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 Maya.

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.

Maya Civilization Vocabulary

Ahau or Ahaw: Ruler or king of a Maya city-state.

Cacao: Seeds that come from a small tropical American evergreen tree and can be used to make cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate. The Maya considered it to be "food of the gods" and it was an integral part of their religious and every day lives.

Chichen Itza: The most powerful city-state during the start of the post-classic period (900-1500). Many important and awe inspiring sites remain such as the Temple of Kukulcan, a massive step pyramid. Chichen Itza is a popular tourist attraction today.

Codex: A type of book written by the Maya that was created by one long sheet of paper that was folded like an accordion. Tragically, most were destroyed by the Spanish.

Hero Twins: A major story in Maya mythology, the Hero Twins were believed to be the Sun and the Moon and their descendants the ruler of Earth.

Kukulcan: A feathered serpent that is one of the primary gods of the Maya. Known as Quetzalcoatl to the Aztec.

Obsidian: A hard volcanic rock used to make tools and sculptures.

Popol Vuh: A Maya codex that described their religion and mythology.

Quetzal: A type of jungle bird with feathers that the Maya used in their feathered clothing and headdresses.

Stele: A tall monumental sculpture made from stone with relief carvings.

Yucatan Peninsula: An area in southeastern Mexico where some of the Maya civilization developed.

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 defining and illustrating key vocabulary related to the Maya civilization.

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

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.

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