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Wheel of Pharaoh


Two or three class periods



Ancient History

Wendy Buchberg, former elementary school teacher and current instructional technology support specialist, Schuyler-Chemung-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Elmira, New York.


Students will:

1. review important facts and concepts about ancient Egyptian civilization

2. identify important vocabulary and names pertaining to ancient Egypt


For this lesson, you will need:

Online, electronic, video, and print reference materials about ancient Egypt
For the word and phrase lists: paper and pencils
For the puzzle boards: chart paper, easel and markers, Post-it notes
For the wheel: poster board and cardboard at least 10" × 10" (can be as large as 15" × 15"), a black marker, and a brass paper fastener
For winnings: play money in increments of $100

1. After learning about ancient Egyptian civilization and its rulers, students will enjoy playing Wheel of Pharaoh, adapted from the popular television game show "Wheel of Fortune." The object of this game is to solve a word puzzle by correctly guessing all the letters that spell a word or phrase relating to ancient Egypt.


Have pairs or small groups of students work cooperatively to list five important words or phrases having to do with ancient Egyptian rulers, people, places, monuments, everyday objects, events, or any other aspect of ancient Egyptian civilization. Remind students to use dictionaries and other information sources to check spelling.

2. Distribute chart paper and markers to each group, one sheet for each word or phrase on the group's list. Each group then creates a puzzle board for each of their words or phrases, each one on a separate piece of chart paper. The word or phrase is “spelled” out in a series of dashes, one dash for each letter, with a space separating each word in a phrase. For example, the phrase “Queen Cleopatra” would appear like this:


_ _ _ _ _          _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


Students should print each correctly spelled word or phrase on a Post-it note and affix it to the back of the corresponding puzzle board for the host's use during the game.

3. Create a simple wheel spinner from a piece of poster board. Cut a circle (10 to 15 inches in diameter) from the poster board. Draw four quadrants in the circle, and divide each quadrant into four equal sections labeled $100, $200, $300, and Bankrupt. (If your students can add larger numbers, some of the sections may have larger denominations.) For the wheel backing, cut a piece of cardboard that is slightly larger than the circle. Use a paper fastener to mount the circle on a cardboard backing. At the top of the cardboard, draw a red arrow pointing to the wheel.

4. To play the game, the teacher serves as host, selects three students to be the first round of contestants, presents the first puzzle board, and removes and refers to the Post-it note for reference. Contestant 1 spins the wheel and guesses a consonant. The host fills in that letter in the puzzle as many times as it appears in the word or phrase. Depending on what dollar amount the contestant has spun on the wheel, the host (with the help of the “audience”) calculates the score for that spin and keeps score on a blank area of the puzzle board. That contestant continues spinning and guessing a letter until he or she guesses incorrectly or spins “Bankrupt” on the wheel. (If the student spins “Bankrupt,” he or she loses all points won up to that point.) The host keeps track of incorrectly guessed letters on a blank area of the puzzle board. The game continues, proceeding to contestants 2, 3, back to 1, and so on.

5. At any time during his or her turn, a contestant may guess a vowel instead of a consonant, but no money is won for a correct vowel guess.

6. At any time after a correct guess, a contestant may try solving the puzzle. If correct, the student then defines the word. If the student's definition is correct, he or she is the winner and gets to keep the “money” earned. If the student guesses the wrong word, play continues to the next contestant. If the word is correct, but the definition is incorrect, the next contestant tries to define the word. At the end of the game, the two nonwinning contestants each earn $100 for their efforts.

7. When a puzzle has been solved, the host picks three new contestants to play the next game.

8. After all students have had a chance to play Wheel of Pharaoh, the student who won the most amount of money is the overall winner.

Adaptation for younger students:

You may wish to supply the word and phrase lists for younger students, rather than having them develop them on their own. In addition, you may want to provide play money in smaller denominations ($1, $5, $10).

1. Discuss the important leadership qualities you have noticed in the Egyptian rulers you have studied. Give specific examples of rulers and their qualities.
2. Decide whether ancient Egypt's willingness to have female rulers reflects an overall attitude supporting women's equality in that civilization. Back up your opinion with evidence from your research and reading.
3. The famous Tutankhamen (“King Tut”) ruled from the time he was a boy. Compare the priorities a child ruler might have with those of an adult ruler.
4. Cleopatra, the last of the pharaohs, aligned herself with powerful men as part of her strategy to keep control of her land. How would that strategy be judged by today's standards?
5. Hatshepsut, the Egyptian woman who ruled in the guise of a man, built many temples, sculptures, and obelisks as monuments to herself. Other Egyptian pharaohs did the same. Analyze this tradition of rulers celebrating their own greatness. Why do you think they felt it necessary? How would such a practice be viewed today? What kinds of things do leaders in today's society leave behind as their legacy?
6. Why did ancient civilizations such as ancient Egypt eventually disappear? Do you see any signs that our modern civilization might not be around forever? Pinpoint any current problem signs you can identify, and offer solutions for these problems. As you think about this, determine if any of the same problems occurred in ancient Egypt before its demise.

A simple rubric can evaluate your students' cooperative work in helping to develop the Wheel of Pharaohgame. For each group, the following criteria can be evaluated on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 = below expectations; 2 = approaches expectations; 3 = meets expectations; 4 = exceeds expectations):

- Started task on time

- Everyone participated

- Made good use of time

- Completed task

- End product contained correct elements (list of relevant words and phrases, correctly spelled)

Extra! Extra! Read All about It!

Have your students develop news and feature stories, editorials, and illustrations for the imaginary Egyptian Timesnewspaper's coverage of Hatshepsut's decision to rule Egypt as a man. Display student work in a newspaper-style layout on a bulletin board.

If Kids Ruled the World

Ask students to discuss why people accepted child rulers in ancient times. Have students work in small groups to list the top 10 things a child ruler today would have to learn in order to remain in power. Let students compare lists and determine who would be appropriate teachers for a child ruler.

Hatshepsut and Ancient Egypt

Miriam Greenblatt. Marshall Cavendish Inc., 2000

This book explores the tumultuous reign of Hatshepsut, the first female ruler of Egypt. The author not only provides details into the life of the ruler, but also into the everyday life of ancient Egyptians. Includes a glossary, reading list and Internet links for additional research.
Tutankhamun: The Life and Death of a Pharaoh

David Murdoch, DK Publishing, Inc., 1998

Original photography, lavish, detailed art work and first-hand accounts bring history to life in this provocative book. Readers take part in the wonder of the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon.

Diane Stanley, Peter Vennema, Morrow, William & Co., 1997.

Majestic illustrations and lively text capture the beauty and brilliance of this Egyptian Queen. This well-crafted biography follows Cleopatra's reign from the age of 18 until her death at 39.

Gander Academy's Ancient and Modern Egypt on the Web

Developed by a teacher, this site offers age-appropriate pages on the pharaohs, tombs, mummies, pyramids, sculptures, hieroglyphics, gods, clothing, daily life, and practically everything else relating to ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egypt Discovery Case: Royal Ontario Museum

Reflecting the Royal Ontario Museum's fascinating Egyptian exhibit, this site offers activities such as “Make Your Own Mummy” and “Write Like an Egyptian,” as well as an ancient Egypt quiz, a vocabulary section, and a virtual reality tour of the museum's ancient Egypt gallery.

Ancient Egypt WebQuest

Through a series of “missions,” students are challenged to locate Tutankhamen's burial mask, using a variety of online sources. The site is beautifully laid out, making it easy for students to try each mission.



Scientists who study material remains (as fossil relics, artifacts, and monuments) of past human life and activities.


Archaeologists have dug up coins and wall inscriptions that help us understand the physical features and characteristics of ancient rulers.


An object remaining from a particular period.


Artifacts left behind by ancient civilizations give us hints about how people lived in those times.


The way of life of a people; a relatively high level of cultural, social, and technological development.


After Cleopatra died, the ancient Egyptian civilization eventually faded away and the Roman Empire became dominant.


One who inherits or is entitled to inherit property.


After Hatshepsut's father and brother died, she was the only pure royal heir to the throne.


An upright, four-sided pillar, usually monolithic, that gradually tapers as it rises and is topped by a pyramid.


The obelisks that Cleopatra built at the Caesareum inspired similarly shaped monuments like the Washington Monument.


A ruler of ancient Egypt.


A pharaoh was considered to be an all-powerful ruler with divine connections.


Royal authority.


Hatshepsut's reign as king was successful, proving that a woman could rule as well as a man.


One of two or more striving to get what only one can have; competitor.


Cleopatra joined Mark Antony when he sailed into the Battle of Actium against his rival, Octavian.

Grade Level:


Subject Area:


Understands selected attributes and historical developments of societies in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe.

Knows significant historical achievements of various cultures of the world (e.g., the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Taj Mahal in India, the pyramids in Egypt, the temples in ancient Greece, the bridges and aqueducts in ancient Rome).

Grade Level:


Subject Area:

Historical understanding


Understands the historical perspective.


Understands that specific individuals had a great impact on history.

Grade Level:


Subject Area:

World history


Understands how major religious and large-scale empires arose in the Mediterranean Basin, China, and India from 500 BC to AD 300.


Understands shifts in the political and social framework of Roman society (e.g., political and social institutions of the Roman Republic and reasons for its transformation from Republic to Empire; how values changed from the early Republic to the last years of the Empire as reflected through the lives of such Romans as Cincinnatus, Scipio Africanus, Tiberius Gracchus, Cicero, Julius Caesar, Augustus, Nero, Marcus Aurelius, and Constantine).


Copyright 2001 Discovery.com.

Teachers may reproduce copies of these materials for classroom use only.

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