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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 Aztec.

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.

Aztec Civilization Vocabulary

Amanteca: Aztec craftsmen who worked with feathers or plumeria creating clothing and headdresses for the nobility.

Aqueduct: A manmade channel used to transport water over a long distance.

Causeway: A road across a waterway such as the ones the Aztecs built across the lake leading to the capital of Tenochtitlan.

Codex: Like the Mayas, the Aztecs created books of paper that were folded like an accordion.

Cortes: Hernan Cortes is the Spanish conquistador who conquered the Aztec in 1521.

Chinampa: The Aztecs built these man-made islands used for growing crops around the city of Tenochtitlan because the land was so swampy.

Conquistadors: Spanish soldiers and conquerors who colonized most of Central and South American for Spain at the expense of the native inhabitants.

Huitzilopochtli: The primary god of the Aztecs, he is the god of sun and war and the patron god of Tenochtitlan.

Maize: A vegetable like corn that was a staple food for the Aztecs and other civilizations of Mesoamerica.

Mesoamerica: A region of southern North American that stretches from Mexico to Costa Rica.

Montezuma: Two of the most important emperors of the Aztecs were named Montezuma or Moctezuma. Montezuma the II was emperor when the Spanish arrived in 1519.

Quetzalcoatl: An Aztec god in the form of a feathered serpent, it is the god of the winds, rain, creator of the world and mankind.

Tenochtitlan: The capital city of the Aztec Empire.

Tlatoani / Huey Tlatoani: The king of a city-state, the word Tlatoani means "speaker" in the Aztec language Nahuatl. Huey Tlatoani meant the emperor of the Aztec empire and means "great speaker".

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 spider map that defines and illustrates vocabulary relating to the Aztecs.

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.

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

Lesson Plan Reference

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

Visual Vocabulary Assignment
Define, illustrate, and give an example sentence for any five vocabulary words.
Proficient Emerging Beginning
The definition is correct.
The definition is partially correct.
The definition is incorrect.
The storyboard cells clearly illustrate the meaning of the vocabulary words.
The storyboard cells relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words, but are difficult to understand.
The storyboard cells do not clearly relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words.

How To Compare Aztec Vocabulary To Mayan Vocabulary


Study the Historical Context of Both Civilizations

Ask the students to begin by studying some basic facts and gathering vital information on both civilizations. For instance, discussing the time period of existence of the Maya and Aztec as well as the geographical region of these civilizations. Students can note down all the important information on one page.


Find Interconnectivity

Help the students figure out how both of these civilizations are connected. For instance, they were close geographically and had some similar characteristics. Both civilizations declined due to the Spanish conquest of 1519. Students can analyze such information to find similarities or differences. A Venn Diagram can be used to list down these similarities and differences visually.


Discuss the Impact of Culture and Religion

Encourage the students to analyze the impact of different cultures and religions on the Mayan Civilization and the Aztec Civilization. Guide the analysis using open-ended questions such as if both civilizations had similar cultures, and close geographical regions would their vocabularies be similar as well?


Determine Cognates

Ask the students to look for cognates, which are terms with a shared history and definition across two languages. Although the phonetics of these may have evolved throughout time, their fundamental meaning has not.


Consult Experts or Historians (Optional)

Consult linguists, anthropologists, or historians who focus on Mesoamerican languages for guidance or resources. They could contain useful information, sources, or resources for your comparison. Students can also engage in meaningful discussions and get interesting explanations for their questions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Aztec Civilization Vocabulary

What language was primarily spoken by the Aztec people?

The main language of the Aztecs was Nahuatl, a Uto-Aztecan tongue. It was widely spoken by many indigenous populations in Mesoamerica and was the primary tongue of the Aztec Empire.

What are some significant terms related to religion which were used in the Aztec Civilization?

A few important theological concepts in the Aztec lexicon include "Tlaloc" (the rain god), "Huitzilopochtli" (the sun deity and god of battle), "Quetzalcoatl" (the feathered serpent god), and "Templo Mayor" (the main temple of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztecs). Students can research the significance of these terms in the religion followed by the Aztec people and determine the impact of religion on their vocabulary.

Did the Aztec language borrow vocabulary from other languages?

Yes, loanwords from other languages and cultures, especially those close by, were incorporated into the Aztec lexicon. For instance, they appropriated terminology from Mesoamerican peoples like the Maya and Zapotec. Students can create a list of words that were commonly used in different civilizations and determine the origin of the word.

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