Donn, Corkran Middle School, Maryland, USA
This unit was created during my first year as a teacher many years ago!
I left it online because it has some ideas I still use.
For new teachers, TSWBAT means "the student will
be able to".
Have a great year!
A. Subject: Ancient
B. Grade & Ability
level: 6th Grade; all levels of Students
C. Unit Title:
D. Time Frame: 10 - 12
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 ...)
Overview and Rationale
A. Scope and major
1. This unit covers the
history of Ancient Mesopotamia.
2. This unit will include
(a) The key role of
geography in the development of Civilization.
peoples, work, food, shelter
(c) The rule of law,
and development of government
(d) The development
of written language
(e) The concepts of
Religion, myths, legends, epics
inventions of the Mesopotamian people
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 world events.
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
TSWBAT discuss and
support either side of an argument in a debate given an appropriate
subject. (C, A)
writing skills. (C, P)
research skills. (C, P)
presentation skills. (C, P)
TSWBAT describe items
using proper terminology.
TSWBAT compare and
contrast differing views about a subject.
understand, and use maps, charts and graphs. (C, P)
TSWBAT discuss the
interdependence of peoples. (C)
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:
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 answer.
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
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,
1. Positive Attitudes and
A. Classroom Climate
B. Classroom Tasks
to perform tasks
2. Acquiring and
A. Declarative Knowledge
B. Procedural Knowledge
I. Construct Models
3. Extending and Refining
I. Directed Teaching of
VI. Analyzing Errors
VII. Constructing Support
IV. Meaningful Use of
I. Directed Teaching of
Dimension 4 Mental Processes
II. Decision Making
IV. Experimental Inquiry
V. Problem Solving
5. Productive Habits of
II. Critical thinking
III. Creative Thinking
For each lesson and activity,
First day/ Introduction,
knowledge assessment, geography.
Student Outcome: The
Student will be able to:
Drill Question: What is
an illustrated dictionary?
(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, II, III)
(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).
(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, II)
(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" (3.V)
(f) Closure, review the
daily objective, ensure all students have a basic understanding of the
location of Mesopotamia. "9" (1A.III; 2A.III)
Second day/ drill,
motivation, development of agriculture
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 “hunter-gatherer”, “nomadic/nomad”,
“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)
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)
review daily objective. Discuss with students agriculture and
irrigation. "10" (3.II)
CAUSE & EFFECT
Third day/Cause and
Mesopotamia #3 The Student will be able to:
(a) Drill, students will
complete daily drill. (1A.III)
(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
|A steady supply of food was
||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)
discuss with students the start of cities and the development of
RELIGION & EPICS|
Fourth day/ Cities of
Mesopotamia, Religion and Epics.
Mesopotamia #4 The Student will be able to:
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.
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
Mesopotamia #5 The Student will be able to:
skills to clean out, and set up their notebooks.
Use sequencing skills
to set up a cause effect graphic organizer on the discovery of
agriculture, and its effect on civilization.
DAY SIX: TOOLS
Sixth day/ Tools and tool making.
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 book)
(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; 5.III)
(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.
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
Mesopotamia #7 The Student will be able to:
Question: Name at least
one of the empires that controlled Mesopotamia
(a) Daily Drill (1A.I,
(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; 5.II, III)
(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"
(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, III)
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)
INVENTIONS & DAILY LIFE
(a) Daily drill. (1A. I,
(b) Motivation - Ask
students to describe a typical/regular day of theirs. "5"
(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; 3.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,
(f) Closure - Compare a
typical students day to the typical day of a Sumerian child.
"10" (2A.I, II, III)
Student Outcome: The
Student will be able to:
(a) Daily drill. (1A.I,
(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"
(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
Hammurabi’s code. Have students read aloud. "4" (2A.I, II,
(e) Compare students
answers about punishment under the law with Hammurabi’s code
(f) Have students write
“Which of these codes do you find more fair. Why?” "2,3,7"
(g) Closure Discuss with
students the idea of a written code of law. "7, 14" (2A.I,
GROWTH OF EMPIRE
Mesopotamia #11 The Student will be able to:
(a) Daily Drill. (1A.I,
(b) Motivation - Ask
students if they have seen the Star Wars trilogy. discuss the idea of
Empire with them. "16" (3.II, V)
(c) Use maps to show the
spread of empires. Arcadian, Babylonian, Hittite, Assyrian, Persian.
"4, 5" (2B.I, II, III; 3.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)
REVIEW OF ACHIEVEMENTS
(a) Daily Drill
(b) Motivation - Ask
students what they would do without, a car, written language, a
government based on laws. (5.III)
(c) Review with student
in Jeopardy style game, the important achievements of the Civilizations
of Mesopotamia. (2.A.I,II,III)
(d) Closure - Remind
students of upcoming test
UNIT TEST REVIEW AND TEST
(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. thumbprint
4. One of the surviving
Sumerian legends concerns a. Hercules b. Enlil c. Hammurabi d. Gilgamesh
5. Prior to the
city states of Mesopotamia, people were a. urban dwellers b.
non-existent c. hunter-gatherers d. pastoral
True or False. (2 points
each) Circle either true or false.
6. Sumerian writing is
called hieroglyphics. True False
7. Sumerians signed their
names with a cylinder seal. True False
8. The Sumerians
worshipped many gods. True False
9. Sumerian temples were
called Ziggurats. True False
10. In Sumer, a priest
was a very important person. True False
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
2. Compare the Code of
Hammurabi with the laws of the United States today. Answer the following
questions in paragraph/sentence form.
1. Who is Hammurabi?
2. What were some of his
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 of Hammurabi?
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
6. Hammurabi’s 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 own government.
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 on them.
identifications of pictographs into 4 or 5 different sources
(ensuring that there are enough sources for each group to have one
translations through your sources for about 1/2 the pictographs.
Run copies of a
Cuneiform activity worksheet. One per student.
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 list)
II. What does this
cuneiform say? (using the "letters" you made up, create
3-4 words in cuneiform, such as HELLO, SUMER, MESOPOTAMIA.)
III.Write your name in
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 language.
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 writing.
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.
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 together languages.
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.
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!
to Day Seven: Cuneiform
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.