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.


  • 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.


  • Introduce the following vocabulary:
    • indigenous
    • tribe
    • Mesoamerica
    • ancient
    • society
    • civilization
    • agriculture
    • trade
  • 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 were 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.


  • Categorize and display the completed comics by civilization.

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

  • Have students explain which group they believe had the biggest impact and why. Students must present evidence for their rationale.


  • Allow students to use the speech-to-text feature.
  • Allow students to use the voiceover feature to read their comics aloud.
  • Allow students to work in pairs or groups as needed.
  • Assign students a specific indigenous civilization. 

  • Provide sentence frames as needed.


  • Comic to print or display: Comic.

Suggested Story Starters: