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Cartouche Codes

Explore ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics! Invent a secret code and make an authentic-looking cartouche.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Hieroglyphics, an ancient Egyptian system of writing, began around 3000 BCE. At first, pictures (ideograms) represented words. With Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils, have students write a short message using only pictures. Ask students what they think of this way to communicate? Later, Egyptians used symbols to represent ideas and sounds. This was very difficult to learn, so only a few scribes could read and write. Students try making a code for each alphabet letter. Then write their name using the code.
    2. Sculpt a nameplate. Egyptians used their symbols on cartouches--oval frames that were royal nameplates. Here’s one way to make a cartouche. Students shape Crayola Model Magic into a flat oval. Poke a hole at the top of the cartouche with a straw. Air-dry the cartouche overnight.
    3. Paint the cartouche. Cover the art area with newspaper. Paint the cartouche with gold Crayola Premier Tempera paint. Air-dry.
    4. Students add their name. Egyptians wrote with soot and a sharpened reed. To try a similar method, have students cut the end of a straw into a V. Write the coded name on the cartouche in black paint. Air-dry.
    5. Become instant royalty! Cut yarn long enough to make a necklace. Tape the ends together to wear it.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade level topic or subject area.

    LA: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

    LA: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to the situation.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Compare ways in which people from different cultures think about and deal with their physical environment and social conditions.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

    VA: Identify specific works of art as belonging to particular cultures, times, and places.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt by George Hart; I Wonder Why Pyramids Were Built and Other Questions About Ancient Egypt by Philip Steele; Pyramid by David Macaulay; The 5,000-Year-Old Puzzle by Claudia Logan; His Majesty, Herself by Catherine M. Hatshepsut Andronik; Cleopatra by Diane Stanley; The Shipwrecked Sailor: An Egyptian Tale of Hieroglyphs by Tamara Bower;

    Website resources: Egypt and the Ancient Near East located at: ; Guardian's Ancient Egypt Kid Connection located at:

    Hieroglyphs include many symbols of the Ancient Egyptians and their lives. What modern symbols are you familiar with? Make a table of contemporary symbols and include the meaning of each. Post this table in the classroom for viewing. Students may also wish to create an electronic presentation of contemporary symbols.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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