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The NileThe-Nile

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

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand the following:
1. The Nile River played an important role in the lives of ancient Egyptians and still does today.
2. Ancient Egyptians had many of the same concerns as we do today: for example, food supply, technological advances, weather, natural habitats.
3. Part of ancient Egyptian society was literate.


For this lesson, you will need:
Printed and electronic reference materials about ancient Egypt
Optional: word-processing and page-layout programs


1. Announce to students that the whole class will work together to produce a newspaper that might have been published in ancient Egypt for elite members of society—those who could read and write. Although we know that the elite of ancient Egypt could read and write hieroglyphics, for the purpose of this project we have to suspend disbelief so that students can prepare a newspaper written in English and produced with advanced technology (word processors and scanners).
2. Assign small groups of students to different beats and services, perhaps along the lines of the following suggestions:
  • Managing editors to determine matters such as hierarchy of available stories, policy regarding advertising, subject of editorials
  • Agriculture beat to cover record harvest of grain
  • Technology beat to cover invention of waterwheel or shaduf
  • Zoology beat to cover sighting of animals not seen before along the Nile
  • Weather beat to predict upcoming flood
  • Art department to locate, copy, download, and scan illustrations for the newspaper's main stories (see Related Links)
  • Editorial staff to review and improve first drafts of reports; to revise, edit, and proofread as necessary; to write headlines that both fit and give information
  • Advertising department to work up ads for services or products available along the Nile
  • Columnists, editorial writers, and cartoonists to cover gossip, commentary on current events, other features
  • Puzzle creators
Make clear to students that they cannot solely make up the data for their stories. They must do research so that their stories will be accurate. Stories should carry bylines and datelines.
3. Teach students or review with them the elements of a straight news story, such as the following:
  • Answering the journalist's five W and How? questions
  • Putting most important facts first, saving less important details until later in the story (inverted pyramid structure)
  • Using objective rather than subjective words
  • Including enough details so that the reader feels like an eyewitness to an event
  • Quoting when a speaker's words are better than a journalist's
4. Teach students or review with them the ways in which feature stories may differ from straight news stories. For example, the former may, like editorials, offer value judgments by the reporter; the latter are as objective as possible.
5. Tell students how long the newspaper issue should be (for example, two pages), and give writers, editors, and others deadlines.
6. Ask students to give their newspaper a title—perhaps, Ancient Egyptian News .
7. Have the stories, captions, and other materials typed into a word-processing program, and if possible show students how to use a publishing program to create a newspaper appearance with multiple columns, headlines, pictures next to stories, and so on. If you do not have word-processing or publishing software, consider having the stories typed or handwritten in standard column widths, and cut and paste the articles, illustrations, and other matter into a multicolumn newspaper format.

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Adaptations for Older Students:
Challenge older students to produce their newspaper online as a Web site.

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Discussion Questions

1. The Greek historian Herodotus claimed that "Egypt is the gift of the River Nile." Would Egyptians today still agree with his words of appreciation? Why or why not? Analyze the ways that the Nile River contributes to their lives.
2. One product of the banks of the Nile was papyrus. This sturdy reed, which was made into a material that could be easily written on, advanced written communication. In ancient Egypt, though, only a small number of the elite could read and write. Discuss what life would be like today if only the wealthiest few citizens and religious leaders could read and write?
3. From the early colonists' establishments on the James River in Virginia to Lewis and Clark's travels on the Missouri River, Americans have depended on rivers for transportation, trade, and resources. What role have rivers played in the development of American cities and towns? Has a river been an important geographical feature in your area? In what way?
4. The land along the Nile River was the richest farmland in the ancient world. Farming in the area, however, took careful planning. Explain the steps that Egyptian farmers would take to farm the land. What dangers did they have to avoid? What signs would they look for?
5. Compare and contrast the Nile River and the Mississippi River. Analyze their length, the direction that they flow, their uses, their deltas, and the cultures and traditions that have developed along each river.
6. Debate the idea that "agriculture made wealth, and wealth made the Egyptian civilization."

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You can evaluate your students on their written work using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points: complete facts and details in news story and clearly stated positions and support in editorials, feature stories, or columns; error-free grammar, usage, mechanics

  • Two points: more facts and details needed; some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

  • One point: few facts and details; many errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

    To evaluate students whose assignments involve editing, illustrations, puzzles, or managing, consider accuracy, originality in generating material, and cooperation with other students.

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Neighborhood Mythology
Research tells us that Egyptians transformed the animals that surrounded them into mythological figures and deities. They observed the qualities that certain animals possessed and then transformed the animals into holy figures with heightened qualities. Ask your students, working in small groups, to create a god or goddess out of an animal that is native to your region. The goal is to have the class as a whole generate a complete pantheon of gods and goddesses. Have each group submit an illustration of its god or goddess and describe him or her in one paragraph for the rest of the class. Then ask the small groups to combine their mythological characters into an illustrated story, or myth. Just as the ancient Egyptians used mythological stories to explain major ancient developments in their culture, students should in their original myth explain a major event that took place in the history of your region.

A Smashing Success
One of the world's most ancient forms of writing, hieroglyphics, can be used to communicate a wide variety of ideas. After researching Egyptian hieroglyphics, ask your students to devise their own hieroglyphic languages. Each student should develop a set of symbols and then use those symbols to encode a simple sentence. Once each student has generated a sentence, let students challenge one another to decode the sentences, giving one another clues as necessary. Once everyone has made a stab at translation, students can reveal their sentences. Lead a class discussion about the limitations, advantages, and translation difficulties of pictorial languages such a hieroglyphics.

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Suggested Readings

The Nile
Michael Pollard. Benchmark Books, 1997.
Thorough writing and plenty of color photographs and illustrations tell the entire story of the longest river in the world, starting with its geological formation and continuing through the present day. The book also describes the annual flooding, ancient myths, exploration, cities, and unique creatures that make up the Nile's captivating history.

The Ancient Egyptians
Elsa Marston. Benchmark Books, 1996.
The Egyptian world of long ago comes alive with pictures of gods, household objects, clothing, statues, and monuments. You can explore this ancient culture and the importance of the Nile River while reading this captivating book.

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Mysteries of the Nile
Support materials, maps, and lesson plans on the Nile River.

Wild Egypt; An Online Safari of the Nile River
Good pictures and description of the Nile River.

Institute of Egyptian Art and Archeology
The site includes a colorful tour of monuments along the Nile River.

Geology and Geography of the Nile Basin
A comprehensive collection of pictures of the Nile River.

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

speaker    communal
Definition: Participated in, shared, or used by a whole community.
Context: The reliance on communal labor to harvest crops recalls an earlier time.

speaker    deity
Definition: A person or thing that is exalted or revered as supremely good or great.
Context: The sun was the supreme deity, the source of life for gods and man.

speaker    floodplain
Definition: A flat or nearly flat surface that may be submerged by floodwaters.
Context: Nearly 5,000 years ago, the great pyramids rose above the floodplain.

speaker    primeval
Definition: Of or relating to the earliest ages of the world or human history.
Context: These early settlers faced a primeval world that was unpredictable and mysterious.

speaker    subsistence
Definition: A mode of obtaining or a source of the necessities of life.
Context: The surplus of grain liberated farmers from subsistence farming.

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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: 6-8
Subject area: world history
Understands the major characteristics of civilization and the development of civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley.
Understands how economic, political, and environmental factors influenced the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley (e.g., the impact of trade networks connecting various regions of Southwest Asia on Mesopotamian civilization; the importance of commercial, cultural, and political connections between Egypt and peoples of Nubia along the upper Nile; how geography and climate affected trade in the Nile Valley).

Understands environmental and cultural factors that shaped the development of Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus Valley (e.g., development of religious and ethical belief systems and how they legitimized political and social order; demands of the natural environment; how written records such as the Epic of Gilgamesh reflected and shaped the political, religious, and cultural life of Mesopotamia).

Understands influences on the development of various civilizations in the fourth and third millennia B.C. (e.g., how the natural environment of the Tigris-Euphrates, Nile, and Indus Valleys shaped the early development of civilization; different characteristics of urban development in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley).

Grade level: 6-8, 9-12
Subject area: world history
Understands the processes that contributed to the emergence of agricultural societies around the world.
Benchmark 6-8:
Understands immediate and long-term impacts and influences of early agricultural communities (e.g., areas in Southwest Asia and the Nile Valley where early farming communities first appeared; the effect of new tools and other objects on early farming settlements; whether fishing was considered a nomadic or agricultural way of life).

Benchmark 9-12:
Understands what environmental and architectural evidence reveals about different types of large agricultural communities (e.g., the locations of different types of communities between 10,000 and 4,000 B.C.; how patterns of layout, fortification, and standardization in large settlements helped transform human culture).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: geography
Understands the physical and human characteristics of place.
Knows how social, cultural, and economic processes shape the features of places (e.g., resource use; belief systems; modes of transportation and communication; major technological changes such as the agricultural and industrial revolutions; population growth and urbanization).

Understands why places have specific physical and human characteristics in different parts of the world (e. g., the effects of climatic and tectonic processes, settlement and migration patterns, site and situation components).

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Wendy Goldfein, upper elementary school teacher, Fairfax County Schools, Virginia, and freelance educational consultant.

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