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Inventions Over Time

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Subject: Social Studies

Grade: 4th

Author: Janet Hammer, revised by Jason Terry (2023)

Time Duration: Two 45-minute class periods

Objective: The atlatl, spear point, and bow and arrow were important inventions during different periods of human cultural development. The students will discuss why these inventions were important to ancient people and compare ancient inventions with modern ones. This lesson addresses issues concerning the impact of science and technology on society.

TEKS: Social Studies, Grade 4

  • (1) History. The student understands the origins, similarities, and differences of American Indian groups in Texas before European exploration
  • (1A), explain the possible origins of American Indian groups in Texas
  • (18B), describe how scientific discoveries and innovations such as in aerospace, agriculture, energy, and technology have benefited individuals, businesses, and society in Texas
  • (19A), differentiate between, locate, and use valid primary and secondary sources such as technology; interviews; biographies; oral, print, and visual material; documents; and artifacts to acquire information about Texas
  • (19B), analyze information by applying absolute and relative chronology through sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, and drawing inferences and conclusions
  • (21A), use social studies terminology correctly


Activities and Procedures:

Step 1: Have students read HHunting Without Guns ( and From Dart to Arrow ( to see pictures of atlatls and bows and arrows and to learn more about ancient weaponry systems. Discuss the atlatl and the bow and arrow and their impact on the lives of people. The atlatl was a throwing device developed by Paleoindian people to improve the power of a spear or dart used to hunt large animals. It was used successfully for thousands of years, continuing during the Archaic period. The bow and arrow were developed during the Late Prehistoric Period and continued in use through the Historic period. Advantages of the bow and arrow over the atlatl and spear include the fact that a hunter with a bow and arrow can shoot an animal from much farther away, thus increasing safety. The arrow uses a smaller projectile point and can be aimed more accurately. By the Historic period, some Native Americans had perfected the art of hunting with a bow and arrow from horseback, sometimes at great speed.

Step 2: Pass out the cause-and-effect chart and have students fill it in as the class discusses the ways inventions have affected peoples’ lives.

Step 3: Read the “History of Three Inventions” aloud to the students. Have students try to guess what invention you are describing. After the guesses, show examples of Velcro, post-it-notes, and a phone.

Step 4: As a class, review how telephones have changed over the years. (Operator assisted telephones, party lines, wall telephones, rotary dial, push button, cellular, etc.)

Step 5: Students work as individuals or small groups and select an item in wide use today such as a computer or stapler. Have students write what archeologists of the future will know about us by finding this item. Ask students to brainstorm and illustrate possible uses future archeologists might predict the item was used for (assuming they don’t know in the future what the item is.)

Closure: Students share their stories and drawings with the class.

Extension Activities:

1. Students may draw their rendition of their chosen invention in the future, such as the telephone of the future.

2. Have students learn more about prehistoric life at the Kincaid Shelter exhibit:

3. Have students learn more about ancient tools and toolmaking at the following exhibits: