Activity Overview

Starting a unit or lesson with the key vocabulary that students will see in their readings or presentations aids in overall comprehension and retention. In this activity, students will create a storyboard that defines and illustrates key vocabulary related to the study of ancient India.

Students will preview the terms and definitions and use whole class or small group discussion to demonstrate their understanding of each meaning. When students define and illustrate each term, they master the application of it and retain it as part of their lexicon.

Vocabulary for Ancient India

ascetic: A person who gives up worldly pleasures.

Brahmanism: An ancient Indian religion in which the Brahmins (priests and religious scholars) are the dominant class.

Caste system: A social order that has determined one's place in ancient Indian society.

Dharma: A key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and others. It means one's spiritual duties or "right way of living" and "path of rightness". It is symbolized by the "Dharma Wheel."

edict: A command that is obeyed like a law. King Ashoka had his edicts carved into walls, rocks and pillars to promote Buddhist values, general welfare, justice and security.

glacier: A huge mass of ice that slowly slides over a land area.

Harappa: India's first civilization located along the Indus River.

Karma: The effect a person's actions have on their soul and their next life.

metallurgy: The art and science of working with metals (metalwork) such as gold, copper and iron which was founded in Ancient India.

Meditation: Focusing one's mind on spiritual ideas.

Mohenjo-Daro: One of the first major settlements in ancient India that became a center of the Indus valley civilization.

Moksha: Achieved when one is released from the cycle of rebirth.

monastery: A home for monks.

monsoon: A strong wind that brings heavy rain to southern Asia in the summer.

mural: A wall painting.

nirvana: An ideal state of happiness and peace.

pilgrimage: A journey to a holy place.

plateau: A flat area of land that is elevated, or raised, above the land around it.

reincarnation: The belief that a person's soul is reborn into a new body after death.

Sanskrit: An ancient language of India.

scroll: A roll of material for writing like paper or papyrus.

sewer system: A network of pipes that disposes of sewage or wastewater. Was developed in Mohenjo-Daro around 2000 BCE.

Subcontinent: A large landmass smaller than a continent especially; a major subdivision of a continent.

Vedas: A collection of Hindu sacred writings.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Due Date:

Objective: Create a storyboard that defines and illustrates key vocabulary relating to ancient India.

Student Instructions:

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. In the title boxes, identify the key terms you have chosen.
  3. In the description boxes, write the definition of the term.
  4. Create an illustration for each term using appropriate scenes, characters, and items. To find images that relate to ancient India, type “India” into the search bar.

Requirements: Must have 3 terms, correct definitions, and appropriate illustrations for each that demonstrate your understanding of the words.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/3] Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/4] Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/6] Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Define and illustrate each of the key terms.
7 Points
4 Points
1 Points
The vocabulary words are correctly defined.
The meaning of the vocabulary words can be understood but it is somewhat unclear.
The vocabulary word is not clearly defined
The storyboard illustrations clearly depict the meaning of the vocabulary words.
The illustrations relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words but it they are difficult to understand.
The illustrations do not clearly relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words.
Evidence of Effort
Work is well written and carefully thought out.
Work shows some evidence of effort.
Work shows little evidence of any effort.

How To Help Students Analyze the Influence of Ancient Indian Vocabulary on Other Languages


Discuss Different Languages

Discuss the concept of languages in general and how they have impacted human lives significantly. Gradually, teachers can talk about different languages spoken in ancient Indian civilizations and how each language differed from the other. For instance, Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit were some common ancient Indian languages of the time period.


List Common Words

Teachers can prepare a list of loanwords or the words that other languages use from the ancient Indian languages. This list will help the students analyze what words in what context are found familiar and what other languages use these words. Students can also play an interactive game where they can guess why a word is similar in different languages.


Connect With Geography

Discuss how geography plays an important role in the exchange of cultures and languages. Ask the students to analyze how countries located near to each other have similar cultures, traditions, foods, and even similar languages. For instance, modern-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have really similar languages and cultural values.


Link With Culture

Introduce ideas from history and culture that have shaped language. For instance, terms like "Mahatma," "Guru," and "Bodhisattva" have cultural importance that transcends language barriers. Teachers can also explain how the relationship between languages and cultures can be considered cyclic. For instance, cultures and influences languages and languages can influence cultures.


Foster Critical Thinking

Encourage debates regarding the historical, theological, and cultural contexts that these borrowed terms are surrounded by. Encourage the students to consider the ways in which language represents cultural interaction. Students can also uncover other aspects of this influence.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ancient India Vocabulary

How will learning the vocabulary beforehand help the students comprehend the text in a much better way?

Once students are aware of the meanings and use of all the complex terms present in a text, their comprehension will improve and they will not get confused in the middle of the lessons. This will help the students and teachers get on the same page before the lectures and reading, and it will also make the process easier and smoother as compared to being unaware of the vocabulary terms.

Are there words from contemporary languages that the students will be able to find while reading about the ancient Indian civilization?

Many modern languages, particularly those in areas where Indian culture and philosophy have had a considerable effect, have adopted ancient Indian terminology, notably from Sanskrit. Students can also analyze how they might have heard words from ancient Indian languages like yoga, avatar, and many more in their daily lives.

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