5 Fun & Free Ideas to Teach about the Aztecs

If you’ve been searching for the Aztecs and ideas to teach, you may have been searching for a while.  There are not a lot of resources out there, readily available and free for your use.  So I have compiled 5 free resources to make the teaching about the Aztecs fun.

Teaching about the Aztecs won't be boring when you incorporate these Aztec activities into your upper elementary social studies unit! Read more in this Colorado Classroom blog.

Make a Sun Dial

The Aztecs carved a huge sunstone in 1479.  It was 3 feet thick and almost 12 feet across. Plus, it weighed 25 metric tons.  Made from basalt, this large sunstone was one of the first sundials, and it was dedicated to the sun god.  Your students can make their own sundial with this first activity.  Students use a paper plate, craft stick, Playdoh, markers, and pencils, to create and decorate a real working sundial.  They can even lay it out in the sun and check it hourly to write the hour times. See how one was marked all fancy in this first activity found here.

Create a 2-Headed Serpent with five, free craft items on the Aztecs. Two-headed serpent covered in colorful small tissue paper squares.

Decorate a 2-Headed Serpent

The Aztecs highly valued and worshiped the snake as a sacred symbol. They believed it to be a symbol of one of their most treasured gods, Quetzalcoatl.  A very prominent serpent once owned by the Aztecs was possibly given to Hernan Cortes just before he destroyed their empire. This infamous serpent now resides in the British Museum.

Students can recreate this serpent with just some cardboard, tissue paper, yarn, scissors, and glue.  You can get the full directions here! In a short lesson or two, students will have a beautiful work of art to display in their school or at their home. While the importance of the serpent to that of the Aztec people will live on.

Make Aztec Pottery

Another option for studying the Aztecs is to make pottery and artwork like the Aztecs did.  This step-by-step guide will show you two examples of how to make a pot or a sun similar to those made by the Aztecs.  They have great examples and an Aztec pot for comparison.

Learn the Aztec Origin Story

This image shows the Aztec Origin Story lesson with its four parts and a partially completed foldable activity.

I have just the lesson for you if you’re looking for something a little less crafty and a bit more in-depth.  This Origin Story Lesson covers the origin of the Aztecs and how they came to be in the south-central valley of Mexico.  It includes an original article that your students can read to learn the background and history of the Aztec people.  It then includes multiple other pieces that deal with comprehension, symbolism, and more. 

Apparently, back in the 1300s, the Aztecs were told by one of their gods to look for a special sign. They were to look for an eagle perched on a cactus on an island in the middle of a lake, munching on a writhing snake.  The Aztecs saw this sign one day, which led them to build their village on the island inside Lake Texcoco.  This symbol of the eagle on a cactus eating a snake has been preserved on the seal and flag of Mexico. 

Students are given a picture of this seal and asked to summarize the origin story of the Aztecs.  They then have the opportunity to come up with their own symbolism for a home or place that they find near and dear to their hearts.  It could be their own house, a grandparent’s, an aunt or uncle’s, siblings, cousins, etc. They get to think about where it’s located and what makes it unique and special to them.

Try Aztec Hot Chocolate

Ingredients for authentic Aztec Hot Chocolate laid out in small piles on a white background.

Finally, for a fifth free and fun idea, learn how to make Aztec Hot Chocolate.  Many people do not realize that the cocoa bean to make chocolate came from the Aztecs.  The Aztecs showed it to Cortes, and he quickly changed the Aztec recipe to one involving vanilla and sugar before shipping it back across the ocean to Europe.  In this fun recipe, you’ll return to the story’s origin and try your chocolate with a small kick of cayenne pepper, just as the Aztecs intended.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these five fun and free ideas to teach about the Aztecs. Perhaps they have provided you with your own ideas that you’ll go on to share. Most of all, I wish you and your students a great day of learning and a ton of fun.

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