Ideas for Teaching about the Ancient Maya

Openendedsocialstudies has just launched a brand new unit for teaching middle or high school classrooms about the ancient Maya.  Find free readings, guided questions, and lesson plan ideas on the following subjects:

  • The Basics of Ancient Maya Civilization – Who were the Maya?  Where did they live and when?
  • The Ancient Maya in Time and Space – How did the Maya interact with their environment?  How did the Maya conceive of themselves and the universe around them?  In European influenced societies, geography, ecology, time, and spirituality are all relatively distinct spheres – not so for the ancient Maya, whose since of time, space, and religion were closely linked.
  • Ancient Maya Society – How was the ancient Maya society structured?  How did they govern and feed themselves?
  • The Maya City – The most durable testament to the grandeur of the ancient Maya are their grand construction projects.  How were these cities made, and what makes them so awe-inspiring?
  • The Written Language of the Maya – Language shapes thoughts, knowledge, and feelings as well as human imagination, so it permeates all aspects of culture – the complexity of the Mayan language is key for understanding the richness of this people.

One great way for students to develop a deeper understanding of a concept is to have them teach others.

  1. Choose any section from this unit and develop a lesson – in the form of a presentation, a storybook, or a worksheet – that teaches younger students about the Maya.  Make sure the material is age appropriate in content and approach, and create some simple questions to check your audience’s understanding.

Find more free lessons on the Maya at Openendsocialstudies.org.  

There are also plenty of free lessons featuring other peoples from world history.

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Conquest or Westward Expansion?: Native Americans and the Stories We Tell

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For educators: Create an illustrated glossary of Nahuatl/English loan words

When you’re teaching from many textbooks, it’s easy to think of native societies as “the other” – the Aztec are conquered and swept aside, if they’re mentioned at all, and they appear from the perspective of their conquerors.  They didn’t even call themselves the Aztec, for that matter – they referred to themselves as the Mexica, a name lent to the modern nation, and often excluded from your textbooks to prevent confusion between the two among students.   Continue reading “For educators: Create an illustrated glossary of Nahuatl/English loan words”

What if people told European history like they told Native American history?

An Indigenous History of North America

The first immigrants to Europe arrived thousands of years ago from central Asia. Most pre-contact Europeans lived together in small villages. Because the continent was very crowded, their lives were ruled by strict hierarchies within the family and outside it to control resources. Europe was highly multi-ethnic, and most tribes were ruled by hereditary leaders who commanded the majority “commoners.” These groups were engaged in near constant warfare.

Pre-contact Europeans wore clothing made of natural materials such as animal skin and plant and animal-based textiles. Women wore long dresses and covered their hair, and men wore tunics and leggings. Both men and women liked to wear jewelry made from precious stones and metals as a sign of status. Before contact, Europeans had very poor diets. Most people were farmers and grew wheat and vegetables and raised cows and sheep to eat. They rarely washed themselves, and had many diseases because…

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