• Egypt's Pyramids: Monuments with a Message

    Pyramid of Khufu

    What we know about ancient civilizations comes from what those civilizations left behind. Sometimes it's a shard of pottery, part of a tool, a piece of jewelry. Archaeologists scour the earth for such remnants of ancient civilizations to piece together a picture of the past. But in Egypt there are clues to the past that are hard to miss: they're six and a half million tons, taller than the Statue of Liberty, and as wide as 10 football fields. You don't need a trowel and a brush to discover these artifacts; you can see them from space!

  • The Cuneiform Writing System in Ancient Mesopotamia: Emergence and Evolution

    The Mesopotamian basin was the birthplace of writing

    The earliest writing systems evolved independently and at roughly the same time in Egypt and Mesopotamia, but current scholarship suggests that Mesopotamia’s writing appeared first. That writing system, invented by the Sumerians, emerged in Mesopotamia around 3500 BCE. This lesson plan is designed to help students appreciate the parallel development and increasing complexity of writing and civilization in Mesopotamia.

  • Lesson 4: The Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, and Us

    Created May 9, 2007
    The history of the development of the Western world's alphabets is long and  colorful.

    The purpose of this lesson is to consolidate the knowledge gained in the three previous lessons: Lesson One: The Phoenicians and the Beginnings of the Alphabet Lesson Two: The Greek Alphabet: more familiar than you think! Lesson Three: The Alphabet: The Roman Alphabet is our Alphabet

  • Lesson 3: The Roman Alphabet is our Alphabet

    The Romans used the first version of the modern western alphabet.

    The Romans developed the alphabet we still use today. In this lesson we will introduce the Romans and ask how their alphabet got to us.

  • Lesson 2: The Greek Alphabet: more familiar than you think!

    "Omega" is the last letter in the Greek alphabet.

    This lesson is about the Greeks, who inherited the alphabet invented by the Phoenicians, and used it to write their great literature.

  • The Olympic Medal: It's All Greek to Us!

    Myron's Discobolus

    Students are bound to be curious to know what all that Greek writing means. This lesson plan uses an EDSITEment created Greek alphabet animationto help students "decode" the inscription on the Olympic medal. Because the Olympic medal is both a familiar and mysterious object for students, it presents an ideal prompt to build basic literacy in the Greek alphabet. Thus, this lesson uses the Athens 2004 medal inscription as an elementary "text" to help students practice reading Greek and to help reinforce the link between ancient Greek culture and the Olympic games.

  • Morality "Tails" East and West: European Fables and Buddhist Jataka Tales

    Malaysian Buddha figurine.

    Fables, such as those attributed to Aesop, are short narratives populated by animals who behave like humans, and which convey lessons to the listener. Jataka Tales are often short narratives which tell the stories of the lives of the Buddha before he reached Enlightenment. In this lesson students will be introduced to both Aesop’s fables and to a few of the Jataka Tales, and through these stories will gain an understanding of one genre of storytelling: morality tales.

  • Lessons of the Indian Epics: The Ramayana

    Lessons of the Indian Epics image

    The Ramayana (ram-EYE-ya-na) and the Mahabharata (ma-ha-BA-ra-ta), the great Indian epics, are among the most important works of literature in South Asia. Both contain important lessons on wisdom, behavior and morality, and have been used for centuries not only as entertainment, but also as a way of instructing both children and adults in the exemplary behavior toward which they are urged to strive and the immoral behavior they are urged to shun. In this lesson, students will read an abridged version of the Ramayana, and will explore the ways in which the story of Rama contains elements, such as the Epic Hero Cycle, that place it within the epic poetry tradition.

  • 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae: Herodotus's Real History

    “Μολον Λαωε!”

    Students may be familiar with this famous battle from its depiction in Zack Snyder's movie 300, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel. In this lesson students learn about the historical background to the battle and are asked to ponder some of its legacy, including how history is reported and interpreted from different perspectives.

    Lesson Plans: Grades K-2
    Curriculum Unit

    The Alphabet is Historic (4 Lessons)



    The Unit


    Alphabet is Historic: Curriculum Unit image

    The evolution of our current western alphabet.

    Credit: EDSITEment

    The youngest and newest writers often have a deep interest in the origin of writing itself. The lessons in this curriculum unit will introduce young students to the history of our alphabet. First, students will learn about the Phoenicians, the great trading people of the eastern Mediterranean who invented many of our letters. We'll follow as the Phoenicians taught their alphabet to the ancient Greeks, and follow again as the Greeks taught their alphabet to the Romans. Finally, we'll learn that the Romans left their alphabet to us, and that we use the Roman alphabet to write in English.

    By following this path through history we can establish a connection between these ancient civilizations and the youngest writers. We can show them that they are using the alphabet that was developed so long ago. The three lessons in this curriculum unit include short historical introductions to the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans, hyper-links to selected illustrations, and suggestions for activities.

    Guiding Questions

    • Where does the alphabet come from?

    This is one of those questions, like “Why is the sky blue?” through which children try to define something basic and important in their world. Although the very first writing is lost in the mists of time, we can trace the development of our alphabet for about the last 3,000 years.

    Learning Objectives

    As the students learn the history of the alphabet they will be introduced to three important ancient civilizations, and to the idea of cultural inheritance. The concept of chronological order will be reinforced through an emphasis on the fact that each group of people passed on the alphabet. In addition to learning history, the children will practice language arts and art skills.

    After completing this unit, students will be able to do the following:

    • Describe how first the Phoenicians, then the Greeks, and finally the Romans passed down the alphabet.
    • Compare some letters from the earlier alphabets to our alphabet, and talk about how the alphabet changed over time.
    • Recognize the Mediterranean area on a map and show that the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans came from the Mediterranean area.
    • Describe two or three basic features of each of these cultures.
    • Complete some short writing and art assignments based on the alphabets.

    Preparation Instructions

    Read through each of the lessons and select or download the necessary materials.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level


    Subject Areas
    • Foreign Language > Ancient > Ancient Greek
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > Ancient World
    • Art and Culture > Subject Matter > Archaeology
    • Foreign Language > Ancient > Latin
    • History and Social Studies > World > The Ancient World (3500 BCE-500 CE)
    • Art and Culture > Medium > Visual Arts
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > Other
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Map Skills
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Visual analysis