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FC: The Aztec Empire


12 lessons that answer the standards as well as the framing and supporting questions

Grade: 5th Grade

Weeks: 2

Pages: 90

Standards: 5.1 - 5.8, 5.13, 5.13a, 5.13d, 5.13e, 5.13f, 5.13g, 5.13h

File Type: pdf

Slide Deck Included: Yes

In stock

Product SKU: PEDFC542


The Aztecs were a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico from 1300 to 1521. The Aztec people included different ethnic groups in central Mexico, particularly those groups that spoke the Nahuatl language. Aztec culture was organized into city-states (altepetl), some of which joined to form alliances, political confederations, or empires. The Aztec Empire was a confederation of three city-states established in 1427: Tenochtitlan, the city-state of Mexica; Texcoco; and Tlacopan. From the 13th century on, the Valley of Mexico was the heart of a dense population and the rise of city-states. The Mexica were latecomers to the Valley of Mexico and founded the city-state of Tenochtitlan on unpromising islets in Lake Texcoco.

The empire extended its reach through a combination of trade and military conquest. It was never a true territorial empire controlling a territory by large military garrisons in conquered provinces, but rather dominated its client city-states primarily by installing friendly rulers in conquered territories, by constructing marriage alliances between the ruling dynasties, and by extending an imperial ideology to its client city-states. Client city-states paid taxes to the Aztec emperor, in an economic strategy that limited communication and trade between outlying polities, making them dependent on the imperial center for the acquisition of luxury goods. Before a small band of Spanish conquistadors under the command of Hernán Cortés arrived in 1519, the empire had reached its height. Cortés allied with city-states opposed to the Mexica, particularly the Tlaxcalteca.

Aztec culture and history are primarily known through archaeological evidence found in excavations such as that of the renowned Templo Mayor in Mexico City; from indigenous writings; from eyewitness accounts by Spanish conquistadors such as Cortés and Bernal Díaz del Castillo; and especially from 16th- and 17th-century descriptions of Aztec culture and history written by Spanish clergymen and literate Aztecs in the Spanish or Nahuatl language, such as the famous illustrated, bilingual (Spanish and Nahuatl), twelve-volume Florentine Codex created by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún, in collaboration with indigenous Aztec informants. Important for knowledge of post-conquest Nahuas was the training of indigenous scribes to write alphabetic texts in Nahuatl, mainly for local purposes under Spanish colonial rule. At its height, Aztec culture had rich and complex philosophical, mythological, and religious traditions, as well as remarkable architectural and artistic accomplishments.

9 lessons that answer the standards as well as the framing and supporting questions

Lessons are developed using all the sources and readings that are in the social studies course frameworks provided by the Louisiana Department of Education.

What does it include?

  1. Detailed lesson plans aligned with the standards and frameworks
  2. Activities that include all the materials provided in the frameworks
  3. Assessments aligned with the new LDOE field test (Assessment will come in an update)
  4. Lesson activity workbook/worksheets
  5. Slide deck


  • 5.13 Describe the geographic, political, economic, and cultural structures of Indigenous civilizations of the Americas.
  • 5.13a Identify and locate the geographic features of the Americas, including the Andes Mountains, Appalachian Mountains, Great Plains, Pacific Ocean Mountains, Gulf of Mexico, Rocky Mountains, Atlantic Ocean, Mississippi River, Amazon River, South America, Caribbean Sea, North America, Yucatan Peninsula, and the Central Mexican Plateau.
  • 5.13d Explain the effects of geographic features and climate on the agricultural practices and settlement of the Aztec and Incan civilizations.
  • 5.13e Explain how the Aztec built and controlled a powerful empire that covered much of what is now central Mexico.
  • 5.13f Describe Aztec religious beliefs and how they were linked to the traditions of the society.  
  • 5.13g Describe Tenochtitlán and the surrounding landscape, including aqueducts, massive temples, and chinampa agriculture.
  • 5.13h Identify Moctezuma II and describe features of his reign.

Framing Question

How was the Aztec Empire able to conquer much of Central America?

Supporting Questions

  1. How did the Aztec Empire begin?
  2. What does the city of Tenochtitlán reveal about the Aztec civilization?
  3. How did religious beliefs influence Aztec society?
  4. How were the Aztec politically organized, and what led to their demise?



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