I love history.
I know most people hate the thought of teaching history, but history is really just a collection of stories (with varying degrees of
truthfulness). And, in my experience, using stories to teach history makes it much more fun — and easier to learn!
I try to teach history in a chronological order, but also from a world wide perspective. Unfortunately, many history curriculums are biased towards a Euro-centric view, so it’s hard to find something that’s more balanced.
So I’ve been putting together my own resources and guides.
Over the years I’ve collected a variety of resources to teach history, from all periods and locations.
We always start with Ancient Mesopotamia history. Most scholars (religious and secular) believe that civilization began in what’s known as the Fertile Crescent. This “cradle of civilization” holds the origin story of what we call our Western civilization, and you’ll find a lot of similarities to today from 5000 or more years ago.
Here is my list of books to use:
One of the most integral stories of Ancient Mesopotamia history is the story of Gilgamesh. Anyone familiar with the story of Noah’s ark will see the parallels here. (Historians question which came first: Noah’s ark
A really nice set of picture books – for all ages – is The Epic of Gilgamesh, retold and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman. This comes in a set of 3: Gilgamesh the King, the Revenge of Ishtar and the Last Quest of Gilgamesh.
We use this set to discuss the mindsets of the Ancient Mesopotamian cultures. We look at the origin stories, and the role that religion played in every day life. And it’s a great introduction to the concept of “city-state” vs “empire”, as well as how leaders inherited their position due to the relationship the king had with their gods.
Another story I like for this time period is The Tower of Babel by Alison Greengard. Interestingly, this book is physically published the way an Ancient Hebrew book would be laid out — it opens from right to left.
And while the story comes from the Bible, it’s got some practical elements too. We use this story to introduce the concepts of “ziggurats” and the idea of how easy-brick-making led to city-building. We also talk about how a shared language makes it easy to work together, and that all cultures have a shared language and history.
I love doing a read-a-loud or novel study as part of our history studies. I try to find interesting fiction stories that are set in each historical period we’re studying.
Mesopotamian fiction stories aren’t that easy to find!
For this time period, I like Adam and His Kin, by Ruth Beechick. This fictionalized and fantastical version of the Genesis story helps students put themselves into that world. It’s definitely meant for younger readers, but it’s still a good story.
Similarly, you could use the first volume of Story of the World. It’s also a fictionalized and fantastical version of the time period and prehistory.
Who needs dry encyclopedias to study history? Not me. I love finding books that give us facts along with great stories and pictures of real artifacts.
I collect various series of books for history. DK Eyewitness, Life in.., The Ancient World, Step into.., and People of the Ancient World books are a core part of my library.
One of my favorite series of books is the “You Wouldn’t Want to Be…” series. For Ancient Mesopotamia history, check out “You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Sumerian Slave” by Jacqueline Morley.
Other books include:
- The Ancient World: Ancient Mesopotamia by Allison Lassieur
- Life in Ancient Mesopotamia by Shilpa Mehta-Jones
- DK Eyewitness Books: Mesopotamia by Philip Steele
- Step into Mesopotamia by Lorna Oakes
- People of the Ancient World: Ancient Mesopotamia by Virginia Schomp
- The Babylonians: Life in Ancient Babylon by Martha E H Rustad
We use all our books along with coloring from Dover coloring books, activity books such as “Hands on History” and lapbooks. I love Hands of A Child and A Journey through Learning for lapbook sources. And you can always make your own!
I love including videos, podcasts and other multi-media options when I can.
One of my favorite history podcasts is Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. These are more like audiobooks than podcasts, but they are fascinating!
For a look at Ancient Mesopotamia history like you’ve never heard before, Dan Carlin brings the Assyrians, Babylonians and Ninevah to life with one of his shorter podcasts (approximately 1 hour), Judgement at Ninevah.
Noe: This is probably better suited for older children and teens, as Dan can graphically describe some of the violent attitudes and actions of the time period, including the poor treatment of women.
From the Web
My list of kid-safe sites to explore:
- Mr. Donn’s Classroom: Ancient Mesopotamia
- Histolines (an online interactive timeline)
- BBC History for Kids
- History for Kids
What are your favorite sources for world history studies?