Make Your Own Cuneiform Writing Tablets
Kids love kinesthetic learning and so do I. What better way to teach about life in Mesopotamia than to practice cuneiform writing?
To begin this lesson I showed a five minute video clip from Discovery Education about early forms of writing in Sumer, a city in Mesopotamia. The video clip illustrated how writing has changed over time and how clay tablets for cuneiform were created.
(Discovery Education is a must-have for teachers. I use it in all of my classes. It is a resource full of videos, images, sound clips, articles and so much more on almost every subject. All of the materials are grouped according to grade level and are trustworthy to be used in a classroom setting. Discovery Education does have a fee, but I am sure you will see that it is worth every penny!)
Next, I gave each student a handout that showed samples of early forms of writing, a small ball of clay, a pointed wooden stick and a sheet of wax paper. The students rolled out and flattened their clay to the desired shape and thickness. Then, using the wooden stick, they copied the patterns from the handout to make their own Mesopotamian cuneiforms. They loved it!
We let the tablets dry for several days and then baked them in a kiln. (Not all clay needs firing though.) Afterward, we used watered-down brown tempera paint to give them an “authentic” look, then sprayed them with shellac.