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Ancient Indian Civilizations in the Classroom

Ancient Indian civilizations

At KitaabWorld, a big focus for us is to work with teachers to explore creative ways to bring elements of South Asia into classrooms. As many schools are celebrating teacher's appreciation week this month, we wanted to take a moment and give a shout out to Sasha Johnson, a 6th and 7th grade teacher at Black Pine Circle School, who has used fun and creative books from KitaabWorld to bring alive the Indus Valley civilization for students in her classroom. 

Can you share a little bit about how you approached teaching your class about ancient civilizations?

My 6th grade history class just finished our unit on Ancient China. Our next unit was to explore the remaining three of the Four River Valley Civilizations (Egypt, Mesopotamia and Indus Valley). I decided to have the class split up into three groups. That way, students would study one particular civilization and learn about the geography, government, society, religion, writing and then branch out to meet up with the other two civilization group studies to compare and contrast what they were learning.

I was actively looking for engaging visuals that would make these civilizations more real for the children. For the Indus Valley civilization, I hung up posters of Sanjay Patel’s The Big Poster Book of Hindu Deities that I had bought from KitaabWorld. I was glad to see that many students were intrigued by the posters, walked up to them and read their descriptions, had conversations about what they were, which poster they liked best, and some students were even identifying the deities.

After their particular river valley civilization study group, we moved into our unit on independent research. Each student, after getting a taste for their civilization, could ask any question they wanted and practice the skills for how to research a historical question. 

We bet those vibrant illustrations got your students attention! What was their response?

In one of my three 6th grade history classes, Quincy was a huge fan of both the posters and The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel. Quincy was one of the students who immediately noticed the posters when they were hung up and was excited to be in the Indus Valley civilization group study. As we learned about the geography, government, social, religion and writing, Quincy would make connections with what she was reading in the textbook with Patel’s resources.

I remember her reading about the history of Hinduism in the textbook with her group and when they came across the deities she said, “Oh I know about them!” and ran up to the board and grabbed the book, brought it back to the group, flipped open to the page with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and began sharing with her classmates all that she had already read. It was great to see her connect the two resources, feel confident in knowing the material and so eager to share what she learned with others.

The following week Quincy asked me before class one day, “Where can I buy this book? I told my mom I wanted a copy to have for myself.” I told Quincy about Kitaabworld and gave her the website to place the order, which she did!

Here’s what she had to say about the book:

Quincy, what did you like about Sanjay Patel’s The Little Book of Hindu Deities?

The pictures of the book were child-friendly and adorable. I’m not really a reader type, so I liked how this book had pictures. I liked looking at pictures and then reading about each of them. What I liked about this book too is they didn’t just write down why she looked the way she did in the picture or how she was born like most god creation stories I read, but I got more information about each deity, where they come from, who they are, who they become, why they are the way they are and what their items mean.

My favorite one is Saraswati. She likes to stand on a swan and the artist of the book was very detailed in all the things she was holding. I only knew one female deity before, and I kind of wanted to research more. I was learning about the Indus Valley and was interested in the female deities.

I thought the posters were beautiful and I was wondering what they were holding and what they symbolize. I was drawn to the posters, especially Ganesh because I love elephants.

Thank you, Sasha for using these books in such a creative way!

Teachers and educators - Here are a few more resources to add to your educational tool kit while teaching about ancient Indian empires:

Books on Ancient Indian Empires

Girls of Ancient India: A Chola Adventure: The Chola dynasty was one of the longest ruling dynasties of Southern India. This story set in the Chola period is of spirited Raji, a dancer, warrior and sculptor, who encounters a Chinese mariner and the adventure that ensues. 

Girls of Ancient India: A Mauryan Adventure: The Mauryan Empire of Northern India was one of the largest and most populous empires of the world. Young Madhura dreams of exploring the world beyond the palace gates and she gets the chance to encounter mysterious happenings during her travels. 

Girls of Ancient India: A Harappan Adventure: One of the earliest cradle of civilizations, the Harappan or Indus Valley civilization was a renowned center of trade and urban development. Avani is excited for the wedding in her village when she over hears a strangers sinister plan. Will Avani and her friends be able to connect the mystery of a robbery and fire to a larger more diabolical plan?

Hands-On History! Ancient India: Discover the Rich Heritage of the Indus Valley and the Mughal Empire: Take a trip to the past to learn about the empires that ruled India. Study the lives of kings as well as ordinary people, architecture of magnificent palaces and temples as well as the cuisine and lives of people in ancient times. With fun hands on activities, this is a must have for the classroom!

Indian History: Fun and Facts: Learn all about the history of India with Maya - a fun and engaging protagonist with whom you can peep back all the way to ancient kingdoms, rulers, India's fight for freedom and a modern day India too! 

Let's go time traveling: Life in India Through the Ages: Step back in to time with quirky facts, fun and funny information about ancient kingdoms. Full of  trivia and whacky illustrations, this book is a wonderful resource to learn and spark your imagination with snapshots of Indian history.  

Tales of Historic Delhi: A Walk through its many cities: Take a walk on the wild side with Tunnu the tiger, Lucky the rabbit and their menagerie of friends as they explore historic neighborhoods in Delhi. Also see the activity book Tales of Historic Delhi: Activity Book.

The Incredible History of India's Geography: Stock up on whacky facts about India's geography from north to south, east to west and everything in between! With loads of entertaining facts on India's rivers, maps, wild life and more, this book is as informative as it is fun!

Read Now, Read Forever stories for Children's Book Week

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