Our Lesson Plans &
Learning Modules for Kids
for Ancient History
Some restrictions apply to all lessons and activities below. Please see our FAQ section prior to use or see restrictions at the bottom of this page for details. Please note, these activities are not arts and crafts. Rather, first you make it, then you set it to work.
For Teachers - Our Free Use Lesson Plans and Activities
The difference between artifacts and fossils. In prepartion, I make a set of posterboard paddles with short handles for each student. One paddle says Artifacts. The other says Fossils. I create a list of questions. Is an old buried dog bone found at a dig an artifact or a fossil? Is a carved dog bone found at a dig an artifact or a fossil? Is an ancient dog collar an artifact or a fossil? In class, I pass out a set of paddle to each student. I tell them these are not weapons. They are your ability to vote. I direct the kids to hold the Artifacts paddle in their right hand if they are right handed and in their left hand if they are left handed. (I want the hand they normally raise, sometime, before they speak, holding the artifact paddle.) I ask about 10 quick questions. Then I have the kids write a question of their own. Give them a minute, then ask does anyone want to ask their question? The class answers by raising the appropriate paddle. I know it sounds dumb, but it works. I tried just having them raise their hand. That got boring fast. But raising a paddle - for some reason, that was fun.
New Teacher Tip: At the end of the activity, which can be adjusted by the number of questions you ask to fit any time slot, I collect the paddles and save them for another class and another day. Now and then thoughout the year, you're going to find a dead couple of minutes. Have questions ready. It's a smart way to fill in the time and remind your kids that artifacts are the remains of man-made things; fossils are the remains of once living things.
Door into my Classroom: For early humans, I put a brown arch around my door with heavy construction paper, like the entrance to a cave. I have a sign above my door that says: THE STONE AGE. I staple pertinent things on the cardboard around my door like the outline of a hand, a saber toothed tiger, a wooly mammoth, a stone tipped wood spear, a bush with berries, a campfire - anything to do with early humans. That way, each time the kids enter my classroom, they enter the Stone Age. It's silly, but it helps to keep them on track.
Cave Painting for the Classroom:
Preparation Materials: : Charcoal or chalk, tape, brown paper bags (1 or 2 per student)
Preparation Instructions: The day before this activity, if using Option #1, tell kids to wear slacks or jeans the next day.
Day of Activity Instructions:
Option #1: Darken the room. Have the students wad up a paper bag and tape it to the bottom of their desk. (Wadding the bag will give the surface a rough feel, like a cave wall.) If anyone needs help wadding, get the kids to help those who are having difficulty. Have the students crawl under their desks. Then have them draw local animals on the paper bags. Once they have created their "artifact", display the bags on a bulletin board, putting them close together like one wall of a cave.
Option #2: Darken the room. Give each student a paper bag. Tell them to open it up and rip a side or two to make it bigger. Then instruction them to wad it up loosely to create texture, like the wall of a cave. Then have them draw local animals on the paper bags. They can also include an outline of their hand print. Once they have created their "artifact", display the bags on a bulletin board, putting them close together and even overlap, like the wall of a cave. I almost always use this option because almost always some of my kids do not wear slacks. Rather than comment on it, I simply switch to option #2.
What is a culture?
You might want to start your study of ancient civilizations with a lesson on culture. This is the lesson Mr. Donn created when he took over a 9th grade 2nd semister World Cultures class one year. I taught this in 6th grade as is. No problem at all. It was needed. My kids had no idea what a culture was, and we were ready to embark on a school year of units on various ancient cultures. World Cultures: What is Culture? (90 minutes) Lesson Plan with handout.
Ancient Mesopotamia (Sumer, Babylon, Assyria):
Mr. Donn's Ancient Mesopotamia Unit - This unit was written during Mr. Donn's first year as a teacher, many years ago. It still has value, but keep in mind, he was a newbie. We've come a long way as teachers.
Mummies! Or How to Live Forever!
Concluding Activity for Ancient Egypt: Pharaoh's Fun House
A Slightly Different Approach to the Greek Gods Family Tree - I used felt. Felt sticks to felt and it's colorful. I created the tree, a green tree with two tiers of branches and a brown tree trunk. To one side, I had rectangles with Greek gods names, but they were not on the tree or in any particular order or angle. This was up, ready to use, before the kids came to class. Then I used the myths. From the myths, as a class, we could figure out from clues in the myth who was who in the ancient Greek world, including Hera and Zeus. That is exactly how the ancient Greeks learned who was who in the Greek god world, as the ancient storytellers wandered around the Greek peninsula from village to village in early Greece. Down at the bottom of the tree, on the trunk, I placed the demi-gods - half mortals, and the monsters. It worked very well. The kids filled the tree quite rapidly. They also ran into deities that I had not prepared. They prepared them and added them to our very cluttered tree. Some where in there, I reminded the kids now and then that the Greeks had over 2,000 gods. I don't think we're going to get them all up on our wall. But we can certainly get up a few. If you have multiple classes as I had, leave it up and have the kids check if the other classes were correct. Mix up the myths. That way, every class has a chance to add to the family tree. I left the tree up during our ancient Greek unit. The felt kept falling down and I finally glued it.
Monster Myths: I especially like having the kids write their own monster myths, complete with Greek God villain and/or hero/heroine and a happy ending, early in the unit. First, have your students read some Greek Myths to review the Greek gods. Point out especially for this lesson the myth of King Tantalus (beware mere mortals who think they can lie about the gods or use the gods for their own purposes.) Working individually or in small groups, have kids write a short made up myth. As kids read their myth aloud, the rest of the class has to ooh and ah and cheer because that's how things were done when the Ancient Greek storytellers told their tales. It was the stories of myths. legends, and heroes that gave the early Greeks the unity and confidence they needed to escape the rule of the hated Dorians.
Business Cards: Tell the kids the gods are really getting upset. People are coming to the temples asking them to do everything. They don't do everything. They have jobs. People need a reminder of what jobs each god can do. In frustration, the gods have come to you to fix this. You need to create for them some business cards that they can use to advertise what they do best. (Example: Apollo, Want a sun tan? See Apollo. Or Hera: Wedding Consultant. Aphrodite: Love Advice for the Lonely. Work in groups. If you have multiple classes, work in large groups. Give each class different gods. That way, when they are all posted on the wall, the kids in each class can enjoy them. Assign groups the gods they will be helping. Give them some time. Have each class them share their business cards ideas with the class. Collect the card so can make a montage of all the cards from all classes on your wall.
9th grade and above: Zeus is retiring. Apply for his job. Writing resumes activity. If time permits, hold interviews with volunteers. Some kids are uncomfortable with acting, others love it. You can always demonstrate interview skills using two teachers. Have the kids decide - will that interviewee be hired; why or why not. Mr. Donn likes to set this up with three students ahead of time. Whe interviewed, one interrupts constantly. One talks too fast and keeps looking around. One does not answer the questions but talks about something else or how great he or she is. The kids have to decide what they did wrong in the interview. Don has signs he holds up - Constant Interruption, for example. He always compliments the interviewee and has them take a bow for their great acting skills. He does not add from there what to do in an interview. It takes time, so he does it in pieces. If you have different teachers for social studies and language arts, this is a great way to team teach.
Ancient Greek Olympics Mini-Unit: A Simulation for the Classroom; Meet the City-States. (3-5 days)
Mock Trial: Socrates Mock Trial, Classroom Activity (2-3 class periods, 55 minutes each) Preface this debate with a quick introduction of the various types of Ancient Greek government. Do a quick comparison of direct democracy (Ancient Athens) and representative democracy (USA today.) Then briefly discuss: What is philosophy? Then hold a mock trial in Athens.
Greek Bingo with printout Greek bingo card
Ask Mr. Donn: Online Quiz: Interactive Quiz Questions with Answers about Ancient Greece for Kids and Teachers
Can you save the Roman Republic? Lesson Plan, Ancient Rome.
Gossip at the Forum, A Play for the Classroom (every student has a part)
Emperors - What Makes a Good Leader? Classroom Activity
The Eightfold Path: Intro to Buddhism. Ask students to read about each step on the Eightfold Plan. Student must select about which to write, identify these two steps, and give each of the two selected its Buddhist meaning. Direct students to describe why each step would, or would not be, difficult to follow here in America. Eightfold Path
Critical Thinking Activity: Buddhist, Taoist, Confucianist, Legalist: how would each behave when faced with the same problems?
Debates on Censorship: (2-3 days) Qin (Ch'in) Dynasty, debate set in modern times. Lesson Plan, Ancient China
Make a Chinese Panel that illustrates a poem they have written. Small group project: Chinese painting typically has three sections, birds and/or flowers, figures, and glimpses of the countryside, which might include mountains, a field, a waterfall, a stream. The pictures create a feeling of harmony and balance. Some painting illustrate a poem, which is included on the painting. Many paintings were done with just a few brush strokes, to suggest, rather than detail, an idea. First, show your class some examples of Chinese paintings. Discuss how each reflects an idea or feeling. Then, using pencil or crayon, have your kids create a Chinese panel that illustrates an original poem they have written about Ancient China. This can be done as a group project, or individually. If time is tight, rather than paint, use precut pieces of colorful paper. Make sure you have enough glue sticks and sturdy paper or poster board.
Make a Shadow Puppet, and put on a show. First, read The Story of Ancient Chinese Shadow Puppets. Working in groups, write a story. Make your own shadow puppets and put on a show.
Activities that can be used for any unit:
Computer Lab: Citing Sources. Online Game Day: For example: Early Humans - Games and Interactive Learning Sites for Kids. We have a game page in each of ancient civilizations. To quick find, search Google for: mrdonn (the ancient civilization) games. Example: mrdonn ancient Greece games. I set this activity to work by creating a list of thing for kids to find in the sites listed on their exploration sheet. The kids have to cite the source for each scavenger find for verification. The format we give the kids as instructions for this lesson is: Include the following information for each source: Author (if known,) Page Title, web address (URL) and the month and year you accessed that web page (not when the page was written.) Here is the example we give our kids: Once upon a time, in the year 2021, during February, while cruising the web, you stumbled across our daily life sites. "How lucky," you said at the time. "My report on Ancient Greece is due tomorrow!" If you had listed our site in your bibliography, that listing might have read something like this:
Daily Life in Ancient Greece
Actually, we wrote a great deal of that site in 1997 and 1998, and updated it in 2002, and again in 2005, and again in 2008, and again in 2010, and most recently in 2021. The date we have our kids cite for a website is the date they found it and used it, not the date it was written.
For Kids - Our Free Use Learning Modules
Deep in the Tombs of Egypt
Two of our people have disappeared
- Deep in the Tombs of Egypt!
Ancient Roots, Modern Holidays
Mini-histories, lesson ideas,
activities for the classroom for holidays
Retold by Lin Donn; illustrated by Phillip Martin
Free Use Presentations in PowerPoint format for Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations for Kids
Free Use Presentations for Native Americans in Olden Times for Kids
Free Use Presentations for Holiday Culture & History for Kids
Free: Aesop's Fables
Free: 7 Wonders of the Ancient World
Ancient Myths & Folktales for Kids (Word format, free use for teachers and kids)
Anansi the Spider (Africa, Ghana)
Place of the Prickly Pear Cactus (Aztec)
Journey of a Princess (Aztec, grades 6-12)
Wise Owl (Iroquois Myth)
How Raven Stole Crow's Potlatch (Northwest Coastal Pacific Myth)
Clever Coyote (Comanche Buffalo Myth)
Child of Water and Little Blue Rock (Apache Myth)
Theseus and the Minotaur (Minoan/Greek)
Little Io (Greek Version)
Legend of the Trojan Horse (Greek)
The Cyclops Cave & The Sirens (Greek, from "The Odyssey" by Homer)
The Oracle at Delphi (Greek Myth)
Zeus, Hades, and the King of Corinth (Greek Myth)
Apollo and Cassandra (Greek Myth)
Pandora's Box (Greek Myth)
Demeter and Persephone (Greek Myth)
Hercules (Greek Myth)
Loawnu the Wise Woman (Xia Times, Ancient China)
Wang the Peddler (Han Times, Ancient China)
The Legend of the Shadow Puppet (Han Times, Ancient China)
The Legend of Gilgamesh (Ancient Mesopotamia, Sumer)
Gilgamesh and the Tree of Eternal Life (Ancient Mesopotamia, Sumer)
How Marduk Became the King of ALL the Gods (Ancient Mesopotamia, Babylon)
Little Io (Roman Version, which is exactly the same as the Greek version, only with Roman god names, because that's how the Romans did things)
The Legend of Romulus and Remus (Ancient Rome)
Horatius at the Bridge (Ancient Rome)
The Punic Wars & Hannibal of Carthage (Ancient Rome)
The Warrior Well (Ancient Mongolia)
The Hero Twins (Maya Empire)
Happy Together (Russian Folktale)
The Legend of the Christmas Stocking (old story)
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