BHP Vocab Guide and Turn-Key Activities

Big History Project

The excerpt below is taken from the BHP Course Teaching Guide. Visit the Big History Project website to register for a free teacher account and access the entire curriculum!

Vocab Activities Guide
The vocabulary in Big History is difficult, but vital to understanding the course content. To help reinforce the course vocabulary, we suggest you engage students in at least one vocab activity per lesson. This guide includes a set of teacher-recommended activities that you can use to target the key terms in the course.

Also, keep in mind that there are many online resources for learning vocabulary. For example, some Big History teachers have used to make flashcards for their students.

The menu of vocab activities is divided into three categories. The first group introduces students to vocabulary and helps them memorize words. The second category starts to push at student comprehension of vocabulary words, and the third category supports the application of those words.

Menu of Activities


  • Memory/Concentration
  • Mnemonics
  • Crossword Puzzles


  • Game: Real or Fake
  • Quizzes
  • Word Charades


  • Word Webs
  • Group Writing
  • Analogies

August_Angelina_Kreger_image Continue reading

The Four World Zones

Until about 500 years ago, the rising oceans of the last ice age kept the world divided into four different zones. In each, people developed very different ways of living. The modern age was born when these zones reconnected.

Read the full article below. Visit the Big History Project website to register for a free teacher account and access hundreds of leveled articles, activities, videos, lessons, and more!

Get in the Zone: Muscatine’s World Zone Game Experience

Andy Prinsen
Instructional Coach, Muscatine High School
Muscatine, IA

Over the past month, BHP teachers and their students at Muscatine High School played the World Zones Game from Unit 8, Expansion & Interconnection. As an instructional coach, I had the opportunity to work on the game with two of these teachers and discuss the process with a third. Below are some twists we made along the way, teachable moments we ran into, and some pics and attachments from our work.

Thanks to our BHP teachers: Michael Clancy, Rachel Hansen, Adam Wiley and Andrea Wilford.


Each teacher played the game at different times and in different ways. This provided us with a variety of lessons learned and confirmed BHP’s ability to adapt to a variety of teachers and classrooms.

  • Try using this virtual dice. This greatly increased the speed of gameplay, but did require at least one computer in each group.
  • We created a score sheet that awarded zones for their resources over time, much like the U.S. continues to benefit from fertile agricultural land. The score sheet also allowed population to compound from round to round.
  • Each teacher played around with group sizes. One class went with four large zones, fitting nicely with the Four World Zones article. The game was easier to manage with these large groups, but some students were able to tag along without much engagement. Another teacher used groups of 2-4 students. This kept all students engaged, but led to messy gameplay.

Teachable Moments

More important than the logistics and accounting of the game, designing your game to build in and allow teachable moments is key.

  • Give each team an opportunity to answer all trivia questions. In Andrea Wilford’s class, these became quick discussions between rounds and teams had to form consensus.
  • Take a few minutes to discuss and rank the innovations on the cards. Students had a better understanding of their points after discussing and contextualizing these social and technological developments.
  • Have your students journal throughout the game. Rachel Hansen’s students reflected at the beginning, middle and end of their game. She encouraged students to think about their resources, population changes, and mergers with other zones.

Build in some discussion about the relationship between innovation and population. One interesting angle was figuring a zone’s points per capita and comparing to others. Check out the pics below, as well examples of student work

World Zone Game Student Journal Example 1
World Zone Game Student Journal Example 2

Andy_Prinsen_WorldZoneGameBlog_ April2015_Pic1

Visit the Big History Project website to register for a free teacher account and access all of our activities and lesson plans.