Ancient Mayan Writing

Name:  Diana Pyatigorsky

Subject: Social Studies with Arts Integration

Lesson Title: Ancient Mayan Writing

Grade: Fifth


  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Markers
  • Colored Pencils
  • Mayan Alphabet Handout

Pre-assessment of Students Knowledge & Skills. (A) Students have been immersed in a unit on Latin America and have explored the geography, indigenous people, culture and language. The majority of students are writing and reading fluently. Five students struggle with comprehension.

(B)Students were able to accurately identify and label Latin America and the Mayan lands. They completed a KWL chart on Mayan culture and used several resources to develop knowledge of the Mayans.

Content-Specific Standard(s):

Standard 2:   World History
(NY State Standard for Social Studies, retrieved from 2.1.12)

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments and turning points in world history and examine the broad sweep of history from a variety of perspectives.

Standard 2:   Language for Literary Response and Expression
(NY State Standard for English Language Arts, retrieved from 2.1.12)

Students will read and listen to oral, written, and electronically produced texts and performances from American and world literature; relate texts and performances to their own lives; and develop an understanding of the diverse social, historical, and cultural dimensions the texts and performances represent. As speakers and writers, students will use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language for self-expression and artistic creation.

Art form Standards:

Standard 4:   Understanding the Cultural Contributions of the Arts
(NY State Standard for Arts, retrieved from (2.1.12)

Students will develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present society.

Objectives: Students will understand the elements of the genre of fairytale and how fairytales reflect the time and place of their development.

Students will accurately identify the communication and writing system of the ancient Mayan civilization and apply their knowledge to recreate their names in Mayan Hieroglyphics.


a) Introduction and motivation. 5 min : Students will be introduced to the communication and writing system developed by the Mayans. Students will discuss the meaning of terms such as: hieroglyphics, glyphs and symbols. Students will use resources to discover and discuss what hieroglyphics were used for and where they were written. Students will discuss what symbols mean and the purpose for written communication.

b) Activities/Steps –

Direct instruction 15 min- Students will be introduced to the Mayan Alphabet and brainstorm their ideas and curiosities in groups. Teacher will present a model of her Mayan name and how it is deciphered into Mayan hieroglyphics.

                                                              Assessment  Rubric

Plain burger Deluxe Deluxe with extra cheese
Content At least two elements of the Mayan alphabet were identified. Little evidence of understanding At least three elements of the Mayan alphabet were identified. Some evidence of understanding All elements of the Mayan alphabet were identified. Show great evidence of understanding
Design Little use of color and design. Some use of color and design Extensive use of color and design
Elements of speaking Hesitates, whispers; unclear explanation of work; poor eye contact Some hesitation, somewhat clear, some pronunciation, eye contact but reads mostly Clear, well-paced pronunciation. Good eye contact, little need for notes

Work Time 20 min- Students go back to their desks to work independently. Using resources and the Mayan Alphabet Handout, students will create and design their own names using Mayan glyphs.

Closure 10 min-Students will present their Mayan names to the class.

Assessment-Teacher will assess understanding during conference time and during the share. Ask follow up questions if students are not confident with their explanations. Students will be assessed for their activity participation, their participation as audience members and their working material. Student project work will be reviewed against the rubric above.

Diversity: This lesson continues the work of opening a window into a new culture that we have begun with the unit and will continue with the study of different cultures all year. Allowing students to write their own names in the ancient Mayan alphabet brings to life the understanding of their own culture in respect to other cultures throughout history.


“A hands-on activity supports students who struggle with verbal skills” (Cornett, 2011). Using visual and tactile skills, students that struggle with writing are able to use the images to show that they understand the content. This lesson also supports concreteness of the topic with the use of pictures, labels and names.

Student Work Examples


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