Aspects of Civilization

Metropolitan Museum of Art, online database: entry 30008819 Photographer: Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011)

Class background: My class is a 6th Grade Language Arts and Social Studies block in the morning. The goals for my CT and myself are to arm these students with the skills to excel in the remaining years of Middle School and eventually High School.

Content: The goal of the lesson is that students will be able to identify and describe the main characteristics of civilizations, in general, as identified in the History Alive! Text (chp.5). These characteristics are a stable food supply, social structure, system of government, religious system, the arts, technological advances and writing.

Process: This activity will occur over 2 hour class periods.

  • Class 1
    • Go over the instructions and expectations of the lesson with the students 20 min.
      • Model behavior and quality standards.
    • Break students into the groups that they were in for the Sumerian City-States activity. 1.5 min.
      • In their Groups Students will:
        • Determine which member of the group is doing which characteristic of civilization from those above
        • Brainstorm amenities
        • Connect amenities to their chosen aspect of civilization
      • Brainstorming within these groups will need to be recorded within their Social Studies Comp. Books. 45 min.
    • Class 2
      • Remind Students about the Instructions and expectations for this assignment. 5 min.
      • Students will write a paragraph in their Social Studies comp. book about the amenity they created in the previous period.
      • Once done will either finish up any unfinished block work or read their silent reading book. 55 min.

Product: The product from this activity will be the notes from the Brainstorming session and the paragraph, both of which will be in their social studies comp book.

Evaluation: Students before they turn in their work will be expected to self-evaluate their performance in the group activity and the content of their writing on the same rubric that I will use to grade them.

  • The lesson will be out of 30 points:
  • 2 sections of 5 points each for focus and participation in the brainstorming session
  • 2 sections of 10 points each for the notes and paragraph.
  • The notes can be taken in any method that they chose as long as they take notes that are uniform in formatting and concise.
  • The paragraph will be graded for English conventions, and how well the chosen aspect of civilization is integrated into their city amenity.
What kinds of thinking will students need to do to participate in the lesson?

Students will have to evaluate the relevancy of the many pieces that make up civilization to first their main aspect and once again to relate their specific amenity to that aspect. the brainstorming session is designed to facilitate the evaluating process, and the paragraph to solidify the evaluations made.

To what extent do students have options or choices regarding these lesson components?

Students have the choice of the aspect of Civilization they want to go deeper into and then once they have chosen their aspect they have the choice of what amenity they want to relate to that aspect. I will have a list of sample amenities for students that are having problems deciding what to do.


My CT and I have similar understandings on how the classroom should work. The largest job that we have in the class is providing a solid foundation for the students as they transition from 6th grade to 7th and beyond. In doing this we place a heavy emphasis on group thinking paired with individual reading or writing so that they feel comfortable helping each other while knowing that if they make their group work time socialization time we can easily transition into silent work time that allows for more 1 to 1 help between the student and us.

I feel like the approach that we take in the Language Arts and Social Studies block is one of the better ways to approach teaching the humanities and I wish that I had a class like this back when I was in school. I feel like the best part of it is how in Language Arts we focus on a primary source that comes from the place and time period that we are in the History Alive! text making the entire block a time to explore a time period through different lenses. Seeing the students want to read the Epic of Gilgamesh makes me optimistic about the future integration of the Language Arts and Social Studies class.

In Social Studies the approach is to have them take a certain type of notes for their social studies comp book, give them 2 or more days in class to complete them, and then we have an group work activity that summarizes the information that is in the text. I like this because it allows them to develop both their group work and note taking skills with frequent feedback and support from us.

Image Credit:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, online database: entry 30008819
Photographer: Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011)

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