THE RED PYRAMID by Rick Riordan (Hyperion, 2010)
Imagine, if you will, a world in which you have lost everything and the only chance you have to save your family lies in believing you have magical powers. That is what Sadie and Carter Kane discover as their father disappears after blowing up the Rosetta Stone on their annual holiday outing. They become embroiled in a game of search and rescue to save their father—and the world—from destruction by their mortal enemy, the Egyptian god Set.
If you want to introduce your students to the world of fantasy, THE RED PYRAMID is a great book to begin with. Written in the form of an audio transcript by the two children, Riordan takes us on a journey through Egyptian mythology and history as part of the Kane children’s dangerous mission. The trials and tribulations that Sadie and Carter encounter as they continue their quest provide multiple opportunities for educators to teach their students about the genre of fantasy, while tying the storyline across the curriculum.
In addition, on their journey Sadie and Carter learn the values of trust, faithfulness, and accomplishment—as well as get to know each other after a period of separation. This is important to teach in the classroom as we build a community of learners who will learn these values as they work together throughout the year. Cross-curricular Connections
: reading, math, history, geography, writing, technology, art Ideas for Classroom Use: Family Timeline (Grades 5-12)
The characters in THE RED PYRAMID are tied together in one way or another, whether it’s as family members, Gods and Goddesses, or magicians. Rick Riordan weaves the lives of these characters throughout the book in order for Carter and Sadie to understand themselves as well as the life of Set and how to destroy him.
In this activity, students will identify significant events that have occurred within their family and create a timeline of these events. These events can take the place over a one, five, ten, or twenty year span (it is up to the teacher’s discretion and the purpose of the lesson). Explain to the students that they will need to have a certain number of events for that particular time period.
In order for the students to gain this information they will need to talk with family members. Remind them to gather information, photos, documents, and “artifacts” so that they can use them in their timeline and presentation.
Using the Timeline Tool
(or something comparable), students will create their personal timelines. Once finished, students will prepare a presentation to show their timeline to the class. For this, they will need to be able to access their timeline on a computer that projects onto a screen. A lower-tech version is to have them create this timeline on good old-fashioned poster board. Marking the Miles (Grades 5-8)
In THE RED PYRAMID, Carter and Sadie are led through several countries and states in order to learn how to defeat Set. Each time they travel through an obelisk, it lands them in a new place. This opens up an excellent opportunity to strengthen geography and math skills as they travel with the Kane children throughout the book.
When conducting pre-reading activities with the class, introduce them to a map of the world. Explain to them that as they read, they’ll be tracking the location of Carter and Sadie. You can also include the locations of other characters for further reference. Begin by marking the locations of Carter and Sadie at the beginning of the story. You can do this with little pennants with the characters names on them, or some large tacks purchased at the dollar store.
As the class continues reading, tie lengths of red yarn between the pennants or tacks to represent the distance traveled between the locations. Each inch of yarn should equal a set amount, such as ten kilometers. This will allow you to create math problems for students to solve. For instance, if Carter was at Heathrow Airport, and Sadie was at her grandparents’ house, what is the distance between the two locations? Asking them to represent the distance with yarn asks them to utilize measuring skills as well.
As an extension to this activity, place students in groups of three to five and have them create math problems of their own. Groups can then exchange and solve each other’s problems. The Quest for Meaning: Egyptian Vocabulary (Grades 5-12)
Rick Riordan uses a wide variety of vocabulary in THE RED PYRAMID to bring readers into the world of magicians and Ancient Egyptian culture. His use of these words make the text on the page “pop” out at the reader and pulls them into the intrigue and mystery that surround the Kane children. The purpose of these activities is for students to learn the terminology that was associated with Ancient Egyptian times.
Terms could include:
To prepare for this activity, you’ll need to prepare numbered cards that have incomplete words on them (such as __ i __ r __ g __ __ p __ __ c __ for hieroglyphics). Next, you’ll need to create a laminated “cue” sheet to go along with the cards. The cue sheet will contain three-five meaning cues for the word on the card (matching numbers). Example cues for the word hieroglyphics could be: writing system, pictures, and many symbols.
A typical set of cards would consist of 15-20 words and cues. For easy storage, you can place a set of cards and the meaning cue sheet in a zip-top bag. You’ll need several sets so that multiple pairs of students can do the activity at one time.
Finally, you’ll need to create yes/no cards (4x6” is a good size). These will be used during the activity.
To complete the activity, students should be placed in teams of two, and each team given a bag. One student will be the player, while their partner will be the “host.” The host will show the player a card and provide them with a meaning cue. Keep going until the player can guess the word from the meaning cues. Then place the card in the “yes” pile.
If the player cannot guess what the word is after being given three clues, their partner will provide the word to them and place that word card in the “no” pile.
If they happen to guess words before any cues are given then they will need to provide the meaning of the word to their partner. If they provide the correct meaning, the card will be placed in the “yes” pile.
You may want to have each team member alternate between host and player after each word. They would then keep switching cards until all of them have been used.
Another adaptation to this activity would be for the teacher to only
give the meaning cues (and not the word cards) to the students. Or, the teacher could expand on the vocabulary by adding words the students should already be familiar with for review purposes. Additional Resources and Activities: The Online World of Rick Riordan
This is the official website of Rick Riordan, where you can find information about all of Riordan’s books, including biographical information. Of particular note is the RED PYRAMID Egyptian Event Kit (found under “Resources for Students & Teachers” on the book page). It offers discussion questions, a “family tree” of (and guide to) Egyptian gods, and a multitude of additional ideas that make it easy to include the book in your classroom curriculum. Ancient Egypt: Stories and Myths (Grades 3-5)
This website, from National Geographic Xpeditions, has lesson plans that provide a wealth of information and are written in a way that enables teachers to incorporate them into their instruction immediately. Though the site skews slightly younger than the book’s audience, the content is easily adapted to fit the needs of older students as well. Family Ties for Teachers and Parents
This website provides ideas, videos, and interactives that will aid teachers in planning units that ask students to build family trees, learn the art of letter writing, and explore history through the stories of their families. Where Are We? Learning to Read Maps (Grades 3-5)
Designed to teach students geography skills by learning how to read maps and legends, students can then apply these skills to locating places within their communities. Again, although the lesson is written for students in grades 3 to 5, it can easily be adapted to fit grades 5 and up. Using Story Innovation to Teach Fluency, Vocabulary, and Structure (Grades 3-6)
This lesson plan provides students an opportunity to change a text to personalize it with characters, setting, and story elements. The new version of the story is then read aloud to increase students’ fluency while allowing them to compare and contrast their version with that of the original version. Susan Kaye Jennings is a graduate assistant at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Previously, she taught self-contained life skills to students in (K-5) for nine and a half years. at the same elementary school she went to as a child. Her passions include teaching reading to children with special needs, working with teachers to determine effective instructional methods/strategies, using reading assessment to drive instruction in the classroom, and using children's literature in the classroom.
© 2012 Susan Kaye Jennings. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. Rick Riordan to be Opening General Session Speaker at IRA Convention 2013 Putting Books to Work: George O’Connor’s HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD