We have just completed a cross-curricular unit all about the Aztecs. I found it really interesting as I didn’t personally know anything about them at all before we started, so I learnt as much as the kids did!
To start the topic we took the kids into the hall in the guise of giving them a talk on Aztecs, then some TAs led the Deputy Head in in chains and sacrificed him to the Sun God on the stage (hehe!) The TAs were excellent actors and pretended to cut him open then pulled out a massive stuffed paper heart with tissue paper veins and arteries coming out!!! After that they kicked him down the steps of the stage and threw a bucket of fake blood (red torn up paper) onto the front row. What a great start to the topic!
Some other things we did were:
Located Mexico on a map
Watched the Horrible Histories “Aztec Come Dine With Me” about maize and beans and the Aztec Priests song
Constructed a timeline by laying out string across the classroom floor. The children had to write out post its of any historical periods they had heard of, then try to put them in order and add dates if they knew them
Gave them an out-of-order set of Aztec dates and events for them to match up and order
Comparing similarities and differences between Aztec times and now
Looking at flags/coats of arms and their symbolism and designing an Aztec flag based on chn’s knowledge (eg yellow to represent sun god, cocoa beans to show their importance)
Designing an Aztec themed wrapper for a cup and the teacher made Aztec hot chocolate for children to try
Playing the game Patolli and then designing their own Aztec board game and writing instructions for it
The main thing we did though was to create an Aztec Museum – we talked about what makes a good museum (interactivity, lots of info, pictures etc) and then we set the children into groups and challenged them to create an exhibition on a particular aspect of the Aztecs – we had lots of topics including sacrifice, daily life, food, gods & religion, architecture, events, sports & games, weapons etc, and each group did a different topic so that the final museum would have lots of information. They had time in class to research using books and the internet and could also do work at home for homework – making booklets, models etc. We had the exhibition on Wednesday and invited the parents in and they were told what the success criteria were (interactive, informative, well presented, and for the children at each stall to show depth of knowledge). They then got 2 votes to vote for the best stall (their own child’s and another!) and we gave a prize to the stall with the most votes. It was great because the children had a real purpose for their work, got to research in detail and learn about a topic in lots of depth, and we then got them to set it up again and go round the other stalls the next day with a worksheet to fill in 2 interesting facts from each stall, so they were also learning from each other and enjoying each other’s work. Really very very good!