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Ancient TimesAncient-Times

  • Subject: Ancient Civilizations
  • |
  • Grade(s): K-5
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand the following:
1. Ancient civilizations left illustrated or written records that teach us about them.
2. In some ways, our lives today are similar to the lives people lived thousands of years ago, but in most ways, our lives are very different.


For this lesson, you will need:
Access to the Internet
Paints and brushes, crayons, or markers in various colors
Long roll of brown paper or newsprint
Tape or other means of attaching paper to wall


1. Show students photographs or online reproductions of wall paintings from ancient civilizations that illustrate aspects of life as it was lived in ancient times. These pictures might include the wall paintings at Lascaux Cave, in France, at the Gasulla gorge in Spain, at ?atal H?y?l in Anatolia, and in Egypt and Crete (the last two include frescoes).
2. Ask students to tell you what these illustrations can tell us about life in ancient times. Guide them to notice that the wall paintings tell us at least the following:
  • Which animals lived at that time
  • Which animals the people hunted
  • What games the people played
3. Explain to students that they now will have the opportunity to create a wall mural that illustrates a day in their lives, but in this case the mural will be only temporary; the students will paint and draw on paper taped to a wall. Still, the students might like to pretend that future archaeologists will uncover their creation. Ask students to brainstorm about how they will illustrate their days. If they seem stuck, suggest that they might want to show the following common, daily events:
  • Children and teachers traveling to and arriving at school
  • Children working together at desks or at a computer
  • Children at recess
  • Children at home with family and pets and special toys or equipment
4. Once you have a list of scenes on the board, put students into small groups that will work on separate sections of the brown paper or newsprint that you will attach to a wall in the classroom or elsewhere in the school building.
5. Introduce or review with students the necessity for planning their sections before they start drawing or painting on the mural itself. Explain that the students in each group need to figure out how much will fit in their section and that the groups then need to discuss how the sections will fit together.
6. Students in each group should proceed to work up a maquette, or small-scale version, of their segment to assess positioning, size, and color combinations. You may want the whole class to respond to each group's visual draft, working out disagreements as necessary.
7. When it is finally time for students to work at the wall, consider having only one group at a time up at the wall so that the groups don't crowd one another.
8. Ask students to volunteer to describe the mural orally, moving from left to right.

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Older students will be able to use printed and electronic resources to find ancient wall paintings on their own.

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Discussion Questions

1. What do you think of the ancient wall paintings you've looked at? What do you think of the content of the paintings and of their style?
2. Based on the ancient wall paintings, tell how life back then was like life today. How was life back then different from life today?
3. How do you become an archaeologist, and what kinds of skills do you need to have?
4. Compare archaeologists to people in other professions that use clues to solve mysteries.

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In this project, where the end product depends on timely input from many students, you may want to rate individuals on cooperative spirit, on-time performance, response to criticism, perseverance, and so on.

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A House Built for a King
Show students pictures of the ancient Egyptian pyramids, explaining that they were places to put the mummified bodies of pharaohs and their families. As appropriate for your school and community, discuss Egyptian beliefs of an afterlife. Then initiate a discussion in which you and the students consider creating a monumental tomb for an important person today. Ask students to suggest what materials they would use and why, what shape the monument would take, and what besides the body they might put in the monument.

Olympics Now and Then
Conduct a class discussion about a current or recent Olympic Games, giving students a chance to volunteer all that they know about the where, when, what, who, why , and how of the games. Then let students guess how long ago the first Olympic contests were (they were first recorded in 776 B.C.).Tell them that at the first games there was only one race—a sprint of about 200 yards—and the winner, Coroebus of Elis, received as his prize a crimson apple. Ask for a summary by students of how the games today are similar to but different from the games of almost three thousand years ago.

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Suggested Readings

Eyewitness Atlas of Ancient Worlds
by Anne Millard, Dorling Kindersley, 1994

Oxford First Ancient History
by Roy Burrell, Oxford University Press, 1994

Mysteries Through the Ages
by Jillian Powell, Millbrook Press, 1996

Amazing Archaeologists and Their Finds
by William Scheller, Oliver Press, 1994

Atlas of Human History: Cradles of Civilization
Jaca Books Staff, Macmillan, 1996

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Reeder's Egypt Page

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

Excavations in Crete

The Iraklion Archaeological Museum

Chinese Logographic Writing
Adapted from the "Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language," this page gives an overview of logographic writing and looks specifically at Chinese writing and Japanese kanji. The best feature of the site is a graphic guide to some of the 50,000 Chinese characters.

Mustang: An Exhibition Of Paintings And Photographs
Shows the students vivid images of a world that is far removed from theirs. The text of the article is informative and the graphics, from an exhibit in a museum in Nepal, enhance the information.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    ancient
Definition: Of or relating to times long past, especially those before the fall of the Western Roman Empire (A.D. 476).
Context: That is why Contru Rampache, the old lama, has come here to the ancient village of Mustang.

speaker    archaeologist
Definition: A scientist who studies the life and culture of ancient peoples.
Context: Archaeologists are trying to learn about these ancient people by digging in the ruins to find artifacts.

speaker    artifact
Definition: An object made by human work, such as a primitive tool.
Context: Archaeologists are trying to learn about these ancient people by digging in the ruins to find artifacts.

speaker    civilization
Definition: Social organization of a high order.
Context: Ancient Egyptians built an advanced civilization.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 3-5
Subject area: history
Understands selected attributes and historical developments of societies in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe.
Knows about life in urban areas and communities of various cultures of the world at various times in their history.

Knows significant historical achievements of various cultures of the world.

Grade level: 3-5
Subject area: visual arts
Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.
Knows that the visual arts have a history and a specific relationship to various cultures.

Identifies specific works of art as belonging to particular cultures, times, and places.

Understands the historical and cultural contexts of a variety of art objects.

Grade level: 3-5
Subject area: history
Understands family life now and in the past, and family life in various places long ago.
Knows the ways that families long ago expressed and transmitted their beliefs and values through oral tradition, literature, songs, art, religion, community celebrations, mementos, food, and language (e.g., celebration of national holidays, religious observances, and ethnic and national traditions; visual arts and crafts; hymns, proverbs, and songs).

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Jay and Sandy Lamb, teachers, Thomas Jefferson High School, Alexandria, Virginia; Kathy Devine, teacher, Viers Mill Elementary School, Rockville, Maryland.

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