Education:The First Machine - The Story of the Bow and Arrow

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Title of lesson

The First Machine – The Story of the Bow and Arrow


Grades 8-12/Social Studies; US History; World History

Time Required for completed lesson

Dependent on number of materials used and length of class period. (One to four periods)


NJCCCA Social Studies:

  1. 6.2.8.B.1.c
  2. 6.2.8.C.1.b
  3. 6.2.8.C.3.b
  4. 6.2.8.B.4.c
  5. 6.2.8.C.4.b
  6. 6.2.8.C.4.e
  7. 6.2.8.D.4.j
  8. 6.2.12.B.1.a

Common Core State Standards

New Jersey - Grades 9-10

Key Ideas and Details

  • Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Craft and Structure

  • Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.


Materials Required

White board, smart board or easel, copies of the readings, colored pencils or markers, bow and arrow, globe or map, sling shot, DVD player.

Anticipatory Set

  1. Bring a bow and arrow to class.Have the students handle it and discover how it works. (Check for permission based on zero tolerance laws.
  2. Discuss how a sling shot works; bring one to class. Ask the students to consider how the sling shot can be improved upon. 
  3. Show a movie clip from "Robin Hood", "Pocahontas" or any combination of G rated movies which have bows and arrows i the story. Discuss the use of the bow and arrow and who is using it. Compare the Native American tool and the European one.
  4. Ask the students if they have ever taken archery lessons. Is it easy? hard?


  1. Readings and questions based on the readings are offered at differing reading levels which will allow the teacher to differentiate within the class.
  2. Pictures and diagrams to promote the understanding of the nature of the bow and arrow as a machine.
  3. Timeline to be filled in by the students.
  4. Map study to be completed by the students. All procedures can be offered as whole class or individually completed exercises.


  1. Students can explain how the bow and arrow works
  2. Students will hypothesize reasons for the invention of the bow and arrow.
  3. Lists will be developed with the historical and present uses of the bow and arrow and a comparison of the lists will be created as well.
  4. Students will follow the historical and geographic progression of the bow and arrow.
  5. Students will contemplate the possibility of ideas for inventions developing in different cultures within the same historic period.


Students will use literacy skills throughout the lesson. Science skills will be employed to explain the technical advances in this invention.


  1. Readings are offered at different lexile levels.
  2. All activities can be done individually, with the instructor or in groups.


(Two closures are offered, the choice of which is based on the number of days devoted to this subject and the abilities of the students. Both closures can be used and assigned based on differentiation of abilities.)

  1. Using the readings, timeline and maps, explain why the bow and arrow changed due to the needs of the people. Discuss the basic bow and arrow, the composite, the longbow and the crossbow.
  2. Discuss changes you have experienced in cell phones, computers, game boxes, televisions and other electronic devices. What kinds of changes occurred? Why did the changes occur? Who made these changes? Do you like the changes? Have they improved your life?


North American Bows, Arrows and Quivers by Otis Tufton Mason

How We Got Here: From Bow and Arrow to the Space Age by C. R. Hallpike

The Third Invention: How the Bow and Arrow Changed History by Steve Hayes

Compare these changes in inventions with the changes in the bow and arrow.