Books, Games, and Activities for Studying Ancient Mesopotamia – Classical Conversations Week 1

WebIn my opinion, the Classical Conversations timeline is possibly the best thing about the Foundations memory work program. It provides students with a spine around which to arrange their understanding of history. Looking back on my own education, I loved studying history, but none of those people and places connected in my mind. History was something of a pea soup of random and unconnected occurrences. The timeline allows our children to place historical events in their proper order. They memorize the timeline in its entirety each year, but for diving deeper into each topic, our family has decided to divide the timeline into three units and study each unit for a full school year.

As I post lesson plans for each week, I will include what we are actually doing, followed by a list of additional books and activities to pursue if time permits. Keep in mind that our family will spend 3-4 weeks on each “week” of the CC Timeline. By the end of Cycle 1 this year, we will have covered the civilizations and events featured in the first 8 weeks of the Timeline memory work. Next year, during Cycle 2, we will cover the next 8 weeks worth of Timeline material in more detail. Feel free to use the lesson plans as you see fit and in the way that works best for your family. These lesson plans can also be easily adapted to fit with a study of Story of the World or any other living history program.

CC Timeline – Creation-Babel, Mesopotamia – Week 1 Our School Year

Read Aloud Books:
“Gilgamesh the Hero” – This book was phenomenal. The translation is beautifully poetic but still easy to read. I personally enjoyed Gilgamesh immensely. It is a great adventure story, but it also addresses the fundamental questions at the core of what it means to be human…and it does so with poignancy and depth. I can’t recommend it enough. It is a great way to kick off your school year and your study of ancient history. Please consider purchasing it through Amazon using the link below to help support this blog and further recommendations and lesson plans.

Buy “Gilgamesh the Hero” on Amazon

“You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Sumerian Slave” – This series is always entertaining and educational. My kids love it. It makes learning history fun and more like reading a comic book.

Buy “You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Sumerian Slave” on Amazon

“The Tigris and Euphrates, Rivers of the Fertile Crescent” – This book spends only a short time on the history of the fertile crescent, but it gives a great overview of the geography of the region. It explains why civilizations rely on rivers and the effects these rivers have on the geo-politics of the region up to the modern day.

Buy “The Tigris and Euphrates: Rivers of the Fertile Crescent” on Amazon

“Legacy: The Origins of Civilization Episode 1 – Iraq, the Cradle of Civilization” – Some reviewers of this series feel that the narrator is unnecessarily critical of Western Civilization. In this first episode, I feel that this world view is only briefly noted. Also, in the first line of the documentary, the script states that human beings have been alive on earth for millions of years. The word “sex” is mentioned in a list about 3/4 of the way through the episode. Neither of my kids even noticed, and it was only the word, there is no inappropriate context or visual. Overall, I felt that the value of this film outweighed the possible objections. I prefer acknowledging conflicting world views with my children and discussing them, as I feel this prepares them to face the inevitable challenges to their faith that will arise later on. However, you may want to preview this episode first and make your own decision about what is right for your family. There are several versions available on YouTube, but the following seems to have the best video quality and be the “least blurry”: Legacy: The Origins of Civilization Episode 1 – Iraq

Games and Activities:
Tigris and Euphrates the Board Game – This is a pricey addition to your curriculum, but our family loves board games and we get a lot of play out of them, so I took this expense out of our entertainment budget, not our homeschooling budget. The game is quite fun and both my 8 year old and my 16 year old enjoyed playing it (as did I!) I would say that the average age is probably 10+, but if you have a younger child that really enjoys strategy games (like my 8 year old) then they can play as well. I would give the game an 8 out of 10 score. (For reference, I give Catan a 9 out of 10.) Again, if you are considering purchasing this game, or any other recommended material, please click on the provided links as it helps to defray some of the costs associated with purchasing and reviewing all the materials for this blog.

Buy Tigris and Euphrates board game on Amazon

Cuneiform Clay Tablets – I ordered some self-hardening clay and plan to have the kids write their names (and whatever else they would like) on homemade clay tablets. This website offers great step-by-step instructions on preparing the tablets, cutting styluses, etc.:
Writing Cuneiform
This site offers a handy alphabet chart for cuneiform:
How to Write Cuneiform
If you are interested, this is the clay I purchased. There is enough in this block to share with multiple children and/or families:

Buy Red Pottery Clay on Amazon

View Mesopotamian Art – The University of Chicago has a wonderful collection of sculpture and other art pieces from Ancient Mesopotamia. If you live in the greater Chicago area, you can visit the museum in person. For the rest of us, the gallery has a collection of photographs along with brief descriptions of the art pieces online here:
Highlights of the Collection: Mesopotamia

We are also going to use two of the lesson plans provided by UChicago. The first is called “How to Read an Artifact.” I like this lesson because it requires critical thinking, can easily be tailored to fit a variety of ages, and can be done in written form or simply by talking through it. You can download the .pdf for this lesson plan here: How to Read an Artifact. We will also be using the “How Much Did It Cost?” lesson idea from the Mesopotamian Math resource. You can download that .pdf here: Mesopotamian Math Ideas.

Bible Readings:

Genesis 1-3 (Creation and the Fall)
Genesis 5-8 (Noah and the Flood)
Genesis 10-11 (Tower of Babel)
Genesis 11:27-12:9 (Abram Leaves Ur)

If Time Permits (More Fun Stuff):

We purchased the Evan Moor Ancient Civilizations History Pockets. A lot of other bloggers had recommended them and I like lap-booking so I thought this might be a good option for my 8 year old. Unfortunately, I think that they are geared for a slightly younger demographic. I think the material is good and would make for a fun addition to a lap-book for students up to about age 7. Here is the link if you are interested:

Buy Evan Moor Ancient Civilizations Pockets

If your kids are anything like mine, they go crazy for computer games. This one from UChicago looks really fun, but we have not played it yet: Dig Into History Game.

Speaking of computer games…remember when you had to type lines and lines of code just to get your Commodore 64 to play a game of “guess my number”? No? Then you are younger than I. But for those of us who long for those good old fashioned computer games that have no graphics and limited instructions…look no further! Now your children can enjoy the same low tech fun that we experienced with Hammurabi Game. Your student has to manage the Sumerian economy for 10 years without all his citizens starving. It’s good fun…and at least no one dies of dysentery!

The Ancient History Go Fish Game from The Classical Historian is something of a staple with CC families. I agree with other reviewers that the game itself is a bit boring, but I think that there are all sorts of alternative ways to play if one wants to put some creative thinking into it. Future blog post?

Buy Ancient Civilizations Go Fish Card Game

We are super excited to act out and judge six fictional court cases according to Hammurabi’s Code of Laws. This activity is designed for grades 6-10, but if you complete it as a family, it is easy for younger students to participate as well. The packet is available on Teachers Pay Teachers: Hammurabi’s Court. (I did not create this material and I am not an affiliate of TPT. I am simply providing the link as a resource.)

I am a big fan of lap books. I love the interaction they provide for my kids and the wonderful keepsake to show dad and grandparents when they ask what we are studying in home school. There are lots of lap books and interactive notebook pages out there for Mesopotamia and I think I’ve probably previewed almost all of them. Here is the one I like the best and plan to complete with my kids if we have time: TPT Mesopotamia Interactive Notebook

Finally, I came across the Outmatched Ancient History Card Game when I was purchasing my students’ curriculum for Essentials from Institute of Excellence in Writing. This particular card game features 8 decks that focus on different periods in Ancient History. It is specifically designed to complement the IEW Ancient History coursework, and I’m sure it is a great resource. But I was scared away by the $49 price tag.

Stay tuned for my next post where I will list the resources, links, and materials I will be using for all other subjects in Week 1 of Cycle 1 including math, english, science, history, Latin, and geography. Follow my blog so you don’t miss it!


  1. Thank you so much for your posts. I´m trying to homeschool my kids by combining Russian CC program with some bits in English. Your blog is truly a valuable source.


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