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Mesoamerica: The History Of Central AmericaMesoamerica-The-History-Of-Central-America

  • Subject: World History
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections

Objectives


Students will
  • Identify three powerful women of the Maya empire.
  • Research the life of one of these women and describe what her life was probably like.
  • Analyze the role of women in Maya society.
  • Discuss similarities and differences between powerful women in Maya society and powerful women of today.

Materials


  • Mesoamerica: The History of Central America program
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Newsprint and markers

Procedures


  1. Begin the lesson by asking students to watch the segment entitled "Red Queen: Mysterious Maya Queen," which is found in the programMesoamerica: The History of Central America . Ask students to pay close attention to the three women mentioned in the program as contenders for the title of the "Red Queen."
  2. After students have finished watching the program, make a class list on a sheet of newsprint of the three women discussed in the program. Include their names and the role they played in Maya society. For your information, key facts about these women are listed below.
    • Yol Ik Nal.  She was the only woman to rule the Maya city-state of Palenque. Her rule lasted from A.D. 583 to 604. She was a strong ruler, but during her reign, the city-state was under siege. It was a tumultuous time for Palenque.
    • ak Kuk. The mother of Pakal, Palenque?s strongest ruler. Zak Kuk had a great deal of power; archaeologists suspect that her behind-the-scenes maneuvering ensured that her son was selected as the next king. Although he became king when he was 12 years old, she continued to be very involved in the ruling of the kingdom until her death.
    • Tzakbu Ajaw. The wife of Pakal. She came from a neighboring city-state and was married to Pakal as a teenager. She produced three sons; the first was born nine years after their marriage; the second, nine years later; and the third; four years later. Two of her three sons eventually ruled Palenque.
  3. These woman played important roles in Maya society. Ask students to try to imagine what their lives were like. Then have each student select one of these three women to focus on. Ask students to write an essay in the voice of that woman, explaining what it was like to live during that time and be in a position of power in a male-dominated society. As students work on their essays, have them consider the following questions.
    • What role did each of these women play in Maya society? How did their roles differ from the roles of most women in Maya society?
    • How did each of these women exert her influence?
    • Did each of these women make a difference in Maya society? If so, how?
  4. The program includes much information, but students will need to do additional research to complete this assignment. The following Web sites have information about these three women and about Maya women in general. Encourage students to find additional Web sites on their own.

    Overview
    Bearers of War and Creation
    The Mexica / Aztecs
    Red Queen PDF
    Major Find in Palenque's Temple XXI

    Yol Ik Nal
    Palenque
    Women In Power 500-750

    Zak Kuk
    Place of Mirrors - A Novel About the Ancient Maya - Meet the Cast of Characters
    Palenque: The Oval Palace Tablet

    Lady Tzakbu Ajaw
    Place of Mirrors - A Novel About the Ancient Maya - Meet the Cast of Characters
  5. Give students time in class to do their research and to work on their essays. If students don?t finish the assignment during class, ask them to complete their essays for homework. Encourage students to be creative and to try to put themselves into the shoes of these women.
  6. During the next class, ask for volunteers to read their essays. Make sure that essays on all three women are represented. Try to have several students read their essays to hear how different students interpreted the lives of these women.
  7. Conclude the lesson by having a final class discussion about the role of women in Maya culture. Do students think they played an important role in the society? Do students see any similarities between these women and powerful women of our time? What differences do students see between the powerful women of Maya culture and powerful women of today?

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Evaluation


Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:  Students researched one powerful woman from Maya society and wrote a creative, accurate essay describing what her life was like; demonstrated a deep understanding of the similarities and differences between powerful women of Maya culture and powerful women living today.
  • Two points:  Students researched one powerful woman from Maya society and wrote a satisfactory essay describing what her life was like; demonstrated an adequate understanding of the similarities and differences between powerful women in Maya culture and powerful women living today.
  • One point:  Students did not research one powerful woman from Maya society and did not complete the essay describing what her life was like; demonstrated a poor understanding of the similarities and differences between powerful women in Maya culture and powerful women living today.

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Vocabulary


city-state
Definition: A political system in several cultures, including Maya society, in which each city had its own ruler and government that functioned in much the same way as our states do today
Context: Maya civilization never formed a central government; an individual city-state ruled only itself or several small cities.

Maya civilization
Definition: A sophisticated culture of American Indian people who lived in Central America and the southern part of Mexico, flourishing between A.D. 250 and the mid-1500s, when the Spanish conquered the Maya
Context: The accomplishments of Maya civilization include the invention of a sophisticated system of writing and the development of a yearly calendar.

Pakal
Definition: The most powerful ruler of the city-state of Palenque; he ruled for 70 years
Context: The discovery of Pakal's sarcophagus in the 1950s revealed much about Maya religion and the people's attitude toward their rulers.

Red Queen
Definition: The sarcophagus of a woman covered in cinnabar, which gave her a reddish color and hence the name she has been known by; the tomb was found next to Pakal's in the 1990s
Context: Figuring out the identity of the Red Queen has taken the expertise of many different kinds of scientists, including those who can interpret DNA that is thousands of years old.

Tzakbu Ajaw
Definition: The wife of Pakal, who came from another city-state as a teenager to marry him; she bore him three sons, two of whom eventually ruled Palenque
Context: Based on DNA evidence, which proved that the Red Queen was not related to Pakal, scientists think that Tzakbu Ajaw is probably the mystery queen.

Yol Ik Nal
Definition: The only woman ever to have ruled the city-state of Palenque
Context: At one time, scientists thought that Yol Ik Nal might be the Red Queen, but carbon dating of the remains revealed that the time of her death did not match the date that the Red Queen was buried.

Zak Kuk
Definition: The mother of Pakal, who made sure that her son became king of Palenque
Context: Because DNA evidence revealed that the Red Queen was not related to Pakal, scientists realized that Zak Kuk could not have been the Red Queen.

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Academic Standards


Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL?s Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks,click here.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • World History: Understands the rise of centers of civilization in Mesoamerica and Andean South America in the 1st millennium CE
  • Language Arts - Writing: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
  • Language Arts - Viewing: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has developed national standards to provide guidelines for teaching social studies. To view the standards online,click here.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Culture
  • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

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