Incas Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this lesson plan to help you teach your students about the Incas. Two engaging video-based lessons lead students towards understanding of the history of their empire and civilization. Students then apply knowledge with an activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • list characteristics of the Incan Empire
  • describe events leading to the rise and fall of the Incan Empire
  • describe the Incan army
  • identify Peruvian civilizations before and after the Incas ruled


  • 2 hours


  • Images of Incan Empire artifacts
  • Art materials students can use to re-create Incan artifacts, such as clay or paper/pencils, paint, etc.

Key Vocabulary

  • Step agriculture
  • Francisco Pizarro
  • Incan Empire
  • Cusco
  • Manco Cápac
  • City-state
  • Kingdom of Cusco
  • Manco Cápac
  • Sapa Inca
  • Pachacuti

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3

Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.5

Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).


  • Show students images of artifacts from the Incan Empire and ask them to respond in writing to the prompt: 'What I notice about these artifacts.'
  • Have students share their work with seatmates, then discuss as a class.
  • Now tell students they will be learning about the Incan Empire and invite students to share prior knowledge.
  • Preview vocabulary, then start the first video lesson The Inca Civilization and Pizarro: Pre-Columbian South America.
  • Pause at 1:12 and have students look closely at a map of South America, viewing the Incan Empire. Ask:
    • What are tribal hunter/gatherers?
    • How did the Incans use step agriculture?
    • What type of evidence did groups in Peru leave for use to find? Why are these significant?
    • What did the Nazca people leave behind?
  • Resume the lesson, pausing again at 2:54 and have students re-tell the story of Pachacutec to their seatmates. As they talk, listen in to make sure they understand and guide where necessary. Discuss:
    • What were some unique characteristics of the Incan army?
    • How did the Incan army grow?
  • Restart the video and allow it to play to the end. Ask:
    • What important event happened in 1925?
    • What was the result of this event?
    • Why didn't the Incans decide to kill Pizarro and his men?
    • What was the consequence of this decision?
  • With students, draw a timeline of events listed in this video, leaving enough space to insert material later.
  • Now tell students they will get a bit deeper in the Incan history. Start the second video The Rise of the Incan Empire.
  • As this video plays, have students fill in new information on their timelines.
  • Discuss:
    • What two methods did the Incans use to build their empire?
    • Where and how did the Incan Empire originate?

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