Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lesson Plan on Sumer

There are lots and lots things to learn and know about Sumer. I could not find a lesson plan that I liked well enough to do with my children, particularly my 6th grader.  This is what I came up with, it is by no means comprehensive and you could easily add or take away from it.

Artist's depiction of a Sumerian City
Lesson Plan on Sumer

Objective 1 – Understand what Sumer was and where it was located and why it is important
·        Map –Mesopotamia, Sumer, Iraq, Persian Gulf, Tigris, and Euphrates
·        Name and locate a principle city in Sumer

Objective 2 – Describe what a Sumerian city may have looked like
·        Draw a picture including city walls, moat, and Ziggurat

Objective 3 – Understand the ability to produce an abundance of food and access to resources encourages people to settle in one area.
·        Why were the Tigris and Euphrates rivers important?
·        Compare and contrast a nomad’s life with that of a person living in Sumer.

Objective 4 – Know what the Epic of Gilgamesh is – The epic of Gilgamesh is not really suitable for children, so the teacher should briefly retell it or read an age appropriate retelling of the story.
·        Write or draw your own adventure.

Objective 5 – Understand the what cuneiform was and how it was used
·        Make “clay” tablets – we used mud and water, the kids wrote on them and we let them dry in the sun.  You could also use playdough, there is a link to homemade play dough in the appendix
·        Create your own cuneiform

Objective 6 – Understand Sumerians based their math on the number 60 and relate that to our world today.
·        60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute, circle is 360 degrees

Objective 7 – Be familiar with Sumerian’s worship of several gods and the role of the Ziggurat
·        Make a ziggurat out of sugar cubes              
·        Discuss how kings were viewed as deities, and when the king died it would seem that his guards, musicians, servants, wives and concubines voluntarily sacrificed themselves in order to go to the afterlife with the king.


Sumer – A Short Summary
Sumer was an ancient civilization discovered in 1853 by British Consul John George Taylor, when he discovered the city of Ur, the Abraham of the Bible’s birthplace. Sumer was established about 4000 years ago, around southern Mesopotamia, now modern Day Iraq.  It is a river valley basin, supplied by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Some believe it is located around where the Garden of Eden would have been located.

Sumer was an advanced society. They developed irrigation for agriculture, traded with the people and other nations surrounding them and established industries such as metal working.

Sumerians worshipped many Gods and Goddesses and also deified their kings. When a King died, there is evidence that the royal guards, musicians, servants, wives, and concubines voluntarily sacrificed themselves in order to join the king in the afterlife. They were all then entombed in ziggurats.

A Sumerian city would not normally have been overly beautiful. The city would have had a wall and a moat around it.  There would have been a ziggurat in the city center.  There were also no trash collectors, so the streets would have been littered with garbage and household waste.

Sumerians contributed to our society.  Their math system was based on the number 60. Today, we still have 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute and circle is 360 degrees. 

Sumerians are also thought to have the first, most organized system of writing.  This writing, cuneiform, took many years to learn.  It started with pictures and progressed to wedge shaped symbols. These symbols were pressed onto clay tablets with a reed pen.

Sumerians also had works of literature.  The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest literary work. It was written in cuneiform on 12 clay tablets. It is about the Adventures of King Uruk.

Online resources:  Lots of information here, also some quizzes and such.  There is a decent, short retelling of The Epic of Gilgamesh on this site.   Mesopotamia for Kids  Lots of cool pictures here  Free video on the Standard of Ur. They also give some really great background!  Toward the end of the video they do point out the naked, bleeding prisoners depicted on the Standard, I had no issue with my kids watching this video, but you decide for yourself. – homemade play dough

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