Sumerian hands on activities for ancient history lessons

Ancient Sumerian lessons

Occasionally in our homeschool history lessons we get inspired by our book to dig deeper. I don’t know if it was reading the lesson and thinking how fun it would be to build a super tall building, or if the kids remembered the last time we read about Ancient Sumeria, but this time our Ancient Sumeria lesson set us digging pretty deep into their past.

Ancient Sumerian hands on history lessons

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Lesson 1: Tower of Babel

First, we read the Mystery of History lesson about the Tower of Babel, which has been theorized to be somewhere in the area of Sumeria, and some have even said it’s a forerunner of the Babylonian empire (several thousand years later).

I was going to have them build the tallest tower they could out of various building supplies, but that particular day we ran out of time.  So, we moved on to the next lesson: Ziggurats.


 Ancient Sumerian lesson 2: Ziggurats

After reading about Ziggurats, we got out the Legos and started building with them.

ancient sumerian building activity

But, I very quickly noticed their building didn’t look like the ziggurat we discussed building.  It looked like a fort, with modern fortifications.  THAT was not the assignment.  So we started over, with me showing them how to build on a smaller scale, one that won’t fit a guy, but fulfills the assignment.

hands on sumerian lesson ancient history

Ancient Sumerian Activity 3: Cuneiform tablets

The next day we learned about their writing style.  The Sumerians wrote on clay tablets because they didn’t have paper (not invented yet) or papyrus (wrong area).

Sumerian hands on activities for ancient history lessons

The kids were somewhat intrigued by this, and since I’d just bought a giant tub of air dry clay, and the kids hadn’t used it up yet.  We dug it out and created our own tablets.

As a side note, we did this same activity several years ago when the boys were in kinder, only that time we did it with cookie dough (which was just about as popular).

Sumeria cuneiform activity

Though, being sugar cookies, with the wrong kind of flour used, you can’t really tell what they did.

Ancient Sumerian lesson 4: Epic of Gilgamesh

Our last activity we learned about the epic of Gilgamesh, I’d recommend watching it first because there’s a few things I’d prefer weren’t in there and the video is removed from youtube, so instead try reading this Epic of Gilgamesh picture book*.

And of course, then I remembered there’s a Star Trek Next Generation* episode with Gilgamesh in it, I’d rather forgotten that it was only a few minute references over halfway into the episode.  So we watched that too.

Which led to the usual discussion between Jeff and I if it’s reasonable for an entire language to be made of metaphors.

Final Ancient Sumerian lesson: Notebooking what we learned

notebooking for ancient sumerians

Then when all of the hands-on learning  Sumerian lessons were completed, we printed our pictures and wrote briefly about them in their notebooks using the Mystery of History 1 notebooking pages, with much groaning and rolling of eyes (you know that is torture, right Mommy?  I thought we agreed no writing.).

Oh the horrible whining and complaining, but they got it done, unfortunately, being my kids, some of their pages were lost……  The pictures above are a compilation of all three kids’ notebooks.


Updating this with my plans for middle school/high school Sumerian activities

This coming fall (August 2018) the kids are going into 8th grade and we are heading back to Ancient History, and I’m adding in designing a shaduf, a canal system, and a few more ideas. In addition, I’ve added in more about the Sumerian culture and religion.


Looking for more Ancient Sumerian ideas?

Then you need to check out my Mystery of History 1 Pinterest board.

Then look at these other ancient history ideas here on my blog:

Originally published Sep. 11, 2013 (actually I think this is a compilation of 4 different posts I originally wrote and combined together)


12 responses to “Ancient Sumerian lessons”

  1. These are brilliant activities! It was so much fun reading this post as it brought back lovely memories of all we did here short years ago with the Sumerians. So much fun!

    1. I know, you won’t believe how happy I am to of cycled back to Ancient history.

  2. What great fun. Be sure to link up the ziggurats to the Lego challenges.

    1. It’s in my plans, just need to find the right week for it.

  3. MaryAnne @ mama smiles Avatar
    MaryAnne @ mama smiles

    I still remember making cuneiform tablets in sixth grade when we learned about Sumerians. Only history lesson I ever got into!

  4. So fun! I didn’t think about making writing in our air-dry clay, but it’s a brilliant idea!

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