ALEX Lesson Plan


A Prehistoric Connection

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:James Holtzclaw
System: Informal Education Partner
School: Informal Education Partner
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 29841


A Prehistoric Connection


This lesson plan is an adaptation of Activity 92 from Project Learning Tree.

Students will research the four prehistoric time periods and compare and contrast them with their lives. By doing this, they will recognize the difference between simple subsistence living and modern technology-based living.

This lesson plan is made possible through the ALEX and the U.S. National Park Service Partnership.


 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
TC2 (3-5)
7. Explain the influence of technology on society.
Examples: multiple digital communities, medical and agricultural advancements
SS2010 (3) Geographic and Historical Studies: People, Places, and Regions
13. Describe prehistoric and historic American Indian cultures, governments, and economics in Alabama. (Alabama)
Examples: prehistoric—Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian
historic—Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek (Alabama)
  • Identifying roles of archaeologists and paleontologists
  • SS2010 (5) United States Studies: Beginnings to the Industrial Revolution
    2. Identify causes and effects of early migration and settlement of North America.
    SS2010 (6) United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
    11. Identify technological advancements on society in the United States since World War II.
    Examples: 1950s—fashion doll, audio cassette
    1960s—action figure, artificial heart, Internet, calculator
    1970s—word processor, video game, cellular telephone
    1980s—personal computer, Doppler radar, digital cellular telephone
    1990s—World Wide Web, digital video diskette (DVD)
    2000s—digital music player, social networking technology, personal Global Positioning System (GPS) device
    SS2010 (8) World History to 1500
    1. Explain how artifacts and other archaeological findings provide evidence of the nature and movement of prehistoric groups of people.
    Examples: cave paintings, Ice Man, Lucy, fossils, pottery
  • Identifying the founding of Rome as the basis of the calendar established by Julius Caesar and used in early Western civilization for over a thousand years
  • Identifying the birth of Christ as the basis of the Gregorian calendar used in the United States since its beginning and in most countries of the world today, signified by B.C. and A.D.
  • Using vocabulary terms other than B.C. and A.D. to describe time
  • Examples: B.C.E., C.E.
  • Identifying terms used to describe characteristics of early societies and family structures
  • Examples: monogamous, polygamous, nomadic
    SS2010 (8) World History to 1500
    2. Analyze characteristics of early civilizations in respect to technology, division of labor, government, calendar, and writings.
  • Comparing significant features of civilizations that developed in the Tigris-Euphrates, Nile, Indus, and Huang He River Valleys
  • Examples: natural environment, urban development, social hierarchy, written language, ethical and religious belief systems, government and military institutions, economic systems
  • Identifying on a map locations of cultural hearths of early civilizations
  • Examples: Mesopotamia, Nile River Valley

    Local/National Standards:

    NCSS: I. Culture, II.  Time, Continuity, and Change, III. People, Places, and Environments, IV. Individual Development and Identy, VII. Production, Distribution, and Consumption, and VIII. Science, Technology, and Society,

    Primary Learning Objective(s):

    Students will:

    • Compare and contrasts the different  prehistoric cultures that are represented at Russell Cave: Paleo Period, Archaic Period, Woodland Period, and the Mississippian Period. 
    • Compare and Contrast their lifestyles with the Prehistoric Americans lifestyles. 
    • Recognize that our everyday items and resources help us survive, sustain our current lifestyles, and supply us with luxuries.

    Additional Learning Objective(s):

     Preparation Information 

    Total Duration:

    Greater than 120 Minutes

    Materials and Resources:

    Paper, pencils, and candy for prizes

    Technology Resources Needed:

    Computers with Internet access, word processing, printers, projector, and a screen


    Teacher should contact the appropriate National Park and arrange for a NPS Ranger to visit.

    Students should have experience using word processing software and experience searching the Internet for data.


    1) Before a ranger's visit, have students to fill out the Prehistoric American K-W-L Chart. The students will  fill out the chart by putting what they know about the Prehistoric Americans under K, what they want to learn about the Prehistoric Americans under W, and what they learned about the Prehistoric Americans under L. Have students fill out the L section after writing a one page paper.  See K-W-L Attachment.

    2) A ranger will visit the classroom to give a presentation on the four prehistoric time periods that are represented at Russell Cave National Monument: Paleo Period, Archaic Period, Woodland Period, and Mississippian Period.(Contact Russell Cave National Monument Ranger)

     3)  After the Ranger's Program,  the teacher will involve the class in a discussion about what present day humans need to survive (ex: food, water, shelter, heat, fossil fuels, communication, and transportation). The teacher will write the students answers on the board.

    4) Have each student to copy the class' answers on a piece of paper and write one of the following letters next to each answer:
    S: Need the item for survival.
    M: Need the item to maintain how we presently live. L: Need the item  for luxury purposes.

    5) Pick at least ten answers from the board and during the class discussion, have students to classify them as being:1) S 2) M 3) L and have them to explain their reasoning for their classification.

    6) Lead a discussion with the class about the origins of these items and what natural resources were used in their creation. Introduce to the class the terms renewable and nonrenewable resources and give examples of each terms.

    7) Assign each student a time period that is represented at Russell Cave National Monument.  Allow each student time to conduct research at the school's library and on the classroom's computers. 

    Have them to answer these questions:

    • How did these prehistoric people obtain their food?
    • What did they hunt?
    • What did they wear?
    • Were these people farmers?
    • Where did they live?
    • How did they cook their food?
    • What did they make?
    • How did they travel?

    Prehistoric Researchable Websites

    Russell Cave National Monument

    Hopewell Culture National Historic Site

    Ocmulgee National Monument

    Shiloh Indian Mounds National Historic Site

    Meadowcroft Rockshelter

    8) After the research, have students to answer the same questions.

    9) Have the students to write a one-page expository paper on the difference between their lifestyles and their assigned prehistoric period.

    10) Before the students turn in their papers, lead a discussion on the differences between the prehistoric time periods and the students' lifestyles.


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    Assessment Strategies

    Using the one-page paper, students will fill  out the L part of the K-W-L chart. Use the L part as an assessment tool to evaluate deeper understanding of the lesson.


    Have students to write a creative narrative about living in the Paleo Period at Russell Cave.  Have them to focus on the plants they saw and the animals they hunted. Have them focus on the roles of their parents. For example, the dad hunted and created tools and the mother cooked the food.

    An Example Archaic Story

    An Example of the Paleo Life Page 34


    Assign students for peer-tutoring to reinforce skills and knowledge obtained from this lesson.

    Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

    Presentation of Material Environment
    Time Demands Materials
    Attention Using Groups and Peers
    Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
    Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.