History and Citizenship Education (Cycle One)

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The emergence of a civilization

A civilization is made up of a number of societies that share common elements, such as a territory, institutions and a culture. The appearance and spread of writing, circa 3300 B.C.E., is associated with the development of the first civilizations. The study of the emergence of Mesopotamian civilization provides an opportunity to relate the development of writing to the organization of a society.

The concepts prescribed by the program are not described using specific statements. It is by using all of the knowledge related to a social phenomenon that students develop their understanding of the following concepts: civilization, communication, trade, justice, power and religion.

Student constructs knowledge with teacher guidance.

Student applies knowledge by the end of the school year.


Student reinvests knowledge.

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  1. Role of writing in civilization today
    1. Indicates some of the consequences of illiteracy (e.g. poverty, exclusion, marginal status)
    1. Gives examples of uses of writing in everyday life (e.g. text messaging, chatting on-line )
    1. Names writing systems associated with different civilizations (e.g. Chinese characters, Arabic alphabet, Cyrillic alphabet)
  1. Influence of writing on Mesopotamian civilization
  • 2.1.   Location in space and time
    1. Locates on a map Mesopotamia, its rivers and other cradles of civilization
    1. Locates on a map Mesopotamian city-states (e.g. Ur, Lagash, Babylon)
    1. Locates on a time line Antiquity and some facts related to Mesopotamian civilization
  • 2.2.   Social structure
    1. Indicates how social groups in Mesopotamian civilization were ranked, based on their power (e.g. illiterate peasants formed the majority of the population; they were at the bottom of the social hierarchy, with the slaves)
    1. Describes different functions of social groups in Mesopotamian civilization (e.g. the nobles held political, military and religious power and owned land; the priests controlled religious life; the merchants and artisans provided the goods needed by society)
    1. Explains the privileged status of scribes in Mesopotamian civilization (e.g. scribes were close to the king because they could transcribe official texts; they were useful in documenting economic transactions)
  • 2.3.   Administrative, political and legal organization
    1. Indicates some advantages of living in a territory watered by rivers (e.g. rivers facilitate transportation; they irrigate and fertilize the soil and thus increase crop yields)
    1. Lists characteristics of a city-state (e.g. autonomy, independence with respect to neighbouring city-states)
    1. Lists the advantages of written laws for the administration of a city-state (e.g. uniform application of laws, distribution of legal texts)
    1. Lists sectors of activity in Mesopotamia regulated by the Code of Hammurabi (e.g. trade, architecture, irrigation, agriculture)
    1. Lists characteristics of cuneiform writing (e.g. wedge-shaped, ideographic, phonetic)
    1. Names some of the first writing materials (e.g. clay tablets, papyrus)
  • 2.4.   Culture and religion
    1. Indicates types of written documents produced in Mesopotamia (e.g. epic poems, mathematical texts, medical treatises)
    1. Names advantages of writing for the development of architecture (e.g. writing made it easier to plan and build massive monuments such as zigurats or royal palaces)
    1. Lists characteristics of Mesopotamian religion (e.g. religious beliefs were expressed in myths, worship took place in temples)
    1. Gives examples of how writing affected the spread of Mesopotamian culture (e.g. Mesopotamian myths spread throughout the Fertile Crescent; societies that spoke different languages used the same form of writing)
  1. Meaning and purpose of rules and conventions in society today
    1. Names advantages of alphabets over pictograms and ideograms (e.g. fewer signs, ease of learning, ability to express abstract ideas)
    1. Names public institutions that establish rules or laws (e.g. schools, municipalities, National Assembly)
    1. Gives examples of written rules and conventions that facilitate life in society (e.g. driving rules, units of weights and measures, linguistic code)
    1. Indicates the purpose of written rules and conventions (e.g. to ensure safety, facilitate trade)

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