Magazine article Montessori Life

Journey to Egypt: A Board Game

Magazine article Montessori Life

Journey to Egypt: A Board Game

Article excerpt

In the fall of 2005, the first, second, and third grade students in my Lower Elementary classroom began studying ancient Egypt independently by choosing to read about and research Egyptian rulers, monuments, and artifacts, and their interest continued throughout the rest of the school year. One day a student checked out a library book on Egyptology that contained colorful images and was soon swarmed by interested classmates.

The students began searching for similar books on the classroom bookshelves and were eager to trade Egyptian books during silent reading time. It seemed that the children's desire to learn more about ancient Egypt developed overnight and proved to be contagious. Many of the students practiced writing hieroglyphics while others were fascinated by Egyptian pyramids, jewelry, and artwork.

We celebrate Historical Halloween in our class; each student researches a historical person and then presents his research to the class while dressed up as that person. Students wanted to be Egyptian pharaohs, queens, and archaeologists; several decided on King Tutankhamen, Queen Nefertiti, King Khuf u, Cleopatra, and Howard Carter (the Egyptologist who discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamen).

I was amazed at the sustained interest in Egypt over the year and thought it would be beneficial to introduce Egyptian mythology in addition to other cultural factors (such as jobs, dependency on the Nile, animals, food, and clothing) to the students. Their independent research provided some of the same information, but my students seemed most interested in the fascinating illustrations and tended to read only what was written underneath or beside the pictures.

My idea was to create a game on Egypt that they could play in the classroom. First, I created preparatory work that focused on reading and writing hieroglyphics and identifying Egyptian gods, goddesses, artifacts, and monuments-to help students familiarize themselves with vocabulary, images, and names associated with ancient Egypt. Since the Animal Stories work-three-part matching cards with a picture of an animal on one card, the name of that animal on another, and clues that describe that animal on a larger card (also called "Who am I? Cards")-is very popular in our classroom, I phrased the riddles for the gods and goddesses work in a similar manner on matching cards. The prep work for artifacts and monuments was simply matching the name of the object or structure on one card with the corresponding name on another card. Both the gods /goddesses and artifacts /monuments prep work had a control of error (numerals on the back of the cards indicated correct matches) to allow students to check their own work. The hieroglyphic prep work consisted of cards asking students to write various words hi hieroglyphics using the hieroglyphic chart (for example, "write your first, middle, and last names, write your teachers' names, write five spelling words," etc.). This preparatory work allowed students to familiarize themselves with concepts and images that would be used in the game.

Making the Game

I checked out some children's books on Egypt from my local library, outlining interesting facts, noting the different gods and goddesses, and selecting pictures I could use for task cards. As I researched, I began to realize how complex and broad my topic seemed, especially the different time periods and kingdoms. Since I wanted my game to accurately describe ancient Egypt without appearing too complicated, I decided to narrow my focus to Egyptian religion, art, and writing.

Wanting to incorporate other interesting aspects of Egyptian civilization in an indirect way, I chose sandpaper to cover the game board to reflect the desert landscape and decided to include a Nile River shortcut, a blue strip on the game board allowing players to move their game pieces across the "water." If they landed on the square where the river begins, they could take the Nile River Shortcut, bypassing a row of spaces on the game board to move ahead to a new space. …

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