Ancient India

By: Whitney Kennon
from Margolin Hebrew Academy

Differentiated Instruction

Subject(s) of entry:

Blended Learning

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
9, High school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
9, High school

This is a differentiated unit that focuses on India and the rich cultural traditions that developed out of the country.

Entry Narrative

Ancient India has a rich religious and cultural heritage, but few of my students are familiar with this country.  In order to give them a solid foundation in our multi-cultural world, it is important that students learn the basics of their culture including the three major world religions which developed there. Students will begin by studying geography and will focus on how isolation in India led to a rich culture that remained unchanged and unchallenged for hundreds if not thousands of years.  They will look at the way India developed its unique social caste structure and the artistic traditions that remain until today.

The results of this project were fantastic! Students worked independently and in groups on different aspects of the culture and all took away a much better understanding of the topic.   We had presentations on dancing, art, architecture, and sports. Each presentation was unique and showcased the student’s interests and talents.  One student taught us an ancient Indian dance used to express emotion and performed mainly by women. Another built a model of the Taj Mahal and explained the secrets of its beautiful architecture.  Another took us on a tour of a typical middle class Indian home through her model.  One took us on a virtual tour through an online museum of Indian art she created so we could learn about the various styles. She then produced her own piece of art to display.  These are just a few examples of the exciting presentations we saw. Each student enjoyed delving into Indian culture and came away with a much richer understanding of their traditions and heritage.  What a wonderful way to learn about a new place!

Project outline:




Unit Overview and Plan

Day 1:  Introduction to India

Start with Geography–every unit starts with drawing a map together in class and talking about how the geography might influence the society that develops

For India Include:

Himalaya Mountains

Hindu Kush Mountains

Ganges River

Brahmaputra River

Indus River

Deccan Plateau


Discuss: subcontinent, monsoons, cultural isolation


We take notes on Ancient India and the earliest settlements along the Indus River Valley.

Look specifically at Mohenjo Daro and Harappa

Watch Video on Mohenjo Daro from Pearson Realize

Discussion point:

  • Use of archaeology to study and write history
  • Homework:


Day 2: Everyday Life in Ancient India


Part 1: Start off with a quick exercise in reading primary sources


Read the following source: Crocodile Story


As you read use the close reading protocol–

  1. Read through once quietly on your own
  2. Read through again underlining important words and phrases
  3. Read aloud in class
  4. Discuss what this tells us about Aryan Life
    1. Can we find some of the 10 characteristics of civilization (we have been listing these out every unit since beginning of the year)
    2. What does this tell us about everyday life
    3. What does this tell us about religion
    4. Do we spy anything that may cause a problem in the society
    5. What is the moral of the story
    6. How are stories like this used/shared?


Part 2: Caste System

Draw a chart and discuss in class together

Vocab: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya, Sudra, jati, untouchables

Discuss:  how color and body part were used in literature


Part 3: Clothing and Culture

Look at the Handout on Ancient Indian Clothing


Regular: Write a journal about everyday life in Ancient India based on what we have learned. Choose a caste and talk about what you do each day.  Be sure to reference your clothing.  If you want to include a picture or drawing you can.

Honors: How does clothing represent form and function in a society? Please try to find a picture if you can to illustrate your writing. You may draw if you want.


Day 3: Origins of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism


Discussion and notes on the religions

  1. Hinduism
  2. Buddhism–watch video before we take notes on Pearson Realize
  3. Jainism


Regular: Concept Map for either Buddhism OR Hinduism


  1. Additional Primary Source on the Material: A Buddhist Philosopher King
  2. FRED Worksheet

Day 4: Mauryan and Gupta Empire


Read in textbook p. 75-78 with a partner. Also see handout on the two Empires.


Activity as you read: Fact Storming


After partners complete, as one group:

Chalkboard Splash Debriefing–on board draw three columns: Similarities, Differences, and Surprises

Students use post-it notes to add to each category (1 each column minimum)

Classroom discussion on post-its

Exit Activity: SOS Summary


HONORS: Read Ashokan Edicts on Pearson Realize and Complete questions


Day 5 and 6: Golden Age of India


Sculpture: Shiva Nataraja; Great Buddha; Belam Caves Buddha

Painting: Mughal Painting



Architecture: Great Stupa; Taj Mahal; Ashokan Pillar; Hindu Temple


PROJECT: Choose one of the above. Create a visual representation of your choice.  Please label your picture with information about your item.  All total you should have about 2 to 3 paragraphs of information.

HONORS: Please compare your choice to another society we have discussed in one to two additional paragraphs.


Also: Please email me Ancient Indian Recipe (that can be made kosher) of your choice


Day 6 Review of Ancient India


Share projects with the group!





Entrant Bio(s)

Dr. Whitney Kennon is the General Studies Principal at Margolin Hebrew Academy. She has a Ph. D. in Medieval and Renaissance History and specializes in political theory and women’s spirituality. She has been teaching almost twenty years and is passionate about the importance of history. In addition to teaching a variety of high school history courses, she also teaches graduate medieval courses online at The University of Memphis.