Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
A Message of Ancient Days

Understanding Primary Sources:
A Day in the Life of an Ancient Egyptian

Objective: Students research aspects of Egyptian daily life, then combine their research to write stories reflecting what they have learned.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
4-5 hours over 3 days

Building Background:
Ask the class to think about how the work that went into building public monuments and tombs in ancient Egypt was supported by the work and efforts of everyday people. Have the class speculate about a day in the life of an average Egyptian. What did he or she do, eat, wear? Make a list of aspects of Egyptian daily life: food, clothing/jewelry, homes/furnishings, recreation, family life, crafts. Tell students they will research these topics to learn more about Egyptian daily life, and write stories that reflect what they have learned.

What To Do:

1. Organize students into research groups, and assign each a research topic. Send them to the library to find materials. Remind each group to keep careful notes on what they find. One good source of information about Egyptian daily life is Egyptian Lifeby Mirian Stead. Also, if you have Internet access, students can use this site for information:

The Ancient Egypt Site
The award-winning Ancient Egypt Site is an interactive book about the history and culture of the Ancient Egyptian civilization. It includes a timeline, introduction to hieroglyphics, glossary, bibliography, and reference guide.

2. When students have finished their research, have each group write a one page summary of what they have found. Remind them to identify their research topic, and to organize the information so that it is clear and easy to read. Work with groups individually as they do this step. When each group (and you) are satisfied with the one page summary, combine all the pages in one research document and make one copy for each student.

3. Distribute a copy of the combined research document to each student. Tell students to use the combined research to write a short story about a day in the life of an ancient Egyptian. Encourage students to be creative, but to support the events and descriptions in their stories with factual information learned in the research phase.

4. Allow students time to write, then reread, and rewrite/edit as necessary. Have students share their finished stories by reading them aloud, or by copying and distributing them.

Ask students to identify one thing they learned about Egyptian daily life that surprised them the most, and one thing that surprised them the least. Discuss the ways in which factual details did or did not help in writing the stories.


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