Teaching Primary History: Ancient Egypt for Key Stage 2

Not by chance has this been one of the most popular KS2 topics, even before the National Curriculum.  Its popularity has not waned though it only narrowly escaped Gove’s axe in 2013.  It is worth continuing with it as it offers not only a fascinating and colourful glimpse into a distant world, but it also provides extremely rich cross-curricular opportunities.

You all know the great Art, Technology, Maths and RE you can get from this topic, let alone the strong literacy links. Don’t just take my word for it.  Those of you familiar with Belle Wallace’s book Using History to Develop Thinking Skills (NACE/Fulton, 2003) will know that one of the four chapters in the book focuses exclusively on using Ancient Egypt as a context.

Outstanding Lessons

Crimewatch Ancient Egypt. Can we return the raided tomb goods to their rightful owners?   This fun activity is a brilliant way of developing pupils’ deductive thinking skills in a realistic context.  Pupils are cast in the role of police detectives trying to solve a 3,000 year old crime.One of the best problem-solving activities you could hope to find for Y3/4 and a great way to challenge the most able.

Understanding the Book of the Dead using a role play device called Page to Stage (members only) All Year 4 boys want to be Ammut the gobbler!

The Opening of Tutankhamun’s Tomb: a reconstruction relay (members only)Pupils in role as Howard Carter’s assistants have to open the tomb and have just 20 seconds to fix in their mind the treasures that lie there. To prevent themselves being overcome by gases they have to retreat and the draw what they have seen. But this is not a solo activity. They work in teams each adding to their team members drawing  before setting about investigating what each item might be.

So who really did build the pyramids? Pupils check out the accuracy of a feature film and weigh up the evidence (members only).

Helping the Hopeless Embalmer with the mummification process. Great literacy and drama work helping to create memorable instructions to ensure the souls have an after-life


Visit the BBC cbbc website www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/#/lb/games/play/relic to try the Guardians of the Museum Game. Cross-curricular medium-term planning with strong ICT, literacy, numeracy and drama links, including highly recommended websites (Members only) If you have time to look at just one website, go to the British Museum‘s website. Superb resources have been interpreted better than at any time in the Museum’s history and have been well-pitched for Y4/5 work in primary schools. The talented Museum staff have gone out of their way to produce downloadable resources of stunning quality and usability.

The site is grateful to the British Museum for kindly agreeing to the use of several images of its exhibits. If you want a stimulating, creative and genuinely  inspiring book for the school library, then have a look at  Egyptology , published by Templar ISBN 1-84011-852-0 at £17.99. The price is easily justified by the contents. The book covers the journal of Emily Sands from 1926. There are letters to open, coloured postcards to read, papyrus rolls to unfold, flaps to lift, and games to play, with plenty of gold and coloured stone to dazzle. Even if you think it too fragile to be placed on library shelves why not keep it  as a reward or bring it out on special occasions. I spent ages drooling over the contents, wondering what surprises lay in store as I turned the reassuring thick pages.










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