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Lesson Plans Library 6-8 > Ancient History
Female Pharaohs image
Female Pharaohs
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: Ancient History Duration: Two class periods

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Students will
  • Demonstrate an understanding of basic facts about Hatshepsut and Cleopatra.
  • Research and write about a particular event from either pharaoh's reign.
  • Female Pharaohs video and VCR, or DVD and DVD player
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Resources about Hatshepsut and Cleopatra
  1. After watching the video, review basic facts about Hatshepsut and Cleopatra. Which was Egypt's first female pharaoh? (Hatshepsut) Which was one of Egypt's last pharaohs? (Cleopatra) When did each woman rule? (Hatshepsut ruled from 1473-1458 B.C. Cleopatra ruled from 51-30 B.C.) From what city did each queen rule? (Hatshepsut ruled from Thebes. Cleopatra ruled from Alexandria.)

  2. Review how each woman rose to power:

    • Hatshepsut: After the death of her father, Tuthmosis, Hatshepsut followed royal custom and married her half brother, Tuthmosis II. When Tuthmosis II died, the throne passed to his son by a minor wife. Because the new pharaoh (Tuthmosis III) was very young, Hatshepsut became regent. Several years later, Hatshepsut declared herself "king" and began wearing the false beard and garments of a pharaoh.

    • Cleopatra: Cleopatra came from the Greek Ptolemy family that had ruled Egypt for 300 years. Cleopatra's father died when she was 18 years old. To continue the dynasty she married her younger brother and they began a joint rule; however, they hated each other, and fighting broke out between them. The great Roman general, Julius Caesar, helped her take the throne.

    • Next, ask the class to brainstorm some of the significant events in the life and rule of each woman:


      • Death of her father, Tuthmosis
      • Death of her husband, Tuthmosis II
      • Becoming regent for her stepson Tuthmosis III
      • Building Deir el-Bahri, her mortuary temple
      • Taking the title "King"
      • Famous expedition to the land of Punt (though not in the video, students may choose to research and write about this event)
      • Death of her highest official, Senmut


      • Death of her father, Ptolemy XII
      • Marrying her brother, Ptolemy XIII and becoming queen
      • Forming an alliance with Julius Caesar
      • Birth of son, Cesarion
      • Death of Julius Caesar
      • Marriage to Marc Antony
      • Battle of Actium against Octavian
      • Antony and Cleopatra's deaths

  3. Assign each student to write a diary entry, from either Hatshepsut's or Cleopatra's point of view, about a significant event in her life. They should include historical facts, events, and people, but they should also include the student's belief about how the person felt about the events. Encourage students to reflect on the goals and aspirations of each woman, such as Hatshepsut's desire to rule as king and Cleopatra's aspirations for her son to rule the Egyptian and Roman empires.

  4. Provide students with resources about each woman. Encourage them to research more details to add to the historical accuracy of their diary entry. Note that it is often impossible to know for sure what happened so long ago, and archaeologists and historians still debate a number of details of Hatshepsut's life. In addition, remind them that they are free to choose an event not mentioned in the video or in class discussion. The following Web sites may be helpful in their research:

  5. Have students exchange diary entries with at least two other students who wrote about the same queen.

  6. Discuss the activity as a class. Which events did students write about? Which events do they think were the most significant in the lives of each ruler? What people played important roles in their lives?

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students were active in class discussions; demonstrated a clear understanding of the two rulers, their lives, and their rise to power; provided several significant events in the lives of the rulers; wrote a thoughtful diary entry with several accurate historical details.
  • Two points: Students participated in class discussions; demonstrated an adequate understanding of the two rulers, their lives, and their rise to power; provided a few significant events in the lives of the rulers; wrote a clear, satisfactory diary entry with some accurate historical details.
  • One point: Students did not participate in class discussions; demonstrated a weak understanding of the two rulers, their lives, and their rise to power; did not provide any significant events in the lives of the rulers; wrote an incomplete, vague diary entry with few or no historical details.

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Definition: A person destined or entitled to inherit property or a hereditary title
Context: Marc Antony told the Roman Senate that Caesar had acknowledged Cesarion, Cleopatra's son, as his heir.

Definition: Pictorial characters in a system of writing
Context: Many walls inside the pyramids are covered with hieroglyphs that tell the stories of the pharaohs.

Definition: An upright, four-sided pillar, that gradually tapers as it rises and is topped by a pyramid.
Context: Hatshepsut's obelisk at Karnak Temple is one of the tallest ever built.

Definition: A ruler in ancient Egypt.
Context: Hatshepsut, the queen of Egypt, decided to wear men's clothing and declare herself pharaoh.

Definition: One who governs a kingdom in place of a sovereign who it too young, absent, or disabled.
Context: When Tuthmosis III was young, it was natural for Hatshepsut to rule in his place as regent.

Definition: A stone coffin.
Context: The sarcophagus was probably carved for Hatshepsut when she was still queen, but when she became king, she needed a new one for her position as pharaoh.

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Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit http://www.mcrel.org/compendium/browse.asp.

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • World History — Early Civilizations and the Rise of Pastoral Peoples: Understands the political, social, and cultural consequences of population movements and militarization in Eurasia in the second millennium B.C.E.
  • World History — Classical Traditions, Major Religions, and Giant Empires: Understand how major religious and large-scale empires arose in the Mediterranean Basin, China, and India from 500 BCE to 300 CE.
  • Understands major global trends from 1000 BCE to 300 CE
  • Historical Understanding: Understands the historical perspective.

The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go to http://www.socialstudies.org/standards/strands/.

This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards:

  • Culture
  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Power, Authority, and Governance

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Joy Brewster, curriculum writer, editor, and consultant

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