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Africa: Shaped By The PastAfrica-Shaped-By-The-Past

  • Subject: Geography
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: Three class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will
  • review facts about Cleopatra and other rulers of ancient Egypt, and
  • research basic facts about one Egyptian ruler and create a "Rulers of Egypt" trading card.


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Print resources about Egyptian rulers, from pharaohs to Ptolemy
  • Index cards
  • Materials to create trading cards (markers, colored pencils, glue, scissors)
  • Africa: Shaped by the Past video and VCR (or DVD and DVD player)


  1. Review the program's segment called Sunken City. Find Egypt and Alexandria on a classroom map. Ask students to name the Egyptian ruler whose palace was excavated in the program (Cleopatra) . Explain that Cleopatra ruled Egypt from 51 to 30 B.C. She was the last of the pharaohs, or rulers of ancient Egypt. The first pharaoh ruled Egypt in 3000 B.C., so it's not surprising that hundreds of pharaohs ruled during the height of ancient Egypt. However, some were more powerful and influential, and some are more famous today.

  2. Tell students that they are going to research different rulers and create their own trading card with basic facts and at least one image. Assign students one of the following Egyptian rulers. (These are just suggestions; print and online resources will provide many others.)

    • Thutmose III
    • Hatshepsut
    • Tutankhamen
    • Ramses I
    • Seti I
    • Ramses II
    • Akhenaten and Nefertiti
    • Tutankhamon
    • Alexander the Great
    • Ptolemy
    • Queen Cleopatra
  3. Tell students that they should research their ruler and gather the information below. In addition, encourage students to print out or sketch pictures of their ruler and any monument or artifact related to that person.

    • Name
    • Years of reign
    • Important accomplishments
    • Cool fact
  4. Have students use both print and online resources in their research. The following Web sites may be helpful:

  5. Once students have completed their initial research, give them one full class period to create their trading card on an index card. Have them write important data on one side of their card, and an image on the other. The image can be a picture of the ruler or a monument or artifact associated with the ruler's reign.

  6. Create a timeline on a bulletin board and have students pin their cards along a timeline.

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students showed thorough research on their ruler and created a complete card including all of the requested information.
  • Two points: Students showed satisfactory research on their ruler and created an adequate card including most of the requested information.
  • One point: Students showed minimal research on their ruler and created an incomplete card with little or none of the requested information.

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For the "Life on the River" segment: Discuss how the modern-day fellaheen rely on the Nile. What products do they grow along the Nile? How is their lifestyle being threatened? Have students study how life along the Nile changes throughout the year, including the flooding, sowing, and harvesting.

For "The Fabric of African Society" segment: As a class, talk about the role of different cloths in African society. What can you learn about someone by the patterns of the clothes they wear? Have students write about the role of clothes in different American societies or groups. How can clothes define people in different parts of society?

For the "Africa's Slave Trade" segment: Have students explore the Discovery School site "Understanding Slavery". Read "A Slave on Three Continents" to learn one man's story about his journey from Africa as a slave.

For the "Apartheid's Legacy" segment: Have students create a timeline of apartheid, from the first laws in 1948 to its dismantling in 1994. This Library of Congress site provides extensive information on thehistory of apartheid.

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Definition: Of or relating to times long past, especially those before the fall of the Western Roman Empire (A.D. 476)
Context: Alexandria was the capital of the ancient world.

Definition: A scientist who studies the life and culture of ancient peoples by studying their material remains (such as ruins and artifacts)
Context: Archaeologists are still uncovering artifacts and discovering new facts about ancient Egypt.

Definition: An object made by humans, such as a primitive tool; an object remaining from a particular period
Context: Artifacts left behind by ancient civilizations provide clues about how people lived in those times.

Definition: A ruler in ancient Egypt; sometimes called a king
Context: In ancient Egypt, the pharaoh was considered a god.

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The National Council for Geographic Education(NCGE) provides 18 national geography standards that the geographically informed person knows and understands. To view the standards online, go to

This lesson plan addresses the following NCGE standards:

  • Places and Regions
  • Environment and Society

The National Council for the Social Studies(NCSS) has developed national standards to provide guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of the NCSS, or to view the standards online, go to

This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards:

  • Culture
  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • People, Places, and Environments

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Joy Brewster, curriculum writer, editor, and consultant

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