Social Sundays: An approach to Ancient Egypt

Teaching Ancient Egypt can be challenging because frankly students often know a great deal.  They aren't awed by hieroglyphics or King Tut's tomb or the Great Pyramids.  They often even know much of the mythology. 

To teach Ancient Egypt,  I set two central goals for the unit

  1. Students will discover, understand and analyze aspects related to Ancient Egypt that they previously knew little to nothing about i.e. students will learn.
  2. Students will make connections between Ancient Egypt and other Ancient civilizations (NOTE: this is an ongoing goal as many of the connections are made in units that follow our Ancient Egypt study such as when we look at the social structure of the MesoAmerican civilizations in comparison to that of Ancient Egypt).
I include the following topics for Ancient Egypt:

While we touch on all of these, the ones that are prime for discovery and allow for further investigation tend to be inventions and technology and the Rosetta stone.  

  • Technology of Ancient Egypt
    there are several cool pieces of technology from Ancient Egypt such as the ox-drawn plow, papyrus, and different boat designs for navigating the Nile and the Mediterranean Sea.  My personal favorite discovery from the Ancient Egyptian civilization is the sun clock and the water clock.  The sun clock is a giant shadow clock that helped Egyptians determine if it was morning or afternoon.  The water clock was used to estimate hours.  The how-to of it appeals to my problem solving students and others are interested in the sophisticated time keeping devices that Egypt had.  We explore the technology through a gallery walk and analysis activity.  
  • The Rosetta Stone: as part of an examination of the writing system, we discuss who held the knowledge of writing and reading and what the consequences are of a partially literate society. 
    We go further than that in thinking about what happens when different languages clash. A prime example of this is the Rosetta Stone (good video here from Tom Scott for background).  The Rosetta Stone is like a giant mystery unwrapped.  It is the key to a large amount of knowledge about the Egyptians.  We discuss how we know what we know about the Ancient Egyptians and the role of the Rosetta Stone helping to unlock this information.  We create our own rosetta stones from languages and analyze the value of being able to translate from one language to another in a global society.

Another area for discovery is the student-centered projects.  Students each choose a topic related to Ancient Egypt to examine in-depth.  This is their opportunity to explore further their individual interests in the culture and hopefully, just hopefully, make connections to today.  After all, even as things change, much of human society remains largely unchanged.

This is part of a series of posts on teaching topics in World History.  Topics include:

Social Sundays
 is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.




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