Teaching Mesopotamia Empires was the first exposure most of my students had to the concept of empire.
I knew my 6th graders would neither care about nor remember a list of names and dates and facts from five different Mesopotamia Empires.
The real power I discovered, came from lining up those names and dates and facts next to each other for comparison.
And like magic, the common themes – the Lessons of History – jumped right out.
Like long-term leaders with a system in place for peaceful transfer of power.
Like building roads and public works to enhance agriculture and trade.
Like creating laws to maintain social order.
Not the WHAT, but the WHY.
Because my textbook focused on names and dates, I created my own materials to guide my 6th graders to Derive the 7 Characteristics of Empires and the Qualities of Leadership. Historians smarter than me had already discovered these common themes and assigned them a name.
And because most 6th graders play sports or are in organized clubs, including school, we were able to extend these Lessons of History from thousands of years ago to their very own lives today.
Here we go then, teaching those Mesopotamia Empires and Lessons of History!
Day 1 – Dig into Mesopotamia Empires 🌍 🌍
- I create student groups to read a 3-page Reading Passage about 1 of the 5 empires – Akkadian, Babylon, Assyria, Neo-Babylon, or Persia. For this activity I prefer same-level student groups as my Empire Reading Passages are differentiated for reading ability. Sumer isn’t included as it wasn’t an empire, but rather a collection of independently ruled city-states in the same area.
- I use 1/2-page Folded Booklets for each Reading Passage. Smaller pages chunk information well to improve focus and minimize information overwhelm. Booklets hold up well so I use them year after year. Students like the change of format from 8.5 x 11. However, I’ve also included 8.5 x 11 versions.
- Students Complete Comprehension Questions pulling data from the Reading Passage. How did that empire begin? What policies and practices did kings employ to manage that empire? Why did that empire fail?
- Students use Comprehension Data to retrieve Display Slides about their specific Empire. I print 8.5 x 11 Display Slides each with 1 data point from the comprehension data. I laminate them for use every year. Students retrieve only those slides that relate to their Empire. They enjoy the treasure hunt aspect of this as I just pile the slides on a desk. Students verify their selections with my Answer Key. I’ve also included Task Card Size Slides.
- Students Hang their Empire’s Display Slides on the board in the numeric order printed on each slide. I punch holes in the top and bottom of each slide and use paper clips to attach the slides.
Day 2 – Student-Led Discovery of Lessons of History❤️ ❤️
- Students come together as a whole group with lots of ideas about the common themes between the five Mesopotamia Empires. Students use these common themes to Derive the 7 Characteristics of Empires. 🔔 🔔 🔔 1st Lesson of History here!
- Students Derive 5 Reasons Empires End. 🔔 🔔 🔔 2nd Lesson of History here!
- Students brainstorm to determine how each of the 7 Characteristics of Empire helps an Empire to Survive. 🔔 🔔 🔔 3rd Lesson of History here!
- If you prefer a small group Jigsaw Approach, these materials are super easy to adapt.
What are the 7 Characteristics of Empires?
- Long Reign of Leader and established procedure for peaceful power transfer
- Divide Empire into smaller regions so it’s easier to rule
- Put trustworthy family member or friend in charge of each region so it is more likely that the loyal governor will enforce king’s policies
- Make laws to maintains social order
- Have a standing army as a police force and for protection from invasion
- Build extensive system of roads and public works to improve communication, trade, and military movement
- Tax to provide government resources for public works and war
What are the 5 Reasons Empires End?
- Death of Ruler with weak successor(s) who battle each other for control.
- Civil War – fighting between people in same Empire because of harsh treatment, high taxes, or lack of food/water
- Empire becomes too big to manage
- The military is smaller or less advanced than the conquering army
- Drought which causes famine – kills citizens and military and creates civil unrest
Day 3 – When Will We Use This?🔔 🔔
- I lead a student analysis and discussion applying the 7 Characteristics of Empires to “empires” students know. Examples might be a sport’s team on which they play. Or an organization to which they belong, including school. Or a local company or professional sports team. Any group can be analyzed using the 7 Characteristics of Empire.
- I then lead a student discussion of the qualities of strong and weak leaders. Students think about these same organizations or teams from the perspective of how the leadership impacted the success or failure of that organization.
Why do I Love this Mesopotamia Empires Activity?
✅ STUDENT LED – Students leverage social skills to analyze data about Mesopotamia Empires with their peers. While I provide the materials and teaching structure, students uncover the true meaning in what they read.
✅ HIGHER LEVEL THINKING – Students move past rote memorization of names and dates to derive the more meaningful Lessons of History – 7 Characteristics of Empires and Characteristics of Strong Leaders.
✅ WHEN WILL WE EVER USE THIS? – Students become more keenly aware of the dynamics of their own organizations and teams when viewed thorough the lens of the 7 Characteristic of Empires and Characteristics of Leaders
✅ ADD VARIETY TO YOUR CLASSROOM – Take a Break from Notes while still maintaining High Level Instruction
✅ FLEXIBLE – Easily Implemented as an Individual or Group Activity.
✅ PREP materials once to use year after year.
Here’s what other Teachers have to Say:
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Great for my classroom! Kids loved using this activity.”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Great resource. A nice change from the textbook.”
Are you Ready to take back YOU time?
Just click on this Mesopotamia Empires link to purchase and download everything you need to guide your students on a discovery of timeless Lessons of History.