My Project Based Writing Journey with ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt Project Based Writing Unit

This unit was created and re-tweaked by many creative and inspiring teachers before me. I work at a wonderful school called Friends School of Baltimore. This unit is for 4th graders but I really think it could be used for 3rd – 6th graders and maybe even 7th. My students are currently completing this unit within a 4 week time frame but I really think it would be best as a 6 week unit in order to complete all of the components I have added.

The genres involved are writing a persuasive letter, research paper, and an obituary. (I realize some will disagree whether this is a formal genre, however you would be surprised to see the depth of history of obituaries and how much goes into writing one.)

Essential Questions:

How does human behavior affect their environment?

How does my understanding of cultural universals help me to understand the culture of ancient Egypt?

1. Introduce students to Egypt’s past and present geography

  • Look at maps of ancient Egypt.
  • Visit present day Egypt on Google Earth. Have half the students take notes on characteristics of Upper Egypt and the other half take notes on Lower Egypt.
  • Skype with an Egyptologist or specialist (possibly Professor Ellen King, archeologist, from Howard University) on how the environment affected the culture and how human behavior affected the environment.
  • Create a large map mural of ancient Egypt as a whole class using notes from Google Earth and talk with our specialist.

2. Create a podcast of a public service announcement for or against embalming incorporating the affects on the environment and write a persuasive letter about whether or not to become an embalmer .

  • Mummify an orange.
  • Watch movie about embalming using SideVibe. Have students take notes while watching the movie to create a collaborative document about the steps of embalming as well as also listing any questions they have about it.
  • Read Mummy Maker as a whole class and use a Google Doc or SyncIn to create a collaborative set of class notes.
  • Each student will create a graphic organizer of pros and cons of embalming and how the process affected the ancient Egyptians physical environment.(This scaffold supports the creation of their PSA. They need to show how embalming and burying the dead affected the environment of the ancient Egyptians and then make a case of whether it should continue or not.)
  • Each student will create a podcast of a public service announcement for whether or not to become an embalmer.
  • Students will use SideVibe to watch a couple of videos on embalming and chat with eachother about the pros and cons of being an embalmer.
  • Each student will complete the graphic organizer of the reasons and sub-details supporting the reasons of whether or not their friend, teacher, or relative should become an embalmer or not. The students will also evaluate a student example of a persuasive letter by using a rubric. (This written scafold supports the organization for writing their persuasive letter.)
  • Students will then complete the persuasive letter format by typing their letters on a computer. Students who prefer to use an Alpha Smart may do so. Students will then use this editing checklist before submitting to the teacher.

(**Math Link–Weigh orange the first or second day and then intermittently to allow students to see the decreasing weight of the orange over time.)

3. Write a research paper that includes a simple thesis.

  • Introduce steps to cultural universals.
  • Pre-search by having book tastings and web searches.
  • Practice creating a thesis about their favorite movie or book character–something that they could prove.
  • List the inquiries they came up with from pre-searching under specific Cultural Universals.
  • Choose a universal they find most interesting. With their group, list as many other inquiries they can come up with under their universal.
  • Come to consensus on which question each person will tackle to research.
  • Pre-search their question to ensure there are enough resources.
  • Write a possible thesis-get feedback from their group.
  • Present possible thesis to Upper School students taking an Ancient Civilization course.
  • Research their topic and take notes.
  • Write drafts and then publish.
  • Create a project to present with their research paper.
  • Present the project to their parents, friends and family during Egypt Night.
  • Present the project again to grades 1 to 5 students and other teachers and administrators.

4. Create a mummy obituary.

  • Read the picture book, Once Upon a Tomb by J. Patrick Lewis and begin class read aloud Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. (Dead End in Norvelt is a must read! So funny and could ot go better with this unit!)
  • Analyze obituaries http://onlineobituaryreviews.jaredatchison.net/2010/07/30/touchstones/ to see what makes a good one and what makes a poor one. Read “How to Make Obituaries Inspirational” and then have some fun by looking at Merry Cemetary in Romania.
  • As a whole group create a rubric to assess what makes a good obituary. Compare it to an obit rubric that someone else created to make sure there is nothing they think they should add.
  • Have students create a template for creating an obituary using the obits they saw as well as the rubric they created.
  • Have students fill out this template for their mummy obituary. The teacher will add or take away parts the students feel should be included or not before handing out to students.
  • Create an obituary for their mummy that shows what they learned about obituary writing and the people of ancient Egypt.
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About heidihutchison

I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, teacher, cook, and lover of all things creative.
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