The Aztecs, Incas and Mayans all built great empires in Central and South America over the past two millennia, up through the time of the Spanish conquest that followed Columbus' voyage to the Americas. Smart Boards are an engaging, interactive way to teach children about these ancient civilizations and the contributions they made to our culture.

Pre-Columbian Overview

The Smart Board can be used to show a PowerPoint presentation that will give your students an introduction to the Aztec, Incan and Mayan world by displaying landmarks, artifacts and maps that show where each of these cultures was located. A good follow-up Smart Board activity would be an interactive map lesson where students can match outlines of each of the territories to the three different civilizations that occupied them. This lesson can be used with students as young as first grade who are just being introduced to the pre-Columbian world, or it can be used with older students to reinforce the locations before proceeding on to a more in-depth study of each culture.

Aztec Activities

The "Awesome Aztecs" PowerPoint from Social Studies School Service focuses in part on Aztec children, so your class can compare and contrast the way those children lived with their own lives today. The last slide deals with farming and the different foods the Aztecs grew. This can be followed up with an interactive Smart Board lesson on Aztec foods, where children will go up to the board and select from a variety of edible items to be dragged into a basket. If the item belongs in the Aztec diet, it will disappear into the basket. If not, it will bounce back onto the screen. Such a lesson can be used for children from first through fifth grade.

Mayan Math and Vocabulary

As the Mayans had a unique system of counting, you can make your social studies lesson into an interdisciplinary one that also incorporates math. The Maya math lesson from Smart Technologies is suitable for grades five and up, as it not only depicts the different Maya symbols used to create numbers, but also explains that their system is base 20 as opposed to ours, which is base 10. Another Smart Board activity for studying the Mayans involves an interactive word search. This can be a fun way to introduce new unit vocabulary words such as "civilization," "society" and "architecture," and could be used for students from fourth through sixth grades.

Inca Counting and Sequencing

You can also use the Incans to introduce an interdisciplinary lesson involving counting, as they used a series of cotton strands of various colors called quipus to record and store data by tying knots. Smart Technologies has a Smart Board lesson on Inca accounting that not only explains how to read the quipu but also has an interactive component where students drag different types of knots onto a series of cords in order to create different numbers. Another interactive Smart Board lesson, also from Smart Technologies, involves a sequencing activity where students are presented with a list of events surrounding Pizarro's conquest of the Incas, and they must drag them into the correct order. This lesson is also interdisciplinary, as it incorporates a history lesson and involves the language arts skill of sequencing. Both lessons would be suitable for students from fourth through sixth grades.

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