What’s your most embarrassing classroom moment as a teacher? Take a second to get a good visual.
When my son was in 5th grade, he had to record himself demonstrating how to do something. He chose how to throw a football. Now this was way back in the days before smartphones. So most students just reused a VHS tape from home and recorded over old content. Took it into school and they shared the video in class. Super fun.
Well, that is until one boy showed his video about how to play a saxophone. He did a great job according to my son. That is until the saxophone lesson segued into, shall we say, mom and dad mature video content.
Now that’s a teacher moment. She closed down the video in a hurry, but do you think anyone raved about the sax performance?
TEACHER RULE #1 – NEVER show a video, play a song, or let students research on the internet without fully previewing the material in advance. NEVER!!
So what does this have to do with teaching the religions of ancient cultures?
My students loved the ancient mythology in their video games and literature. Ancient gods and goddesses look cool and have cool powers. What’s not to like?
Bringing that excitement into the classroom seemed like a great break from notetaking. But when I started researching ancient mythology online I was blown away by the mature themes. And unfortunately, the appropriate sites I found seemed a bit young for middle schoolers.
So I decided that the best, although certainly not the easiest, way to safely introduce my students to ancient deities for each ancient culture was to write my own materials. These quickly became among the highest engagement activities of the year. It’s a great way to enhance a grade rather than assigning extra credit. It’s great to leave with subs or to use as an early finisher activity.
Temples, Priests, and the Afterlife
Ancient religion extends beyond mythology. I use the same resources listed below to research Temples, Priests, Everyday Worship, and Afterlife Beliefs for each ancient culture. Click on each link to preview the ancient religion overviews I created for Mesopotamia and Egypt. China, Greece, and Rome are in progress!
These are my go to Ancient History sites. I search for “[Ancient Culture name] Religion” and follow the hyperlinks.
- World History Encyclopedia
- History on the NET
- Wikipedia (links to Ancient Egypt Religion, but search for other mythologies)
- Ancient Egypt Online
- University of Pennsylvania – Mesopotamian deities
- Greek Gods and Goddesses – Greece and Rome
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