Latin America

The Maya, Aztec and Inca are all covered (to varying degrees) in this unit. Though they are broken into individual sections (and lectures) they are tested together as one. In total the unit takes about six weeks and is easily one of the favorites of the year for the students. Though there are a whole bunch of lecture notes the students don't seem to mind as they are all quite interesting.

History Labs: Culture Shock: Maya, The Maya Files, Culture Shock: Aztec & Inca

Latin America PowerPoint Presentations





Conquest 1:
The Age of Exploration

How and why did the Europeans discover the New World?


Conquest 2:

The Explorers

Who were the brave souls who decided to sail off the map? Lets look at the stories of Columbus and Magellan.


Conquest 3:
Mayan Culture

First thought to be peaceful and Utopian we now know the Mayans were quite the opposite. This presentation explores some of the darker, more realistic sides of their culture.


Conquest 4:
The Mayan Collapse

The disappearance of the Mayans is only as great a mystery as it is because of their astounding rise to power. This lecture looks at both.


Conquest 5:
Aztec Adaptations

Turning a swampy island marsh into one of the largest cities in the world is an incredible feat. Lets see how they did it!


Conquest 6:
The Spanish Arrive

When Hernan Cortes arrived in Mexico everything changed for the native peoples. Some saw him as their savior from the hated Aztecs. How would the Aztecs respond?


Conquest 7:
Inca Mountain Livin'

Swamps are one thing, 13,000 foot high mountains are another. How did the Inca do it? Also, TITICACA.


Conquest 8:
Pizarro and the Inca

What if Cortes had a greedy younger brother who wanted to outdo him in every way? Yeah, that would be Franciso Pizarro. Sorry Incas.


Bonus Level:
Comparing the Cultures

This final presentation is largely a review but will also help fill in some gaps. Students, do not take your normal Cornell style notes on this one. Instead usethis guide to take you through a comparison of how the three cultures adapted and lived.


Labs and Worksheets


1.  Digging for the Truth: The Temple -lead your students on a scripted investigation into a mysteries temple. This is a great introduction to the unit. Worksheet #2

2.  Maya Walk-thru- A simple series of comprehension questions based on the graphics in Holt's Medieval to Early modern Times used to introduce or review the Mayans in one day.

3. Maya Culture Shock- Students experience decoding Mayan glyphs and making glyphs of their own.

4. History Mystery: The Mayan Disappearance- a critical thinking based lesson where students make inferences from a series of sources about what may have caused the disappearance of the Classic Maya.

5.  Maya DBQ- A higher-level version of the walkthru above. It uses many of the same images but requires students to analyze them in greater depth and use them to support a position.

6.  Read ‘N Think: Mayan Creation- A short reading activity providing test-practice and an interesting story about the Maya.

7.  Explorers & Mayans Strategy Guide: A review activity for the first quiz in the unit covering Explorers and Mayans.

8.  Aztec Walk-thru: as above but for the Aztecs.

9. Inca Walk-thru: as above but for the Inca.

10.  Aztec/Inca Culture Shock- Mini-activities on Latin American “writing System, the difficulty of language barrier Inca riddles and the Aztec calendar. In the "writing" lab divide students into 3 groups - one for each of the Latin American peoples. While reading the story aloud the Mayans may write notes using words (since they had a syllabic language), the Aztecs may only draw pictures (pictographic language) and the Inca can only use strings you provide them to tie knots (no written language). They then take a quiz to compare which is most effective. For the language barriers students are assigned a have and a want. They must find their trade partner using only physical communication.

11.  Create a Codex- a group activity where students do research on a specific Aztec topic and create a 4-5 panel codex to represent their topic.

12.  Versus- A 30 minute reading assignment based on Holt's Medieval to Early Modern Times but adaptable to any textbook or article on the topic. Students read assigned passages and are guided through a comparison of Aztec and Inca culture.

13. The Heuxotzinco Codex - a primary-source based lesson where students analyze an Aztec codex made shortly after the conquest. Worksheet 1, Worksheet 2, Answer Key  (adapted from a lesson from the Library of Congress found here. )

14. Weigh the Evidence: Maya - a lesson designed with the Common Core in mind. Students analyze a series of sources and weigh their reliability to help answer the open-ended question "Were the Mayans an advanced civilization?"

15. HA - Inca Origins  - Students analyze two accounts of the origins of the Inca to try to determine which is mythical and which is historical. 

16. Inca: Did it Happen?  - Students compare primary source, first-hand accounts of the Great Meeting between Atahualpa and Pizarro to the secondary account given in their textbook to determine if the accepted story actually happened. (Adapted from a lesson from the Stanford History Education Group at

17. Latin America: Where Am I?  - A multimedia adventure where students have crashed in an unknown empire in Latin America. They must use all they've learned from the unit to find out where they are. Students must analyze locations, buildings and artifacts and provide evidence for their conclusions. Functions similarly to a DBQ but in a way more engaging way.