of the rise of the Aztec
civilization.
6. Modifications
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a. Highlight text, identifying important information from handout. Provide outline of key terms and
information about the myth and the history from teacher lecture and text.
Provide a clear and accurate example of two-part flap book. Pre-fold and pre-cut flap book if necessary.
Provide a typed list of sentences describing both the historical and the mythological origins of the Aztecs.
Require students to determine on which side of the flap book the information belongs; cut and paste
correctly.
7. Evaluation
Assess flap books for accuracy and presentation.
G. Lesson Seven: The City of Tenochtitlan
1. Objectives
a. Students will understand how a society makes the most of its resources.
b. Students will write a descriptive paragraph on the city of Tenochtitlan.
c. Students will define: aqueduct, chinampa, and causeway.
2. Materials
a. The First Americans p. 96
The Aztecs (Nicholson & Watts) for pictures of the city
c. "Tenochtitlan: Clean!" handouts (Appendix I)
Paper for student writing (Appendix J)
e. Life in Ancient Mexico Coloring Book, p. 24-25 -- OPTIONAL
3. Prior Knowledge
Aqueducts in Roman architecture (3rd grade)
Uncleanliness of cities in Europe during the Middle Ages (4th grade)
4. Key Vocabulary
aqueduct, causeway, chinampa
5. Procedures
a. Review from Lesson Six the geographical area of Mexico where the Aztec civilization arose. Tell
students that the Aztec people called their land Anahuac, which meant the land on the edge of the waters.
Here they built an incredible city called Tenochtitlan.
Ask student to close their eyes as you read an account, written by a Spaniard, of what Tenochtitlan was
like. Read "Place of the Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit" from The First Americans. Ask students to share their
mental images of the city. Show them any pictures you can find of the city.
c. Have students read "Tenochtitlan: Clean!" (Appendix I). Define and discuss the following words on a
chart: aqueducts, chinampas, causeways. How did the Aztecs make the most of their land?
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d. Activity: Using Appendix J writing paper, students will write a descriptive paragraph which describes
the city. The paragraph should include the words discussed in Appendix C. Label parts of picture.
6. Modifications
Highlight text, identifying important information from handout. Provide outline of key terms and main
idea from text and lecture.
Provide a typed list of key terms to cut, paste and label the picture. Prepare a paragraph describing
Tenochtitlan, including facts and relevant information as well as incorrect sentences; require students to
draw a line
through a determined number of incorrect sentences.
7. Evaluation
Assess pictures and paragraphs for depth of description and neatness of labeling and coloring.
H. Lesson Eight: Aztec Religion and Warrior Culture
1. Objective
a. Students will understand how the belief system of a society affects its actions.
2. Materials
Excerpt from Mayan, Incan and Aztec Civilizations: "Aztec Religion" pp. 86-87
b. The Aztecs (Nicholson & Watts), pp. 8-13
Brown paper grocery sacks for codices
d. Teacher-made charts of the gods (not necessary but handy)
The Fifth and Final Sun (Greger) -- OPTIONAL
3. Prior Knowledge
a. World religions (1st grade)
4. Key Vocabulary
(names of gods)
5. Procedures
a. On the board, write " the Aztecs" and underneath it make a large number one: The Aztecs
#1
Tell students that for the Aztecs, there was one thing that was the number one concern; one thing that
governed every day of their lives; one thing that was the most important to all of the people, nobility and
commoners alike. What was it? (Allow for ideas) Then write underneath the #1 : PLEASING THE GODS.
b. Who were the Aztec gods? List on chart and discuss:
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Huitzilopochtli:
patron god of the Aztecs
"blue hummingbird"
god of war, god of the sun
sacrifices made to keep him alive
needed blood to survive
2) Quetzalcoatl:
god of learning, hope and healing
"quetzal" = bird; "coatl" = snake
also god of the wind (Ehecatl)
leaders wore feathers of quetzal bird
friendly face
inventor of writing and the calendar
in legend, supposed to come back to decide the fate of the Aztecs
Tlaloc:
god of rain
symbolized by double-headed serpent
children drowned as sacrifice to him in drought
4) Tezcatlipoca:
supreme god and patron of rulers
Lord of the Night
the first sun
Chalchihuitlicue:
goddess of water from springs and seas
Tlaloc's wife
"Our Lady of the Turquoise Skirt"
Read together "Aztec Religion" and excerpts from The Aztecs and discuss their beliefs about the sun god
and how it affected their culture. Talk about the 'flowery wars' fought in order to get victims for sacrifice.
How would the surrounding city-states feel about these wars? (this will be important later, because those
cities became allies of Cortes to fight against the Aztecs.) Discuss how it was an honor to be sacrificed!
(OPTIONAL) Obtain a copy of The Fifth and Final Sun by C. Shana Greger and read it to the class. This
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book tells the myth of the sun's origin and includes many of the deities introduced in this lesson.
Activity: Students create codices out of paper bags (see directions in
Mayas Aztecs Incas p. 36 Strohl and Schneck). Students cut a long
strip of paper bag and fold it back and forth like a fan. Have them then
use one page for each god, to illustrate and identify key attributes.
6. Modifications
a. Highlight text, identifying important information from handout.
Provide outline of key terms and main idea from text and lecture.
Provide list of gods and their attributes for students to cut, paste and illustrate.
7. Evaluation
Assess codices for neatness and accuracy.
b. Project: Make a serpent mosaic (Cooperative Learning Activities book, Strohl)
Extension: Moral analysis--Does the practice of human sacrifice make the Aztecs "bad" people? Discuss
their system of law and order, which was not cruel or unfair. Did they not know any better?
I. Lesson Nine: Social Classes and Daily Life (Research - 2 days)
1. Objectives:
a. Students will develop an appreciation of the complex nature of the Aztec culture, and how it compares
to our own.
b. Students will develop research and social skills.
c. Students will describe Aztec medicine, art, agriculture, warfare, and games.
2. Materials:
Questions for The Aztec (Appendix K)
b. The Aztec (McKissack)
Various articles for group reading from Mayan, Incan, & Aztec Civilizations:
d. "Aztec Medicine" p. 106
"Aztec Art" p. 97
f. "Aztec Agriculture" p. 103
"Aztec Warfare" p. 109
h. "Aztec Games" p. 100
Note-taking sheet (Appendix L)
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Filmstrip "The Aztecs" (Ancient Civilizations of the Americas)
3. Prior Knowledge
An understanding that different cultures have unique characteristics (all grades)
4. Procedures
a. Show the Diego Rivera mural on the cover of The Aztec. Tell students that it depicts the three social
classes of the Aztecs. Have the brainstorm in groups everything they can about the three classes.
Encourage them to notice what the people are doing, wearing, etc. Share.
b. Students read from The Aztec, p. 23-41 with a partner and complete questions (Appendix K).
At the end of the class period:
Explain that to conclude this lesson, each group of students will become an expert on one aspect of Aztec
daily life. Number the categories listed above on the board. Have a member from each group roll a die; the
number rolled will determine which category that group will research.
d. Give to each group 4 copies of the appropriate handouts. (Each student should have a copy to use.)
Instruct students that they will have the class period tomorrow to come up with a way to present that
information to the rest of the class. Presentations should include some sort of visual aid and every member
must take part in the presentation.
(Next class period)
e. Groups work together on their topic
Each group presents their information. The rest of the class should be taking notes (using Appendix L) and
asking questions. Participation as presenters and as audience should be evaluated.
g. Show filmstrip "The Aztecs" (Ancient Civilizations of the Americas) and have students add to their
note-taking as appropriate.
h. Activity: Students will create a flap book with information and illustrations on each category (use legal
size paper).
6. Modifications
Highlight text, identifying the important information from handout. Provide outline of key terms and the
main idea of the Aztec's social classes and daily life from text and lecture.
Preview vocabulary and specific research topics. Assist students with selecting a topic.
Highlight text, identifying important information from handout. Provide outline of key terms and main
idea for presentation. Provide detailed notes for students to use during presentation. Provide a written
outline of expectations and visual aid requirements. Provide examples of visual aids and materials if
necessary.
Allow students to take notes, however, provide a clear concise copy of notes. Adjust grading requirements
as needed.
Provide a clear and accurate example of flap book. Pre-fold and pre-label flap book if necessary. Provide a
typed list of sentences describing the daily life and social classes of the Aztecs for students to cut, match,
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paste and illustrate for each topic.
7. Evaluation
Students may be assessed on their group work, their participation in group presentation, their participation
as audience members, and on their flap books.
J. Lesson Ten: Wrap-Up on the Aztecs
Work together as a class to create a comparison chart; discuss similarities & differences to Maya
2. Add dates to time line
Complete KWL chart
4. Video: "Aztec" (Indians of North America series)
Activity: Aztec ABC
Assign each student one letter of the alphabet. Each student will choose a word or concept beginning with
his letter that best describes an aspect of Aztec life. (Example: T = Tenochtitlan: the capital city of the
Aztec nation)
After completing a rough draft on notebook paper and checking with teacher, the final copy will be done
on a sentence strip. Illustrations/decorations should be included. Compile all of the letters in a vertical
display on butcher paper to hang in the hall.
Modification: Provide guidance and assistance to determine corresponding word for the letter assigned.
K. Lesson Eleven: Introduction to the Inca
1. Objectives
a. Students will understand how geography affects a given culture.
b. Students will infer elements of Inca society from artifacts
c. Students will locate South America, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina on a map
2. Materials:
Worksheet maps of South America (Appendix M)
Inca artifact cards from Mayas Aztecs Incas (Strohl and Schneck)
c. Paper bags
Small potatoes (one per group)
e. Large world map
3. Prior Knowledge
Geography of the Americas (2nd grade)
4. Key Vocabulary
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artifact; archeologist
5. Procedures:
a. Divide class into groups of four. Give each group a paper bag filled with artifact cards and a small
potato. Students spend about 15 minutes guessing what each artifact is and what it was used for.
Check group answers and confirm. Discuss what we can learn about the Incas from artifacts.
c. Locate South America on a world map and tell students that this is where the Inca lived. Point out the
Andes mountains. How will the Inca society be different from Maya/Aztec?
Students use atlases to complete student maps (Appendix L).
6. Modifications:
a. Provide a typed list of regions, countries, and bodies of water. Allow students to cut and paste list if
necessary (fine-motor skills). Plot points on the map for easy location. Provide a clear and accurate map
example.
7. Evaluation:
Assess cooperative group behavior and maps for accuracy and neatness.
L. Lesson Twelve: Origins of the Inca
1. Objectives
a. Students will explain the rise of the Inca nation, and compare its historical and mythological origins.
b. Students will retell a story by summarizing.
2. Materials
a. Student copies of "The Sacred City" from The Incas and Their Ancestors
Handout "The Incas" (p.46) from Mayan, Incan and Aztec Civilizations
c. The Inca, by McKissack
Crayons
3. Prior Knowledge
a. Legend of Rome's origins in myth of Romulus and Remus (3rd grade)
4. Key Vocabulary
origin, myth, sacred
5. Procedures:
a. Review the historical/mythological origins of the Aztec from Lesson 6.
b. Students read "The Sacred City" with a partner. Check for understanding.
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c. Model summarizing with the first paragraph. Ask students to help you put the first paragraph into one
sentence. Write ideas and final sentence on
overhead.
Students work in pairs to write a sentence summary for the second paragraph. Share with class and put on
overhead.
e. Students work independently to complete the remaining four paragraphs. All six could be written and
illustrated in a fold book.
f. Read to class from The Inca pp. 4-8 or any source with information on the rise of the Inca nation.
Compare this with the story and discuss. A Venn diagram is good for this.
g. Activity: Color coding
Give students the handout on the Incas. Read it aloud together. Then look at the questions on p. 46. Assign
each question a color, which students indicate by the number. Have them look in the reading for the
answers, underlining the answer in the passage when they find it in the color assigned. (This ensures that
they actually look in the reading for the answer, not just guess!)
6. Modifications:
Highlight text, identifying the important idea in each paragraph.
b. Pre-summarize each paragraph into one sentence. Students will match sentences with corresponding
paragraph.
Pre-color code each handout, underlining each answer in each paragraph.
Provide a matching list of answers in mixed order for students to correctly match the answers to the
questions.
7. Evaluation:
Check worksheet for correct answers and highlighting. Evaluate summaries--did students keep the
summary to one sentence while still including all pertinent information?
M. Lesson Thirteen: Incan Agriculture and Food
1. Objective
a. Students will explain terrace farming and identify the potato as the Incas primary food.
2. Materials:
Handout with Inca hut on the mountain (Appendix N)
Handout on "Incan Agriculture" or another source with information on
terrace farming
c. Paper for students; preferably with space to both write and draw
3. Prior Knowledge
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Geography of mountains and mountain ranges (4th grade)
4. Key Vocabulary
papa, chunu, sara, terrace farming, Andes Mountains
5. Procedures
a. Give students the sheet of paper that shows a house sitting on the side of a steep mountain (Appendix
M). Ask them how they would farm on that mountain, and give them a few minutes to illustrate their
ideas. Share and discuss.
b. Tell them that the Inca solved this problem with the use of terrace farming. Read the handout (p. 51) and
emphasize key vocabulary. Check their understanding by asking the questions on p. 52.
Students write a paragraph answering the question " How did the Incas farm in the mountains?" and
illustrate. They must use the key vocabulary introduced in the lesson in their paragraph.
6. Modifications:
a. Highlight text, identifying important information from handout.
Provide outline of key terms and main ideas. Provide a copy of new vocabulary and definitions.
c. Prepare a prewritten paragraph of true facts and false information on Inca farming. Have students
determine which facts are true and which are false by drawing a line through the false information, or,
provide a prewritten paragraph of true facts regarding the Inca farming and leave blanks for the vocabulary
terms to be filled in.
7. Evaluation:
Paragraphs should demonstrate an understanding of terrace farming and of the key vocabulary.
N. Lesson Fourteen: Incan Social Structure
1. Objective
a. Students will describe and experience the Incan class system and how it works.
2. Materials
Sentence strips cut in half for name cards
b. Bag of M&Ms
Small cups
d. Plain white paper and stiff paper for flap books
The Inca by McKissack
3. Prior Knowledge
a. Feudal society in the Middle Ages (4th grade)
NOTE: Students may have participated in an activity like this one in 4th grade. If that is the case,
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capitalize on it and compare between the two societies.
4. Key Vocabulary
Sapa Inca, governors, local rulers, leaders of household, commoners, mita
5. Procedures:
a. Review Maya pyramid of power. Tell students that today we will be learning about the Inca pyramid of
power.
b. Have prepared sentence strips of the following: Sapa Inca (1), Governor (2), Local Ruler (3), Leader of
Household (5) and Commoner (10 or however many make the rest of your class.) Pass these out randomly
to students.
c. Each child gets 10 M&Ms in a small cup. Explain that it is now time
to pay their mita. Talk about taxes--they have no choice in paying them
and must do what they are told.
d. First, the commoners must give half of their candy to the Leaders of
household. Next, tell the leaders to give half of theirs to the local rulers, who in turn give half of theirs to
the governors. Finally, the governors must give half of their M&Ms to the Sapa Inca, who will end up with
a bunch!
e. Discuss: on which level of Incan society would you like to be? Why?
Read about how Atahualpa and his brother fought over who would be
leader--after the M&M game, they'll be able to relate!
*This activity is adapted from "Early Civilizations," a 1st grade unit written by Cyndi Hartman-Wells and
Sheri Schneider.
f. Read more about Incan society from The Inca, pp. 13-18.
g. Activity: Create an Incan pyramid of power flap book (see Lesson 2)
6. Modifications:
Provide a clear and accurate example of flap book. Pre-fold and pre-label books if necessary. Provide a
typed list of sentences describing characteristics of each level for students to cut, match, paste and
illustrate.
7. Evaluation:
Assess pyramids for demonstration of an understanding of the levels of Incan society.
O. Lesson Fifteen: Incan Roads and Bridges
1. Objective
a. Students will describe the Incan system of transportation, and name at least one major engineering
accomplishment of the Incas.
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2. Materials:
Handout on "Incan Roads and Bridges" from M, I, & A Civilizations p. 60
b. Road map diagram (Appendix O)
National Geographic, December 1973 or other photographs of Incan roads and bridges
3. Prior Knowledge
a. Westward expansion and the Pony Express (2nd grade)
4. Key Vocabulary
tampu, chaca, maguey plant fibers, Royal Road, Coastal Highway
5. Procedures:
Focus students' attention by playing a message game. Arrange students in a long line with space in
between each child (you might want to do this outside). Have the child who played the Sapa Inca in
Lesson 14 decide on a 1-2 sentence message to be sent to the outskirts of the empire. He relays the
message orally to the first child in line, who runs to the next child and tells it to him, and so on until it
reaches the end. The last child should relay the message back to the Sapa Inca and check its accuracy.
b. Discuss: Why would the Incas base such a vital communications system on the fairly slow pace of
humans? Do you think it was a good system?
How long do you think it would take to send messages? etc.
(Adapted from: World History Simulations, Teacher Created Materials.)
c. Post or write the key vocabulary terms on the board and predict meaning.
d. Read handout on Incan roads and bridges together. Emphasize vocabulary.
e. Show pictures of Incan roads and bridges from National Geographic or another source.
f. Students complete road map flap book with illustrations and definitions
using Appendix N. (The road map illustrates the Royal road, a chaca, a tampu, and the Coastal Highway.)
Students should write two sentences about each underneath each flap.
6. Modifications:
Highlight text, identifying important information from handout. Provide outline of key terms and main
ideas. Provide a copy of new vocabulary and definitions.
Provide a clear and accurate example of road map flap book. Provide a typed list of sentences describing
the tampu, chaca, Royal Road, and Coastal Highway for students to cut, match and paste into booklet.
7. Evaluation:
Flap books should demonstrate understanding of key words and concepts.
VI. CULMINATING ACTIVITIES
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A. Jeopardy Review Game
Students will compete in groups to answer questions in the following categories: RELIGION AND
MYTH, DAILY LIFE, SOCIAL CLASSES, FOOD, and POTPOURRI. (Suggested Jeopardy 'answers'
given in Appendix P)
B. Venn Diagram
Compare and contrast the three civilizations by completing a 3-way Venn diagram. Students may work in
groups to brainstorm ideas and then contribute to a class diagram.
C. Travel Agency
Each student will choose one civilization for which to design a travel poster highlighting the positive
aspects and accomplishments of that society. Posters should be colorful, informative and persuasive.
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