Fall of the Aztec Empire

Fall of the Aztec Empire

I can explain the key factors that contributed to the fall of the Aztec Empire

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Fall of the Aztec Empire

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In this lesson, students learn about Hernán Cortés and Spanish exploration, including their motivations for taking over the Aztec empire. Students learn why the arrival of Cortes was so devastating for the Aztec civilization as well as the actions of the Aztec leader, Montezuma. Sacrifices (religion) and disease also took a toll on the Aztec civilization. The lesson also includes a printable “note catcher” where students keep track of what they’ve learned.

Learning Objective

Students will be able to describe the factors that led to the fall of the Aztec empire, including disease, religion, and Spanish conquest.


Ask students what they already know about the Aztec empire. Who were they? What was Tenochtitlan like? Briefly review what students have learned and introduce the three main factors that led to the fall of the Aztec empire: Religion, disease, and Spanish conquest.


First, explain how religion contributed to the demise of the Aztecs. The Aztecs engaged in human sacrifices to please the gods. Often, they would kill people from neighboring city-states which created numerous enemies and wars for the Aztecs. This led to a decrease in population and led these enemies to assist the Spanish conquistadors. Have students take notes in their note catcher. Next, introduce Hernan Cortes and explain why he wanted to take over the Aztec empire. After this, students look at two images on the board and make observations about the Spanish conquistadors and the Aztecs. They may notice that the Spanish army’s weapons and armor, and the fact that the Aztecs are presenting them with gifts. After this, discuss Montezuma II and his flawed response to the Spanish invasion. Finally, discuss the role of disease. After conquering the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan was renamed “Mexico City’ and Cortes was made governor by King Charles I. Students will then watch a video and jot down any additional information they learned.


Check student understanding with ten multiple-choice, true or false, and fill-in questions.


Students write a short paragraph to explain how the Aztec empire came to an end. Then they will write a journal entry front he perspective of either an Aztec native or from the point of view of a Spanish conquistador. You may choose to have students draw a picture as well.

Instruction materials

The lesson includes a printable worksheet to be used as a "note catcher" throughout the lesson.

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