My 5th grade Social Studies class will be starting a chapter about how people first arrived in the Americas, with a brief look at natives tribes from across North America. This a general review (the students have looked at native tribes more in depth in 4th grade) as they prepare to move into the unit on exploration and settlement of the Americas.

The objectives for the first lesson are:

  • Summarize how people first came to the American continents.
  • Describe some important civilizations that developed in North America.

I have chosen an image from Diego Rivera’s mural The Great City of Tenochtitlan housed in the National Palace in Mexico City. The mural is divided into three sections, which depict indigenous culture, the conquest by the Spaniards, and Mexico’s fight for Independence. The section I will show depicts an Aztec marketplace with a view of the city in the background.

I thought this would be a good image to get the students thinking about the complexity of indigenous established before the explorers arrived, while addressing the objective about important civilizations.

The Great City of Tenochtitlan by Diego Rivera Photograph by Travis S.

Lesson 30 minutes

Students will view the image and answer guiding questions.

  • What do you notice or what stands out to you?
  • Where in the world is this?
  • What is the era or time period?
  • Who do you think the man sitting alone with the fan is?
  • Where does this scene take place?
  • Can you compare or contrast it to anything you know of or have experienced?

A class discussion will follow for students to share their responses to the image.

To wrap up, I will share information about Diego Rivera and the mural.

The Art and Times of Diego Rivera

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Tenochtitlan Thematic Essay