Maya Civilization: Geography, government, architecture

Maya Civilization: Geography, government, architecture

I can describe the geography, government, and architecture of the Maya.

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Maya Civilization: Geography, government, architecture

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This lesson is an introduction to the ancient Maya civilization. Students learn about the Maya civilization and are able to describe its geography, government, and architecture. They'll be able to map the Maya civilization and learn about the purpose of their pyramids and temples.

Learning objective

Students will be able to locate the complex societies and civilizations of the Mayas on a map, and students will determine when the society and civilizations occurred. They will also explain the importance of their architecture.


Discuss what students think life was like 4,000 years ago. What would be the same? What would be different? What do they think would be the hardest part of living 4,000 years ago? Introduce the term "ancient civilizations" and tell students that these are civilizations that started about 4,000 years ago. Learning about them helps us better understand the world and provide insight. Tell students that today they will learn about one of the first ancient civilizations, the Maya.


Start by explaining the geography of where the Maya lived. Have students circle the countries on the map. Next, explain what the land and climate were like. Ask students to drag pictures to help show what the land was like in Mesoamerica. Check their work on the next slide. Ask students to turn and talk to a partner to discuss how they think the Maya used the land and climate to their advantage. Following this, explain the Mayan government. It had a hierarchical government structure with Kings and Priests at the top, followed by Merchants & Artisans, Peasants, and finally Servants. Ask students to analyze the given images on the interactive whiteboard and to see if they can figure out which people they are portraying. Finally, discuss Maya architecture with the students. Show the video and explain that we still have ancient temples surviving today that we can look at and study. Ask students to see if they can come up with uses for the Maya Pyramids. Discuss some of the (famous) Mayan ruins and talk about some that can still be seen in Central America today.


Students are given a set of true or false questions to check their understanding of key concepts given during the lesson. They are then given multiple-choice questions about the geography, government, and architecture of the Mayans.


Discuss the learning goal with the students. Are they able to describe the geography, government, and architecture of the Mayas? Ask students to answer the given questions using the map (and compass directions). Close the lesson by having students draw some details of the Maya civilization that they saw on an imaginary field trip. Have students share their drawings.

Teaching tips

You can ask students if they know anything about other ancient cultures or if any of the students in the class have visited any ancient ruins.

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