Aztec Culture

Students conduct research and present a brief report about the Aztec culture in Mexico.

PrintDuration: Three Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • read about one aspect of the Aztec culture and report it to the rest of the class.
  • listen and respond to the facts presented by the other groups.
  • identify the cultural, economic and social advancements of the Aztec culture.
  • locate the ancient Aztec Empire on a map.
  • identify the years of the Aztec empire.
  • Reference books about Aztec civilization (see Bibliographical References)
  • Internet access for reading about Aztec civilization
Home Connection: 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:None for this lesson.


Baquedano, Elizabeth. Aztec, Inca & Maya. DK Publishing, 2000. ISBN: 0789461153

History of Tenochtitlan:

Macdonald, Fiona. You Wouldn’t Want to be an Aztec Sacrifice! Danbury, CT: Franklin Watts, 2003. ISBN: 0531146022

Mexico-Tenochtitlan: Ancient City

Minnesota State University, e-Museum: Tenochtitlan:

tenochtitlan.html [no longer available]

Stein, R. Conrad. The Aztec Empire. New York: Benchmark Books, 1996. ISBN: 0761400729

Tanaka, Shelley. Lost Temple of the Aztecs. Hyperion Books for Children, 2000. ISBN: 0786815426

The Aztec Calendar: Image to Explore: [no longer available]

YouTube. "Great Tenochtitlan" images 

  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Show the students an illustration of Tenochtitlan (te noch te tlan), the capital of the Aztec civilization. (See Bibliographical References.) Ask the students to look at the picture/map and make educated guesses about what they can tell about the area and the people who built and lived in this city. Through their comments (and some hints, if necessary), help them identify this as the capital city Tenochtitlan of the former Aztec Empire. This city is buried under the present-day Mexico City. Tell the students that the Aztecs were a highly successful and advanced civilization. Talk about what it means to be a civilization (writing system, arts, government, roads, system of education, etc.). Even the Spanish who came to conquer the Aztecs were amazed at the beauty and organization of the city of Tenochtitlan.

  2. In order to learn about this civilization in a relatively short amount of time, the students will work in small groups or pairs to research and present a brief report about one aspect of the Aztec life and culture. Each group will share the information learned with the rest of the class. When they listen to each report, they will have a better understanding of the Aztecs. The students may use books and the Internet to gather information. The report may be in the form of an oral presentation or poster (or dramatization or other creative format). Encourage students to include pictures whenever possible. Assign the following topics:

    1. Population (numbers and how it grew)

    2. Location (include environment and present-day)

    3. Organization (government, land recovery, city, society)

    4. Calendar

    5. Arts, artifacts, ruins

    6. War and honor of soldiers

    7. Spanish conquest

    8. Years of Empire/duration/timeline

    9. Legend of eagle, snake, cactus (and where else it appears today)

    10. Evidence of civilization (education, arts, government, etc.)

    11. Moctezuma

    Note: Avoid religion and sacrifice since it will be discussed in depth in the next lesson.

    Allow one class period for research and report preparation.

  3. On the third day, students present their brief reports to the class and discuss the connections between the different areas. Discuss comparisons to other cultures. Discuss how the Aztec culture has influenced present-day cultures (in North America). What might be different if Cortes had not wiped out the culture? What are some alternative courses of action Cortes might have taken?


Assess students’ understanding of the culture of the Aztecs by observing their reports and contributions to the discussion. Reports should be accurate and stay on assigned topic.