Ancient Civ Teachers- I'm looking for ideas!

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Alisha, Sep 24, 2008.

  1. Alisha

    Alisha Cohort

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    Sep 24, 2008

    Hi! I'm going to be starting a unit on Mesopotamia soon. Does anyone have any interesting activities that they'd be willing to share with me about this topic? My students cannot do book work (which I am not a fan of anyway, plus our text books are about 13 years old), they are much better at interactive things. I have some ideas, but I'd love to hear from people that have been doing this a couple years! Thanks!
     
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  3. Lakenjade

    Lakenjade Rookie

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  4. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Sep 24, 2008

    I "borrowed" a civilization activity from someone website years ago - students are divided into tribes and must step by step form a civilization by following the 6 features of a civilzations. It really helps students to understand they way civilizations were created. I can PM the activity if you are interested.

    I also hold Hammurabi's court like a tv show. Students are accused of crimes and present their cases to Hammurabi to decide.
     
  5. sciencewrestler

    sciencewrestler Rookie

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    Sep 24, 2008

    The students "cannot" do bookwork? :confused:

    Or is it they just don't like doing bookwork?

    This is just me of course but based on years of personal experience and I think other old people :) would agree that reading books and discussing/writing about what they've read can teach a LOT about just about any subject (even in the digital age Mr. Gutenberg's invention still has its advantages). An interactive activity can help to pull that information together but I wouldn't rely on such activities to teach something thoroughly and that's because such activities can severely decrease the amount of actual learning since they can use up large amounts of time to accomplish - gathering materials, construction time, practice time for mini-plays & such - so *actual* learning of what happened in Mesopotamia ends up being a secondary priority.

    The students may complain a bit at first about learning from a book but in the long-run most will realize they actually have gained useful insight (and maybe even pleasure) about what happened way back then and how that culture affected subsequent cultures........rather than how long it took to find the right color of construction paper at the fourth Wal-Mart mom & dad had to drive to that week. :(

    And while I am fully aware history is a living subject since there can be new discoveries that change what we thought we knew, but for seventh graders I'll bet teaching a subject as ancient as Mesopotamia can be kept to the basics, basics which have little chance of being altered by one of those discoveries. And anyway, if one has doubts about a particular text's content, a call or email to the publisher should clear up such issues.

    The following is just a general rant for anyone reading........

    (I'm talking in extremes here just to make a point - I'm sure no one wants a kid to be a walking textbook!): As far as learning a set of facts, when this occurs in proper quantities most people begin to see patterns in those facts & eventually end up seeing that Bigger Picture us teachers want them to see. But not teaching facts and only teaching how to think......well, such a "learning" system doesn't make any sense because how can one learn to think if they have nothing to think about?

    As far as choice of learning styles is concerned, I'm sorry but I believe this philosophy of acquiescence to childrens' wants - human beings who have been on this planet many fewer years than the average teacher & so know little of life's realities - is doing a disservice to those children. Look what happened to all those children when their schools gave in to their desires in the cafeteria: numerous obese kids - some with diabetes! :unsure: - and many of them so heavy they only want to sit at home in front of a TV or their computer, either because of embarrassment or they are simply too tired to do anything more. But we are supposed to feel good about the fact they at least got the glazed donuts and greasy nachos they asked for???
     
  6. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 24, 2008

    sciencewrestler, your opinions on the deficiencies of hands-on work are clearly both strong and strongly held. They don't go very far toward answering Alisha's question, however. It's worth pointing out that there may be perfectly valid reasons that her students can't do bookwork, including learning disabilities of various sorts or even visual problems.
     
  7. ancientcivteach

    ancientcivteach Habitué

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    Sep 24, 2008

    If you haven't introduced the concept of civilization, I'd like to suggest Paul Fleischman's Weslandia. It is a great picture book that deals with a young man creating his own civilization based on an unusual staple crop in his back yard. Its a fun leaping off point.


    Writing in cuneiform in clay is a great, short hands-on activity. Takes maybe 15 minutes and my kids remember it all year.

    Hammurabi's Code is a must, and there is a fabulous website/activity here:

    http://www.phillipmartin.info/hammurabi/hammurabi_situation_index.htm

    if you've got longer, this is a great edsitement lesson:
    http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=633#01

    I also assign an evening learning opportunity - create your own mud brick out of all natural ingredients. I set a due date and the brickmakers bring in their products or a paper describing what they did and how it didn't work signed by a parent. We test them out to see how strong they are.

    This is an activity to show how early people viewed their relationship with their gods:

    http://socialstudies.com/c/@ufFKt_rZVpKO./Pages/article.html?article@TCM251A+af@donn

    And I don't have the website at hand, but google "british museum mesopotamia" lots of neat stuff there.

    Hope this helps :)


    This year I'm teaching the river valley civs together as a compare/contrast unit, and so far I'm enjoying the change and the kids seem to be grasping the "big ideas" a bit better.
     
  8. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Sep 24, 2008

    My students can't do bookwork because I'd never make them read a book that is written for idiots and full of factual errors.

    I guarantee my kids learn and retain more in my class than they do from the teacher across the hall who uses nothing but the book.

    Now to get somewhat back on topic, while I don't have Mesopotamia stuff specifically on my website I have about 40 generic history assignments that will work for any subject. You can check my profile for the link.
     
  9. sciencewrestler

    sciencewrestler Rookie

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    Sep 25, 2008

    (Without writing too much more off-topic material) While philosophically-speaking I still believe in what I said above, I agree with what you wrote yourself. I have heard of many textbooks - huge, expensive and heavy books (IIRC textbooks in Japan are @50% thinner but include *more* content) - that are full of cute-but-useless graphics, a "hip" writing style and yes, content that seems to have undergone about 15 minutes of factual verification. :mad: Now that would definitely be a good reason not to use them.
     
  10. Alisha

    Alisha Cohort

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    Sep 29, 2008

    Thanks for all the great ideas everyone.
     

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