Tutankhamun has always been a source of popular curiosity and intrigue. But debates about his demise have been put aside recently in favour of his beard – and its unfortunate experience with glue.
Pharoahs aside, the likes of pyramids, mummies and hieroglyphics all make ancient Egypt is a fascinating topic that can really capture the imagination of teachers’ young charges. It’s also great context for learning about early civilisations, not just as part of the primary history curriculum, but across a range of subjects and stages.
Find out what students already know by working as a class to create a mind map of ancient Egypt. These glossary cards by Seeme Resources contain some useful keywords. Working in groups, challenge students to match the words to their definitions or ask them to choose one word each to illustrate and write a sentence about. You could then use this work to create a “word wall” with this colourful vocabulary-themed poster in the centre.
You’ll find a wealth of information on the geography, history, culture and religion of ancient Egypt in this interactive whiteboard activity by the Guardian. It works really well if you have access to a computer suite where students can work in pairs. Before starting, ask pupils to identify two or three questions they have about ancient Egypt. They can then explore the resource, which has been designed like an expedition into a tomb, for answers. Alternatively, prepare a list of questions in advance to challenge your students to work independently. For example: When did people first settle in the Nile Valley? What job did a scribe do? Who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb? What is papyrus? How long is the River Nile?
If you want to take a closer look at the River Nile, this ebook, by Teaching Packs, explains why the river was so important to the ancient Egyptians and how they used it. As a design and technology project, challenge groups to construct a “shaduf” – a type of water-lifting device – using materials such as straws, string, plasticine and a yoghurt pot. A complete version of the teaching pack, which includes information on ancient Egyptian food, drink, clothing and jobs, is available here.
The British Museum has a fantastic range of resources to support teachers working in the new history curriculum. These include a mini-lesson for key stage 2 about how papyrus was made and what it was used for. Reinforce students’ learning by asking them to write their name or a short message in hieroglyphics. There’s also a mini- lesson about the development of mummification which you could follow-up with this experiment to mummify an orange by the Young Archaeologists’ Club.
If you would like to read about at ancient Egypt in the news, this article by The Day looks at efforts by scientists to discover what Tutankhamun’s face really looked like. Students are encourage to debate whether such an undertaking is necessary or desirable. You’ll find lots more articles about Egypt here, including a piece about the beard on Tutankhamun’s burial mask being glued back on after it was knocked off by cleaners. As an extension activity, ask students to write a news report as if they were covering the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922.
For primary 3 to primary 5 students in Scotland, this worksheet, for those visiting the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) in Edinburgh, sets out eight challenges pupils must solve using the Egyptian artefacts they find as they explore the museum. The accompanying teacher’s notes feature ideas for use back in the classroom. These include designing a god or goddess with the head of an animal, making a statue for a pharaoh’s tomb and creating a model of an ancient Egyptian temple. The NMS also offers a series of online games about ancient Egypt and a workshop suitable for students aged six to 11.
Finally, we have a range of resources to brighten up your ancient Egypt displays including page borders, writing frames, display numbers and letters all by Twinkl. There’s also an activity for primary pupils to design a sarcophagus on squared paper, and a net for making a square-based pyramid which you could use to give a maths lesson with an ancient Egyptian twist.
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Learn About Ancient Egyptians with These Lessons and Videos, Activities, and Games
By Phil Nast, retired middle school teacher and freelance writer
Found In: Social Studies, 6-8
Learn about the Ancient Egyptians, explore and build pyramids, make a mummy, decipher hieroglyphics, and more with these lessons and videos, activities, and games.
The Queens of Ancient Egypt
Students in grades 6-12 learn about some of ancient Egypt's great queens - Nefertiti, Tiy, and Nefertari and complete a project that illustrates what they have learned.
The Science and Technology of Ancient Egypt
Individually or in pairs, students in grades 6-12 research topics related to scientific and technological contributions made by the ancient Egyptians and create three to five minute presentations.
Lesson Plans: Rosetta Stone Project
Students in grade 9 examine the development of scripts in Mesopotamia and Egypt and learn how cuneiform and hieroglyphs were finally deciphered through the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. In a hands-on project, students make their own Rosetta Stone. The lesson can be adapted to other grades.
Egypt’s Golden Empire: Lessons
Eight lesson plans and accompanying video clips showcase some of the most intriguing and historically significant people, places, and events from Egyptian history.
The British Museum’s comprehensive and entertaining website.
Timelines, Africa | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
Scroll to 8 timelines that include thematic essays and works of art from 8000 B. C., thematic essays, and works of art from Ancient Egypt.
Egypt’s Golden Empire
The companion website for the PBS program. The site is a source of information on the New Kingdom and has special features and suggests other print and online resources.
The BBC’s website has a good section on the Rosetta stone and the deciphering of hieroglyphics by Thomas Young and Jean-François Champollion.
NOVA Online Pyramids: The Inside Story
Wander the chambers and passageways of the Great Pyramid, and learn about the pharaohs.
Explore Ancient Egypt
Walk around the Sphinx, enter the Great Pyramid, visit tombs and temples, and more with 360-degree and other imagery.
Great Pyramid of Khufu and other temples
Great Buildings site features photographs and architectural drawings, integrated maps and timelines, 3D building models, commentaries, bibliographies, web links, and more. (The 3D models require a free download of DesignWorkshop Lite architectural 3D walkthrough software.)
Enter the temple precinct and discover its religious, political and architectural history.
Discovering Ancient Egypt by Mark Millmore
All about ancient Egypt, pyramids, temple reconstructions and the pharaohs. Includes quizzes and games.
Exploring Ancient World Culture
Provides the text of the Egyptian Book of the Dead and an essay on Egyptian culture reflected in worship.
The Mathematics of Ancient Egypt
Arithmetic, geometry, and algebra.
Play in Ancient Egypt
Games, toys, and leisure activities that children in ancient Egypt played.
Before a person could get to the afterlife, the ancient Egyptians believed they had to pass through the underworld, a place full of terrifying monsters and dangerous animals.
Egyptian Tomb Adventure
If you’re not afraid of snakes and scorpions, explore an Egyptian tomb.
The Nile File
Follow your guide, Nakht Amun, and you'll learn about Ancient Egypt.
Tomb of the Unknown Mummy
Explore the tombs, collect artifacts, and determine who is buried there.
Lost and Found
Help Jane escape the locked museum by asking the gods and goddesses for help.
Pyramid (David Macaulay) (60 minutes)
A view of life during the reign of Khufu (Fourth Dynasty) and an account of the building of Khufu's pyramid complex at Giza.
Article, videos, images, and interactives.