Comprehensive Curriculum Grade 6 Social Studies

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Comprehensive Curriculum

Grade 6

Social Studies

Cecil J. Picard

State Superintendent of Education

© April 2005

Grade 6

Social Studies

Table of Contents

Unit 1: Hunters, Gatherers, Farmers (Beginnings) 1

Unit 2: River Valley Civilizations (4000–1000 B.C.) 11

Unit 3: People and Ideas on the Move (1000 B.C.–A.D. 300) 23

Unit 4: Great Empires (1000 B.C.–A.D. 300) 33

Unit 5: Spread of Culture and Religion (A.D. 300–1000) 43

Unit 6: Rise and Fall of Empires and Kingdoms (A.D. 300–1000) 52

Unit 7: Communication and Trade (A.D. 1000–1500) 64

Unit 8: Interaction and Transformation (A.D. 1000–1500) 76

Grade 6

Social Studies

Unit 1: Hunters, Gatherers, Farmers (Beginnings)

Time Frame: Four weeks

Unit Description

This unit focuses on hunter and gatherer societies and how agricultural societies developed from them.

Student Understandings

Students understand that the earliest communities emanated from hunter and gatherer societies. Students will learn that geographic physical features and human modification influenced early civilization development.

Guiding Questions

1. Can students explain how specialization and inventions helped in the development of world civilizations?

2. Can students describe early communities including hunter-gatherer societies and why agricultural societies developed from them?

3. Can students explain how geographical features influenced the development of early civilizations?

Unit 1 Grade-Level Expectations (GLEs)


GLE Text and Benchmarks



Use latitude and longitude to determine direction or locate or compare points on a map or representation of a globe. (G-1A-M2)

Places and Regions


Identify land and climatic conditions conducive to human settlement in regions of the world and describe the role of these conditions. (G-1B-M1)


Explain ways in which goals, cultures, interests, inventions, and technological advances have affected people’s perceptions and uses of places or regions in world history. (G-1B-M4)


Fundamental Economic Concepts


Explain the role of expanding specialization in the development of world civilizations (E-1A-M4)


GLE Text and Benchmarks



Construct a timeline of key developments in world history (political, social, technological, religious/cultural)(H-1A-M1)


Describe the defining characteristics of major world civilizations from political, social, and economic perspectives. (H-1A-M2)

World History


Describe features of the earliest communities (e.g., shelter, food, clothing) (H-1C-M1)


Describe hunter-gatherer societies, including the development of tools and the use of fire (H-1C-M1)


Explain how geographical features influenced development of early civilizations (e.g., domestication, cultivation, specialization) (H-1C-M2)


Explain why agricultural societies developed from hunters and gatherers (H-1C-M2)


Discuss the climatic changes and human modifications of the physical environment that gave rise to the domestication of plants and animals and new sources of clothing (H-1C-M2)

Sample Activities

Activity 1: Tools to Analyze Culture (GLE: 22)
This sixth grade content is expansive, requiring students to master considerable material. Data retrieval charts (DRTs) are an excellent means for students to record data and make comparisons between and among data. The students will use study guides when they need to recall information, analyze groups of data, and construct generalizations that best describe the data. In this activity, students will be responding to the following questions about lifestyles and cultures of selected peoples. The following chart illustrates questions of importance. This chart will activate student prior knowledge.

Important Questions

Looking Back


How did these people develop architecture? How did they build or choose their homes?

How did these people conduct agriculture? How did they raise crops? Domesticate animals?

How did inventions and innovations improve the lives of these people? How did these inventions change transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing?

How did these people practice religion? What were their beliefs? Who were their religious leaders?

How did these people practice an economic system? How did they trade? What was the importance of money?

How did these people govern the community? Who made rules? Who enforced the rules?

Conduct a discussion in which students answer these questions looking at present American culture. Provide charts so students can list their responses to the questions.

Have the students wad up paper bags and tape them to the bottoms of their desks. (Wadding the bag will give the surface a rough feel, like a cave wall.) Darken the room. Have the students crawl under table and chairs to their desks. Then have them draw pictures of local animals on the paper bags (by flashlight). Some will forget to bring a light, or their flashlight will be too bright. Those students must work by feel in the dark.
Have students discuss what they think life would have been like without electricity. What everyday tasks they perform would be impossible or difficult without electricity or even fire?
Explain that students will respond to these questions repeatedly as they study ancient cultures. Have students analyze the results of this discussion and form generalizations that might be made about American culture (e.g., Americans are dependent upon electronic technology; Americans hold diverse religious views and defend freedom of religion).
Provide readings and/or research material on prehistoric hunting and gathering societies. Working alone or in pairs, students will record responses to questions in the DRT. When they have completed that work, direct individual students to write a statement describing one aspect of life in hunting and gathering societies.

Activity 2: Location on a Globe (GLE: 1)
Define latitude and longitude and give their characteristics. Have students show where these lines are on a map and on a globe. Make sure the students know all the alternate words for longitude (meridians like the International Date Line) and latitude (parallels like the equator). Students should be able to point the various lines out on the map.
Ask students to give the names of places they would like to visit on each continent and ask them to identify the location of each, using latitude and longitude. Direct students to use latitude, longitude, and directions from the compass rose to describe the direction and degrees required going from Point A to Point B. Repeat this activity until students are comfortable using latitude, longitude, and the compass rose to determine direction and degrees of distance.
Ask students to mark longitudinal lines representing the Prime Meridian and the International Dateline. Using student atlases or maps in the textbook, direct students to a topographical map of a continent with country boundaries and major cities. Distribute a study guide that requires them to locate several cities and/or physical features on the map in terms of:

  • location by hemisphere (north or south)

  • location by longitude/latitude

  • distance by degrees from the equator

  • distance by degrees from the prime meridian

Activity 3: Using Resources to Identify Countries (GLEs: 1, 2, 17)
Students will create a set of twenty clues that would help another student identify a country. The teacher will brainstorm with students about what would make good clues, or the teacher may want to present the following outline for them.

  • Location

    • What is next to it?

    • On what continent is it?

    • In what hemisphere is it?

    • Do any bodies of water border it?

  • Culture

    • What language do they speak?

    • Is there a major religion?

    • What do the people do for a living?

  • Political

    • What kind of government do they have?

    • What is their currency called?

    • What is the capital city?

Introduce the various resources (e.g., atlas, almanac, encyclopedia) that students need to help find the given countries. Remind the students that the broader clues should be given first since the number of clues that were needed to guess the country determines the value of the correct answer. Teacher may assign countries or let groups choose their own. Students should keep their country a secret if possible. Have students state the country by writing down the latitude and longitude of the capital. Students should discuss the generalities of the physical regions and climate and how these elements would be conducive to ancient settlements.

Activity 4: Characteristics of Hunters and Gatherers (GLEs: 22, 23)
Project a copy of the DRT on a screen, and guide student analysis of the data they have collected. Ask students to generalize about foods, clothing, leaders, role of children/women, and homes. Ask students to speculate why hunting and gathering societies were nomadic. Ask students to predict physical locations where animals and plants would be abundant.
Discuss innovations and inventions that gradually made life a bit easier for hunters and gatherers (e.g., inventions—fishhooks, bone needles, arrowheads, scraping tools, spears, pounding stones; innovations/discoveries—fire, domestication of animals, seeds).
Have students visit
Divide the class into three groups to investigate the following topics:

  • creation and use of tools (focus—development of tools and the use of fire)

  • new subsistence patterns (focus—food source)

  • the occupation of new environmental zones (focus—how geographical societies developed from hunters and gatherers)

Have the students read the website and take notes on their designated topics.
Have the students present their information using props, maps, graphs, etc. Have students write a short essay describing how the life of hunters and gatherers changed as a result of one or more of the following:

  • bone needle and the role of women in the clan

  • discovery of fire and changes in clan life

  • inventions of stone tools (arrowheads) and changes in hunting

  • discovery that seeds produces plants

  • invention of the fishhook and food supply

  • domestication of animals

Activity 5: Settled Agriculture (GLEs: 24, 25)
Ask students to explain how inventions and discoveries permitted hunting and gathering clans to become an agricultural society. The teacher should lead them in summarizing that by the end of the prehistoric period, clans and tribes could remain in one place because they had the following:

  • domesticated farm animals for food and labor

  • a seed culture that allowed them to grow crops for food

  • specialized skills (hunters, farmers, and craftsmen)

Students will be given physical maps of the world, in which they will locate places where early agricultural society would most likely develop. Ask them to use the following criteria in selecting the places:

  • rich soils

  • a location defensible from invaders

  • warm climate

  • abundance of water

Call upon individual students to defend their choices.

Activity 6: Sites and Settled Agriculture (GLEs: 12, 24, 25)
Ask students to discuss what areas of the world would be beneficial for crop planting and which ones would not. Have them support their answers with a list of reasons for their conclusions. Create a visual (e.g., overhead transparency, etc.) of student answers to be used for further discussion.
Give students a climate map (or globe) of the world on which they will reflect on the relative virtues of high, middle, and low latitudes for early agricultural centers. Discuss the importance of rainfall and temperature for growing crops.
Working as a class, students will place erasable markers on the map to indicate the most likely location of agricultural centers about 7,000 B.C. Assign a writing exercise where students explain how/why hunting and gathering clans developed into agricultural societies. Provide a writing guide on important items that must be included: invention/discoveries, temperature and rainfall, domestication of animals. (Be sure that they include issues such as specialization because of changes in the society and the creation of tools.)

Activity 7: Glaciers and Physical Features (GLE: 26)
Have students illustrate how glaciers move as rivers of ice over the surface of the earth, eroding soil and depositing it where the glaciers melt.
Have them explain glaciated areas of the earth and have them explain how glaciers do the following:

  • form rivers (give examples)

  • create deposits of rich soils (loess regions)

  • create plains and hills

Activity 8: Human Societies Change the Environment (GLE: 26)
Provide pictures of an early agricultural setting (pictures of museum models). There are many websites and videos available that will provide detailed information on this subject. Ask students to view the pictures and identify ways early humans changed the physical environment to improve their lives (e.g., burning and cutting forests, tilling soil, diverting water to fields, cutting ditches to fields, building levees to protect against floods, and building rock fences to contain domesticated animals). Create a list of the adaptations as students make comments.
Ask students to pretend they have traveled back in time approximately 35,000 years. Ask them to write a letter to a family member or friend living today. Students will describe to this person what kind of experiences they are having. Be as factual as possible, but be creative and use good descriptive words, including sounds, sights, smells, etc. Be sure to include information regarding climate, clothing, food, homes, dangers, animals, language, etc.

Activity 9: Comparing Ancient Art and Its Perspective to Art throughout History (GLE: 4)
Have the students go to the following websites about the Cave of Lascaux:
The website,, gives information about the caves and why early man painted representations of hunters and animals.
Students will examine the paintings found on the cave and determine how the signs and representations helped archaeologists explain what was important to the early cultures. Ask the question: How do you think the world might have been different from today’s world? Students will then view and examine works of art from various periods of history. Like archaeologists, students will make assumptions based on these pieces of art. Finally, in a culminating activity, each student will create a painting or drawing of what is important in today’s society. Each class will exchange the works of art and come to some conclusions about what the artist is trying to portray about our culture today. Works of art will be displayed with a student essay on why this work was created and how it portrays an aspect of our society.

Activity 10: Creating a Timeline of Early Human Cultures, Inventions and Progression from Nomadic to Agricultural Societies (GLEs: 4, 15)
Students will research the political, social, and economic influences of the early human cultures and how they progressed from a nomadic society to an agricultural society. Data for this research can be found on the Internet, printed resources, encyclopedias, and atlases. This should be an individual project. Students can choose what developments they want to emphasize. However, they must justify why the developments were important for the advancement of man. For example, the creation of walls and weapons created an enclosed society that forced once nomadic people to protect their chosen land. Inform the students that the timeline will not be proportional. The spaces will be equal, but the real time between the dates will vary greatly. Encourage the students to create visual representations of the timeline dates. Dates should be alternated above and below the actual line of the timeline to create more space for visual representations. A rubric describing the project requirements, physical representation, and content should be emphasized before the research begins.

Sample Assessments

General Guidelines

  • Use a variety of performance assessments to determine student understanding of content. Select assessments that are consistent with the types of products that result from the student activities.

  • Collaboratively develop a scoring rubric with other teachers or students.

  • Peer evaluation and informal monitoring of groups can help students evaluate their own work. Give strict guidelines for peer evaluation. Constructive criticism should be at a minimum, praise and motivation being the priority.

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