Lesson 1: Civilizations


Activity 1: Social Structure

Materials: Ancient Civilizations by Joseph Fullman (DK Eyewitness), glue or glue stick, scissors
The pyramid image on p. 7 shows the hierarchy (social arrangement) of the Mayan civilization. Although some ancient civilizations had a slightly different structure, most followed a similar pattern. You can use that image to help you fill out the pyramid on the "Social Structure" page. Then answer the questions at the bottom of the page.
Student Activity Page
Your child will learn about the social hierarchy of ancient civilizations in today's reading and will use that information to fill out a diagram and answer questions.
"Social Structure" Answer Key

Answer Key (continued)

  • Why is a pyramid or triangle a good diagram to use for the structure of ancient civilizations?
    Fewer people were at the higher levels, and many more people were at the bottom levels of society.
  • In some civilizations, scribes were one level above craftspeople. Why do you think scribes had a higher social structure than craftspeople?
    Answers will vary, but your child may note that scribes had a highly skilled job, that few people were able to read and write, and that scribes were useful to both businesses and governments.
  • Do you think this diagram also represents the economic hierarchy of ancient civilizations? What might some differences be?
    Answers will vary. Your child should recognize that an economic diagram would be similar, although slaves would be at the very bottom since they weren't paid, and scribes or specialized craftspeople might be paid more.

Activity 2: Exploring the Timeline

Materials: 3-ring binder, Ancient Civilization Timeline Cards, hole punch, World History Timeline
Starting with this unit and throughout this year, you will build a timeline of several ancient cultures, including the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia and Egypt. In this lesson, you'll explore the timeline binder and cards and prepare your binder for future lessons. In later lessons, you'll add events to your timeline and can feel free, at any time, to add your own events to the timeline by creating your own timeline card.
Use a hole-punch to add holes to your timeline, and place your timeline pages into a 3-ring binder. If you already started a timeline binder in the 10-12 level of Moving Beyond the Page during the unit on the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan peoples, you should continue to use that same binder for the 11-13 level as well. Feel free to create a decorative cover for your binder if you wish.

Throughout this unit and later units on the ancient world, you will be cutting out timeline cards and adding them to the appropriate pages of your timeline. You'll notice that when you open up your binder and lay the pages flat, the timeline runs from left to right across two pages with the starting date on the left and the ending date on the right. You can use glue, glue stick, or tape to attach your timeline cards above or below the timeline. Feel free to look over the timeline cards for the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt today.

You will have a lot of extra space in the timeline at first because space has been included to allow you to use this same timeline binder for units on other ancient civilizations. As you add the important dates and significant achievements of other civilizations to your binder in the future, you'll be able to compare and contrast the histories of ancient people from around the world. This visual record will allow you to answer questions like, "When the pyramids were being built in Egypt, what was happening in Europe, Asia, and the Americas?" Or "When and how did agriculture emerge around the world?" Your timeline will eventually become an exciting record of world history!
In this activity, your child will become familiar with the timeline that she will be using throughout the 11-13 level of Moving Beyond the Page. Your child should prepare the timeline binder and look over the cards for this unit. She does not need to cut out the cards or place them in the binder until later in the unit, beginning with Lesson 3.

In all of the units on ancient civilizations, your child will add cards to the timeline, eventually building an impressive record of world history that will allow her to compare and contrast the achievements and important historical events from civilizations as diverse as ancient Egypt, the Aztec empire, ancient India, and classical Greece. Be sure to store your child's timeline binder in a safe place when it is not being used so that she will be able to access the binder during the appropriate social studies units.

Activity 3: Getting Ready to Learn About Ancient Egypt

In Lesson 3, you'll begin learning about the civilizations in and around Mesopotamia. After that lesson, you will focus on ancient Egypt. In this activity, you'll take some time to think about what you already know about ancient Egypt and to write down some of the questions that you would like to answer about ancient Egypt as you work through this unit. As you complete this activity, review the characteristics of a civilization. Did ancient Egypt demonstrate these characteristics and in what ways that you know of? What questions about ancient Egypt do these characteristics make you wonder about?

You should spend about 5-7 minutes writing down everything you can think of that you already know about ancient Egypt on the "Brainstorming" page. Then you should spend about 5-7 more minutes writing down at least six questions that you still have about ancient Egypt. As you read materials and work on activities throughout the unit, try to find the answers to those questions.
Student Activity Page
In this activity, your child will record what he already knows about Ancient Egypt and will brainstorm questions that he would like to answer in his study of Egyptian civilization. (He will begin learning about Egypt in Lesson 4.) Answers will, of course, vary. If your family already owns books or other resources related to ancient Egypt, you may want to remind your child of those as he begins to think about what he already knows about ancient Egyptian civilization and what he still would like to learn. Pay particular attention to the questions your child still has about ancient Egypt, and make an effort to help your child find the answers to his questions, either through the activities in later lessons or through additional research at your local library or on the Internet.