Indigenous Groups of America and Their Importance

Subject: Social Studies

Lesson Length: 60 - 65 mins

Topic: Indigenous Civilizations of the Americas

Grade Level: 6

Standards / Framework:

Brief Description: Students will explore the impact of one of the four major indigenous civilizations from the Americas: Olmecs, Incas, Aztecs, or Mayas.

Know Before You Start:

  • Students should have an understanding that many civilizations were present in the Americas prior to European colonization.

  • Students should be able to define words such as: indigenous, tribe, Mesoamerica, ancient, society, civilization, agriculture, and trade.


  • Present the four major ancient tribes that populated the Americas (Olmecs, Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs). Ask students what they know about any of these civilizations. 

  • Read and discuss the sample comic about the Olmec. Center the discussion around present-day ideas or technology that stem from ideas and inventions from any of these civilization e.g., concept of zero. Discuss their impact with the class.


  • Research the contributions of one of these ancient civilizations.

  • Using the sample comic as a guide, have students create a three-panel comic illustrating the contributions of one of one of these civilizations e.g., Math, technology, literature etc. 

    • Panel 1: Introduce your selected civilization. Who are they? Where were they located? 

    • Panel 2: What lasting idea or technology did they invent that made an impact on future civilizations? Describe it.

    • Panel 3: Show how we still use this idea or technology today.


  • Digitally post, or print out the student comics. 

  • Categorize them by group - Olmecs, Aztecs, Incas, Mayas - and have students view in a gallery walk. 

  • As a class, compare/contrast the four groups. 

  • As an exit ticket or reflective class discussion, ask students which group they believe to have the biggest impact and why. Students must present evidence for their rationale.


  • Assign students a specific indigenous civilization. 

  • Allow students to use speech-to-text as needed.

  • Allow students to work with a peer model. 

  • Provide sentence frames for the student comic.


  • Comic to print or display: Comic.

Suggested Story Starters: