A. Subject: Ancient Civilizations
B. Grade & Ability level: 6th Grade; all levels
C. Unit Title: Mesopotamia
D. Time Frame: 10 - 12 days
E. I used several textbooks to create this unit. For assignments
with page numbers, substitute with appropriate material. TSWBAT (The
student will be able to ...)
A. Scope and major concepts
1. This unit covers the history of Ancient
2. This unit will include lessons on:
(a) The key role of geography in the development
(b) Mesopotamia peoples, work, food,
(c) The rule of law, and development of
(d) The development of written language
(e) The concepts of Religion, myths, legends,
(f) Important inventions of the Mesopotamian
3. This unit will concentrate on geographic and
language arts skills.
4. The Unit will focus on student personal discovery
and challenge to student to express their own ideas and beliefs concerning
B. Rationale: This unit is designed for all students.
The unit will broaden their horizons by showing how ancient peoples are similar
to peoples today. It will also help prepare students for Maryland State exams
by introducing concepts used in Maryland State, and U.S. government. It is
designed to increase students map skills by giving them the opportunity to
see how geography affects people and history.
Objectives (C = Cognitive, A = Affective,
P = Psychomotor)
The Student will be able to (TSWBAT) use map skills
to locate Mesopotamia, Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Zagros mountains, Syrian
desert, and the Persian gulf. (C)
TSWBAT discuss and support either side of an argument
in a debate given an appropriate subject. (C, A)
TSWBAT demonstrate writing skills. (C, P)
TSWBAT demonstrate research skills. (C,
TSWBAT demonstrate presentation skills. (C,
TSWBAT describe items using proper
TSWBAT compare and contrast differing views about
TSWBAT demonstrate, understand, and use maps, charts
and graphs. (C, P)
TSWBAT discuss the interdependence of peoples.
TSWBAT give personal judgments and express values
concerning world events. (C, A)
TSWBAT broaden their personal horizons through role
playing and panel work. (A, P)
A. Ways to evaluate:
The student's participation in classroom discussions,
debates, completion of assigned homework, activities, and an end of unit
test, will demonstrate the students understanding of the lessons.
The students are given a daily drill question to
answer. The students will be graded mostly on effort and attempt to
A directed writing activity will be assigned. The
students will be graded on writing skills, and the appropriateness, and content
of their work.
A quiz on the chapter will be given. Quiz will be
T/F, multiple choice, essay.
Sample unit test questions.
A. Following is a list of essential thinking skills
and related concepts that will be related to each days activities. Each skill
will be numbered and this number will be listed at the end of each days subject
matter outline. This listing of skills is taken from the Dimensions of Learning
handout given by the Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Office of Staff
Development, Instructional Leadership
1. Positive Attitudes and
A. Classroom Climate
B. Classroom Tasks
II. Ability/Resources to perform
2. Acquiring and Integrating
A. Declarative Knowledge
I. Construct Meaning
B. Procedural Knowledge
I. Construct Models
3. Extending and Refining
I. Directed Teaching of Thinking Skills
VI. Analyzing Errors
VII. Constructing Support
IX. Analyzing Perspectives
IV. Meaningful Use of
I. Directed Teaching of Dimension 4 Mental
II. Decision Making
IV. Experimental Inquiry
V. Problem Solving
5. Productive Habits of the
II. Critical thinking
III. Creative Thinking
Daily Activities/Lessons: For
each lesson and activity,
First day/ Introduction, knowledge assessment,
Student Outcome: The Student will be able
Drill Question: What is an illustrated
(a) Students will be introduced to the term Mesopotamia
(Greek for land between the rivers) and asked if they know of
anyplace that is between rivers (short class discussion) "9" (1A.I,
(b)A pretest on geography skills, and vocabulary
will be given.(at this point if students show a deficiency in map skills,
a short unit on map skills may be introduced). "9" (1B.II)
(c) Students will be given a blank map of the middle
east and asked to locate various places on it using either a textbook map
or Atlas (if available) place names will include Mesopotamia, Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, Zagros mountains, Syrian desert, Persian gulf, Iraq. (students
may work either singly of in pairs). "1, 9" (1B.II, III; 2A. I,
(d) Selected students (those who you have seen are
working correctly) are then asked to come up to the large map and show where
these areas are located. "1, 5, 9" (1A.I, II; 2B.II)
(e) If time permits, discuss why being surrounded
by mountains and desert was an asset in developing civilization. "20"
(f) Closure, review the daily objective, ensure
all students have a basic understanding of the location of Mesopotamia. "9"
Second day/ drill, motivation, development of
Student Outcome: Mesopotamia #2 The Student
will be able to:
(a) review location of Mesopotamia, continue (or
start) discussion of how the geography allowed civilization to develop. "1,9,
14" (1A.III; 2A.III)
(b) Ask students what they had for breakfast (list
on an overhead). This may be done in small groups. Then ask students to figure
out where each item came from (i.e. toast from bread, bread from grain, eggs,
butter, yeast) Then have students list where each of these items are found
(i.e. wheat farms, dairy farms). "4" (2A.II; 3.III)
(c) Classroom discussion what would they have for
breakfast if there were no farms. Explain vocabulary terms
agriculture. Tie in to Native Americans, before the advent of
Europeans, and other societies in Africa and South America that still lead
a hunter-gatherer existence. "16" (3.VIII; 2A.I, II, III)
(d) Have students list advantages, and disadvantages
of the hunter gatherer lifestyle. Have students list the advantages and
disadvantages of agriculture. "8" (3.VIII; 5.II)
(e) From textbook/readings, have students describe
the climate of Mesopotamia, list on blackboard/transparency (terms should
include: dry, dusty, hot, spring rains, flooding). Have students read how
the people of Mesopotamia overcame these hardships (the development of
irrigation) "1, 4, 9" (2A.I, II, III)
(f) Closure/review: review daily objective. Discuss
with students agriculture and irrigation. "10" (3.II)
DAY THREE: CAUSE &
Third day/Cause and Effect
Student Outcome: Mesopotamia #3 The
Student will be able to:
(a) Drill, students will complete daily drill.
(b) Motivation, discuss quickly cause and effect
in students daily life. "20" (1A.I; 1B.I, II, III)
(c) Use cause and effect worksheets, have students
develop a three step cause and effect chain starting from: people developed
agriculture. "10" (3.II; 4.II, V). Example:
|People developed agriculture
||A steady supply of food was available
|A steady supply of food was available
||Development of permanent housing
|Development of permanent housing
||Beginnings of government
This should be taken directly from their readings
and could include, domestication of animals, construction of irrigation ditches,
development of religion, and many others.
Have students pair up and compare their chains.
(this work may be collected and checked).
(d) Directed reading with questions from text. "3"
(2A.I, II, III; 3. I, II, III, IX)
(e) Review/closure: discuss with students the start
of cities and the development of agriculture. "10"
DAY FOUR: RELIGION &
Fourth day/ Cities of Mesopotamia, Religion and
Student Outcome: Mesopotamia #4 The
Student will be able to:
Question: Nomadic people, who live by eating
whatever they can find, are called what?
(a) Daily Drill
(b) Motivation - Show students pictures/overheads
of Pyramids, Ziggurats, Mayan Temples. Ask why they think ancient peoples
built these huge structures. "20" (3.II, VIII)
(c) Have students read aloud text section on Sumerian
religion. Discuss with students similarities in Sumerian religion with activities
in students daily life. "4, 16" (3.II; 4.III)
(d) Define Epic, Myth, Legend. Introduce
the epic of Gilgamesh. Have students read sections aloud. Compare to Comic
book heroes. Show how Sumerians used these tales to entertain. "6, 16" (2A.I,
II, III; 3.II, III)
(e) Closure/review - Review, Religion, Epics, Makeup
and construction of cities. "10"
DAY FIVE: FIRST WEEK REVIEW
Fifth day/ review. Complete any unfinished
tasks from the previous days lessons. The four lessons above should take
five days to complete. If there is extra time, use it for vocabulary games,
or map skills. I use a lesson on paraphrasing here. For a worksheet
on paraphrasing, see this site: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/Files/31.html
Student Outcome: Mesopotamia #5 The Student
will be able to:
Use organization skills to clean out, and set up
Use sequencing skills to set up a cause effect graphic
organizer on the discovery of agriculture, and its effect on
Sixth day/ Tools and toolmaking.
Student Outcome: Mesopotamia #6 The
Student will be able to:
Drill Question: (today, do not write the question,
just the answer in complete sentence form.). Where, in relative terms
(i.e. north, southwest, etc.) is the Persian Gulf located in relation to
Mesopotamia? (use the maps in your textbook or assignment
(a) Daily drill
(b) Motivation: Ask how many of the students if
they have ever used a tool. Ask what type and what they did. Then ask how
they could have done the job without that tool. "16" (3.II, Vii;
(c) From their reading have students make a list
of tools developed/invented by the Sumerians. Explain the Bronze age to the
students and describe Bronze to them. "4, 10" (2A.II)
(d) Have students select from the list of tools
mentioned and draw one. Then have them describe how that tool was used underneath
their drawing. collect this work. "3,4,6" (3.I, III, VIII)
(e) Discuss with students important inventions and
tools that they use (or are used by their parents/guardians) daily that were
invented by the Sumerians. "10" (3.II)
(f) Review/Closure: Discuss with students some of
the tools invented by the people of Mesopotamia."10" (2A.II, III)
7. Seventh day/ Cuneiform, pictographs, and writing
Cuneiform Lesson Plan
Student Outcome: Mesopotamia #7 The Student
will be able to:
Question: Name at least one of the empires that
(a) Daily Drill (1A.I, II, III)
(b) Motivation - Ask students why they think writing
is important. "20" (5.III)
(c) Make (or buy) Clay tablets with Pictograph or
Cuneiform writing on them. Have students move into small groups. Give each
group a clay tablet to work from. Provide resources that will allow students
to translate a portion of the tablet. As works proceeds, provide students
with additional translation material until they have enough to translate
about 1/2 the tablet. "4, 16" (2A.II; 3.III, IV)
(d) Have each group orally provide their translation
of their tablet. Inform students that they have been doing an archeologists
job. That is to translate an unknown language with only partial meanings
known. They need to guess at actual meanings for some items. "4,5,16" (3.VII;
(e) Provide each group with a written handout with
full cuneiform to English translations ( See reading the past cuneiform by
C.B.F. Walker for translations) with an exercise that allows them to write
and draw Cuneiform and English translations. "3,4" (2A.I, II, III)
(f) Collect written work. Discuss with students
what a written language is. "4" (3.III, IX)
(g) If time permits, give each group a small piece
of clay, and have them make their own tablets. "4,5,16" (2B.I, II,
(h) Review/Closure: Review with students that Cuneiform
is the first written language and the importance of a written language in
their daily lives. "10" (2A.I, II, III)
DAYS EIGHT & NINE
INVENTIONS & DAILY
(a) Daily drill. (1A. I, II, III)
(b) Motivation - Ask students to describe a
typical/regular day of theirs. "5" (3.III, IV)
(c) Activity - Show slides/overheads about Sumerian
housing, Food, education, shopping, religious rites, and other Sumerian daily
activities. Discuss each daily activity with students. "10" (2A.I, II, III;
(d) Have students write a couple of sentences describing
what they think the life of a Sumerian child of 11 or 12 would be like. "3,
14, 16" (3.VII; 5.III)
(e) Have students share their thoughts with the
rest of the class. Have class discuss these activities and compare to their
own typical day. "5" (3.III, IV)
(f) Closure - Compare a typical students day to
the typical day of a Sumerian child. "10" (2A.I, II, III)
DAY TEN: GOVERNMENT
Student Outcome: The Student will be able
(a) Daily drill. (1A.I, II, III)
(b) Motivation - Ask students if they think they
will (or have) voted in School elections, or if any of them have or will
run for student government. "20" (1A.I, II)
(c) Ask students how they would punish people who
broke the law (be specific i.e. stole, hit their parents, hurt someone else)
Write down answers on overhead. "20" (3.IX; 4.II; 5.II)
(d) Bring out copies of Hammurabis code. Have
students read aloud. "4" (2A.I, II, III)
(e) Compare students answers about punishment under
the law with Hammurabis code "7" (3.II).
(f) Have students write Which of these codes
do you find more fair. Why? "2,3,7" (5.II)
(g) Closure Discuss with students the idea of a
written code of law. "7, 14" (2A.I, II, III)
DAY ELEVEN: GROWTH OF
Student Outcome: Mesopotamia #11 The Student
will be able to:
(a) Daily Drill. (1A.I, II, III)
(b) Motivation - Ask students if they have seen
the Star Wars trilogy. discuss the idea of Empire with them. "16" (3.II,
(c) Use maps to show the spread of empires. Arcadian,
Babylonian, Hittite, Assyrian, Persian. "4, 5" (2B.I, II, III;
(d) Have Students construct a time line to show
the various empires. "4, 5" (2B.I, II, III; 3.III)
(f) Closure/review Review the growth of empires
and how they supplanted each other. Advise students of upcoming unit test.
(2A.I, II, III)
DAY TWELVE: REVIEW OF
(a) Daily Drill
(b) Motivation - Ask students what they would do
without, a car, written language, a government based on laws.
(c) Review with student in Jeopardy style game,
the important achievements of the Civilizations of Mesopotamia.
(d) Closure - Remind students of upcoming
DAY THIRTEEN: UNIT TEST REVIEW AND
(a) Review for test. (2A.I, II, III)
(c) Have activities available for students who finish
early, word search, crossword puzzles, etc. (1A.I, II, III)
UNIT TEST -
Multiple Choice (2 points each) Circle the
answer that best completes the sentence.
1. The Sumerians wrote on a. paper b. clay tablets
c. stone d. wood e. papyrus
2. The most important people in Sumer were a. slaves
b. scribes c. farmers d. priests
3. To sign their names, the Sumerians used a a.
cylinder seal b. pen c. signet rings d. stamps and ink pads e.
4. One of the surviving Sumerian legends concerns
a. Hercules b. Enlil c. Hammurabi d. Gilgamesh e. Darius
5. Prior to the city states of Mesopotamia, people
were a. urban dwellers b. non-existent c. hunter-gatherers d.
True or False. (2 points each) Circle either
true or false.
6. Sumerian writing is called hieroglyphics.
7. Sumerians signed their names with a cylinder
seal. True False
8. The Sumerians worshipped many gods. True
9. Sumerian temples were called Ziggurats. True
10. In Sumer, a priest was a very important person.
Essay questions: (10 points each) Answer on
the blank paper attached.
1. Describe the Sumerian invention that you think
is most important and then give your reasons why using at least two examples
of how that invention changed peoples lives.
2. Compare the Code of Hammurabi with the laws of
the United States today. Answer the following questions in paragraph/sentence
1. Who is Hammurabi?
2. What were some of his laws.
3. How were his laws similar and different from
the laws we have today?
4. How might you have felt living back in the time
Homework Assignments: Paraphrase the following
statements. Supply the paraphrased statement on your own paper. Use complete
sentences. Example: (Statement) Agriculture was of great importance
to the Sumerians. Through the use of irrigation they were able to grow a
surplus of crops. (paraphrase) The Sumerians used irrigation to grow enough
food for everyone. They felt this was very important.
1. The surplus of food allowed the Sumerians to
settle in one place and build permanent structures. These permanent buildings
grouped together, and slowly developed into towns and cities.
2. Having a surplus of food allowed some people
to specialize. Everyone did not have to farm. Some people became metal workers,
some became builders, some became brick makers, and a priest caste developed.
The priests were in charge of the irrigation projects and ensured that all
farmers were provided with the water they needed to grow crops.
3. As the cities grew, and the importance of the
priests grew, temples, called Ziggurats, were built to honor the Gods. Everyone
brought gifts to the temples for the Gods, but only the High Priest was allowed
to speak to the Gods.
4. To keep track of the gifts that had been given
to the gods by each individual, the priests slowly developed a system of
writing called pictographs. Pictographs evolved over the years into stylized
symbols, where each symbol represented a sound instead of representing a
word. These markings are called Cuneiform. Cuneiform is the first written
language that we have discovered so far.
5. In addition to inventing the first written language
the Mesopotamians invented many other things we use today. These items included
the wheel, and Wheeled platform (carts and chariots), the sailboat, the plow
and plowseeder, irrigation, the hoe, many other tools, and finally a written
set of laws.
6. Hammurabis code was written down so that
everyone would know the laws. Each law had a set punishment which was applied
equally to everyone throughout the empire. While harsh by our standards,
these laws and punishments were the cornerstone of the idea of rule by law
verses rule by decree and the idea of rule by law is a cornerstone of our
TRANSLATORS NEEDED: APPLY WITHIN
Part of Unit: Mesopotamia
6th-grade Social Studies
Don Donn/Corkran Middle School; Maryland USA
Make or purchase clay tablets with pictograph writing
Divide your identifications of pictographs into
4 or 5 different sources (ensuring that there are enough sources for each
group to have one of each.)
Define/give translations through your sources for
about 1/2 the pictographs.
Run copies of a Cuneiform activity worksheet. One
A) Back of Worksheet:
Draw 5-6 pictographs and assign each a one word
definition. Example: * = star
Do the same with the letters of the alphabet A-Z.
Assign each a "cuneiform" value. Example: A = a triangle.
B = two sideways triangles. C = 2 sideways, 2 upright triangles. D
These do not need to be historically correct, but
should use consistent shapes; ie: triangles in various arrangements. If
you have a source, great. If not, simply make them up.
B) Front of Worksheet:
I. Name these pictographs (pick 4 from your
II. What does this cuneiform say? (using the
"letters" you made up, create 3-4 words in cuneiform, such as HELLO, SUMER,
III.Write your name in Cuneiform.
Introduction/Motivation: Daily Drill: 5
minutes: Start the day with your daily drill. Introduce the students
to the word Cuneiform. Inform them that this was the first written
Activity: 10 minutes. Reading from text about Cuneiform.
If pictures are provided in the text, great. If not, find a source
and use the overhead. The students should see examples of actual Cuneiform
Activity: 15 minutes.
Divide your students into small groups of 4-6 students
per group. Assign or have them select Moderator, Recorder (and any other
jobs your groups routinely select. Ours select a Reporter, also.)
Have the Recorder list the members of the group on a separate sheet
of paper and title this paper "translations".
Give each group a clay tablet and their first source.
(This activity works best if each group is given a different source
at first.) Inform groups that their job for the day is to translate the clay
tablet. After about 5 minutes, give the groups the second course.
After about 3 minutes, give the groups their third source. Wait
about 2-3 minutes, and give them their final source. End this part
of the activity after about 2 more minutes.
Activity: 10 minutes.
Ask each group to report on their translations.
Now ask them to read the tablet. If you get lucky (I usually do), you
will find at least one group in each class has tried to make up enough words
and/or letters to fill in the blanks on their own. Praise that group
more vocally than the others. Now inform students that they were doing the
same job as an archeologist. From bits and pieces, archeologists piece
Class discussion about activity.
Activity: 10 minutes. Hand out activity worksheet
on translating Cuneiform. Inform students that they are now writing
in an entirely new (to them) language. Using the "translation" from
the back of the worksheet, have students translate the cuneiform writing
on the front of their worksheet. Be sure to mention that this is "your"
cuneiform writing, and not actual cuneiform, which is much more complicated.
Discuss this activity.
Homework: Students will write a paragraph
describing the advantages of having a written language. Students will
use at least two sources.
This assignment worked so well that, after they
left class, my kids wrote notes to each other and to some of their teachers,
in Cuneiform. Some have decided to do an extra credit project - making clay
cuneiform tablets. It's an easy lesson to do, it gets the point across,
and the kids really like it. We hope it works as well for you!
Back to Day Seven:
For links to detailed information on Cylinder
Seals, Legend of Gilgamesh, The God Marduk, Text of Hammurabi's Code, Map of Sumer,
and, for complete units, lesson plans
and activities on other ancient civilizations, see Mr Donn's
Ancient Mesopotamia Section for Kids and Teachers.