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Skara Brae

The Shang Dynasty

Lesson Plans

The Shang Dynasty Resource Pack contains a complete unit of work with detailed lesson plans, teacher guides and pupil resources.

Shang Dynasty Planning


Lessons include:

1. Introduction: What was the Shang Dynasty?

This lesson introduces the Shang Dynasty and encourages pupils to generate research questions about their new topic. Pupils will make a fact-file after researching key facts to set the Shang Dynasty into its wider context of world history. 


2. Settling Down: What was it like in settlements around the Yellow River Plain?

This lesson invites pupils to consider the problems faced by people in early Shang settlements. Pupils will discover how Shang people overcame issues with flooding and irrigation and they will find out how Shang cities were organised, with an opportunity to design their own Shang city.


3. Let it Grow! Let it grow!: How did Shang farmers provide food for their society?

This lesson addresses the question of how farmers were able to irrigate their crops to provide enough food. Pupils will be introduced to the legend of Yu the Great and will consider his influence on the Shang Dynasty. They will learn what kind of food people ate in Shang times and try out a Shang recipe for Ginger Millet Porridge. 


4. Time to Worship: What were the religious beliefs of the Shang Dynasty?

In this lesson pupils will find out about the different gods that Shang people worshipped. Pupils will investigate how Shang people responded to different situations by feasting, worshipping or making sacrifices. Pupils will have a chance to create storyboards to visualise different worship scenarios. .


5. Written on the Bones: What was the Shang system of writing like?

This hands-on lesson looks at the different ways in which Shang people used symbols and ideograms as writing. After researching different uses of writing, pupils will be set the challenge of making their own oracle bones from clay and they will use a key to write their own questions using Shang ideograms. 


6. How to Rule a Dynasty: What did the rulers of the Shang Dynasty do?

In this lesson pupils will be introduced to the story of the first king of the Shang Dynasty, King Tang of Shang. They will work in groups to prepare dramas based on his story. Pupils will then consider the arguments for and against Shang kings taking prisoners of war and they will write and deliver a persuasive argument to support or oppose this practice.


7. Piecing it Together: What do archaeological findings tell us about the Shang Dynasty?

Pupils will become familiar with the different types of artefacts that help us to know about life in the Shang Dynasty. They will be introduced to the concept of making deductions from evidence and they will fill in a table to show what information different artefacts give us about the Shang period.

8. Who was Fu Hao?: Why is Lady Fu Hao's tomb significant to historians?

Pupils will investigate who Lady Fu Hao might have been by looking at some of the artefacts found in her tomb. They will learn about how people in Shang times were often buried with a tomb full of treasures to take with them to the afterlife. Pupils will engage imaginatively with a scenario about a slave being taken to the grave with his master and they will write a persuasive letter to escape such an unfortunate destiny. 

9. Coming to an End: Why did the Shang Dynasty fall in 1046 BC?

Pupils will discover the story of the last Shang king, King Zhou, and they will find out why his behaviour lead to the fall of the Shang Dynasty. Pupils place themselves in the shoes of the Shang fighters at the Battle of Muye and they will take part in a debate about whether or not they should defect to the opposing army. Pupils will then have the opportunity to learn about the Dynastic Cycle and the concept of the Mandate of Heaven. 


10. Summing Up: What have we learned about this period of history?

This lesson is designed for pupils to reflect on what they have learned about this period of history. There is an assessment activity and a chance to consider further research opportunities.

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