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History/Social Studies - Studying Ancient Egypt


Designed for the middle school history or social studies classroom, this lesson introduces students to the daily life of people in ancient Egypt and asks them to make connections between life in the 21st century and early civilizations. Teachers can find the articles for this lesson in EBSCO's Middle Search Plus database via EBSCOhost or Explora.

Audience: Social Studies, Grades 6-8

Curriculum Connections

The Common Core State Standards listed below are specific to Grade 6 but can be modified for Grades 7-8.

English Language Arts Standards » Reading: Informational Text » Grade 6

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.1: Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.2: Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.7: Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

English Language Arts Standards » Speaking & Listening » Grade 6

Comprehension and Collaboration:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

English Language Arts Standards » Writing » Grade 6

Range of Writing:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.10: Write routinely over … shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

English Language Arts Standards » History/Social Studies » Grade 6-8

Craft and Structure:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7: Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
Skills Practiced
  • Group work
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Researching
  • Reasoning
  • Presenting autobiographical information
  • Oral presentation
  • Creative expression
  • Listening
  • Computer skills
  • Problem solving
Co‐Curricular Applications
  • Art
  • Language Arts
  • Science
  • Information Technology
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies

Lesson Plan


Images of ancient Egypt loom larger than life in the sands of northern Africa, and in the imagination: the mighty Nile, the Valley of the Kings, the Sphinx, the Great Pyramids, the powerful pharaohs. Amid the awe and wonder, it might be difficult to imagine that ordinary daily life was lived there, and yet it was. Nobles and common people have left us glimpses of their daily routines, thoughts, and celebrations. They are our treasures of history, and in some cases, proof that living thousands of years ago does not make them so very different from us.

In this unit, you will have an opportunity to explore the daily lives of king and commoner using selected magazine articles from EBSCO’s Middle Search Plus database and education websites such as PBS. The sands of time are shifting; a journey awaits you …

  1. To give students a sense of the daily life of a variety of people in ancient Egypt, their concept of life and death, leadership, diversions and culture
  2. To involve students in the learning process, and give them opportunities to present new knowledge to peers, through various learning styles
  3. To help students recognize connections and parallels between life in the 21st century and ancient Egypt

Depending on the class time available, you can base lessons on one or more of the articles listed here. Because this is a thematic unit and not a single lesson plan, activities are grouped according to the articles your students read. The suggested articles can be found on Middle Search Plus and read online or printed for class use.

  • “Life in Ancient Egypt,” Junior Scholastic, Sept. 2002, Lexile 950, AN 8605601
    This brief article offers excellent general information about various aspects of daily life in ancient Egypt.
  • “A Peek Inside a Mummy,” Scholastic News – Senior Edition, LX 1010, Oct 25, 2002, AN 7690707
  • “Egyptian Vocabulary,” Events of Ancient Civilization, LX 920, 2002 edition, AN 5653436; includes the word ostraca, featured in Activity 2 (see complete lesson plan for this activity here.
  • annals: records kept to document something
  • antiquity: ancient times
  • aspirations: goals, hoped for achievements
  • cartouche: an oval or oblong figure enclosing the hieroglyph names of royalty or gods
  • deity: a god
  • demise: downfall
  • embodiment: personification, bodily representation of an idea hieroglyphs: the symbolic picture writing of ancient Egypt homage: worship offered by a person to another
  • labyrinth: an intricate, maze‐like structure of interconnecting passageways
  • obelisk: a tall, four‐sided monument usually made of sandstone, tapering to a pyramid‐like top
  • obliterate: to destroy completely, leaving behind no sign of something’s existence ostraca: limestone tablet scrap used for writing notes, reminders, receipts, or drawings in ancient Egypt, much as we use scrap paper today.
  • sanctum: a sacred or holy place
  • pharaohs: the supreme rulers of ancient Egypt
  • plunder: to sack, loot, or rob
  • sarcophagus: an ancient Egyptian burial coffin
  • scarab: a type of large beetle the Egyptians considered sacred

Note: Additional words can be found in the suggested article “Egyptian Vocabulary,” referenced above. It presents a short glossary of vocabulary relating to ancient Egypt.

  1. Egyptian Brainstorm

    Present the information in the introduction as a lead‐in to the unit. Ask the class to brainstorm words/phrases they associate with Ancient Egypt. Write these on the board. Inform students that they will be reading articles and working on activities about life in ancient Egypt, such as daily life, homes, buildings, writing, death and burial, recreation, construction, the pharaohs. In short, most of the words they have probably listed on the board. Examples include hieroglyphs, pyramids, King Tutankhamen, the Nile River, papyrus, mummy, and desert. Review listed vocabulary words students will encounter in the lesson.
  2. Life in Ancient Egypt (Complete lesson plan here)

    Introduce the word ostraca – plural is ostracon. Explain that an ostraca is a shard of limestone or pottery ancient Egyptians used much in the way we use notepaper today.

    Before reading the article “Life in Ancient Egypt,” instruct students to think about the different things one can learn about Egyptian life through ostracon as they read the article. Students can take notes as they read. Discuss answers after reading.

    Discussion Questions

    What are our 21st century ostracon?

    Invite students to share their ideas. Examples of answers include emails letters, messages on Post It Notes, scratch paper doodles, road signs, rough drafts of letters or reports, etc.

    What might ancient Egyptians learn about us if they saw our ostracon?

    This can be a class activity with answers written on a white board, or an individual student writing exercise. To make further historical connections, ask students to compare or contrast their 21st century values and attitudes with those of the ancient Egyptians, on main topics from the article, such as spirituality, the body, food, education, and government.

    Variation: Another creative writing activity might be to invite students to create journals in which they play the role of a person in Egyptian society, and write of life from their perspective. Ask them to use information from the articles and be as detailed as possible in their descriptions, to give readers the strongest sense of time and place, down to details like taste, smell, textures and temperature. Remind them that such details are important in describing the place in society people had. A pharaoh, queen, scribe, child, baker or musician each saw the same sunny day very differently.

    Variation: To make this a class presentation project, create a list of types of people and occupations in ancient Egypt and assign individuals or group of students to each one. Student groups can collaborate on the journal, and present their information to the class. Encourage creativity, such as dressing in costume for the presentation, creating artwork, using researched props, etc.
  3. One if by Land, Two if by Nile

    This activity is about transportation in ancient Egypt, which centered on the Nile River. A reed boat called a felucca, or falucca, plied the waters for trade and transport. To learn about this, invite students to “meet” a boy their age who sails a felucca. The photos and descriptions are most informative.
  4. Egyptians at Play

    Board games were very popular in ancient Egypt. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of game boards for mancala and senet in many settings that predate 1400 BC. We play those games today. Senet, known also as Game of Thirty Squares, evolved into the more modern backgammon. Both senet and mancala are mathematical games. For a printable version of Senet, visit

    After students have had a chance to play the game, ask them to consider this question: Based on the rules and style of this game, what skills did the ancient Egyptians think were important?  Answers should be counting, math and strategy. Point out to students that games pieces evolved from items used for accounting and inventory. This makes sense since Egypt and the Nile were important trade centers, and with all the construction taking place, planning, measure and strategy would have been important for all.

    Some students with special learning needs may view the film “Prince of Egypt” as a means of exposure to a characterization of life in ancient Egypt.
Extension Activities
  1. Death and Burial on the Nile ‐ Are You My Mummy?

    “A Peek Inside a Mummy” from Scholastic News – Senior Edition, AN 7690707 LX 1010 is a brief introduction to views on burial and mummification practices, and to work on the activity. Accessing this sites below will allow students to learn more about how ancient Egyptians viewed death and burial, including mummification. They will also have a chance to view CT scans of mummies and play an identification game. Go to The home page for this site is You will also find icons linking to information on daily life, mythology, writing, people, and archaeology.
  2. Art Activity

    Archaeologists have discovered murals in ancient Egyptian ruins that literally paint vivid pictures of daily life in the Nile River valley. Look at images of these murals. They celebrate accomplishments, personality, and activities. Invite students to create pictorial life portraits, personal murals of their own lives, of what is important to them, of what they would like to be remembered for, all in the style of the ancient murals.
  3. Build Like an Egyptian Pharaoh

    Obelisks were one type of monument built to honor and immortalize the pharaohs. More than that, they were feats of engineering and construction. Using the Internet, students can follow the building of one such obelisk. This science extension activity is presented as a PBS NOVA Online Adventure at the following websites:

Students will be graded on their answers to the discussion questions, group work and their written work. They can also be graded on their participation, behavior, and cooperation.


Teachers and teacher educators identify rubrics as a set of criteria used for particular assignments, projects, and other tasks. To aid in the assessment procedure, there are three steps recognized by the measurement community to an assessment:

  1. Students respond to questions
  2. Analysis/scoring of performance on those questions
  3. The interpretation of those results

If a rubric is a set of criteria, then the assessment tools should be based on these criteria and take on forms such as checklists, essays, problem sets, portfolios, etc.