The Conquest
Teacher Page

A WebQuest for Language Arts and Social Studies



Introduction | Learners | Standards | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits | Student Page


This lesson was developed as part of a class assignment for an integrating technology into the curriculum course.  The focus of this lesson was to give a voice to some of the key participants in the Aztec conquest who are not readily heard in traditional textbooks.

This lesson is about the fall of the Aztec Empire around 1521.  It focuses on four people who contributed, in one way or the other, to the fall of the empire.  We designed this lesson around a mock trial that will be carried out in your classroom.  Each student will be assigned a particular defendant they must research and, ultimately, argue their plea of guilty or not guilty. 


This lesson is designed for middle school social studies students who already have some prior knowledge about the Aztecs, the Conquistadors, Hernán Cortéz, and the conquest of the empire.  This lesson integrates language arts and social studies, and can be extended to all grades.

Students will need to be acquainted with legal terminology, such as acquittal, defendant, legal brief, prosecutor, and plea. 

Possible extensions and subject integrations in:

Curriculum Standards

We believe this lesson will offer students an opportunity to assess historical evidence in a way that is not always perscribed.  Giving students the opportunity to formulate opinions and create well informed conclusions about history is critical to a student's intellectual development. 


 La Malinche
Hernán Cortéz
King Charles V

1. Prepare students by listing the names of the four defendants on the board: La Malinche, Hernán Cortés, King Charles V, and Montezuma.

2.  Explain to students that they will be transported back in time to A.D.1521 and the end of the Aztec Empire. 

3.  Explain to students that each of the four defendants have been charged with murder and the fall of the Aztec Empire.  Students will be assigned one of the four defendants and will need to defend him/her at a mock trial that will be held in the classroom. 

4.  In order for students to prepare for the trial they must complete The Aztec Conquest Webquest.

5.  Once on the webquest the first thing students must do is familiarize themselves with the history surrounding the conquest of the Aztecs. To accomplish this students must read Background InformationThis is a superficial account of the conquest, therefore, students should have had prior knowledge of this history.

Students can visit other web-sites about this subject and possible evidence to support their future plea can click on links below: 

6. Next, you need to appointed each student a defendant for the trial. Once students know which of the accused they are to defend, students need to click on the picture of their defendant to gather biographical information.

7. Students now must review the accusations made against their client. Students need to click on Indictments to view all the charges against all of the defendants.  It may be helpful for you to make copies of the indictments for each student so they can have a copy handy.  Explain that they should pay special attention to their client's charges, and to remember their mission is to argue their defendant's case in court.

8. Next, students need to decide on the position (guilty or not guilty) their client will take. To decide on a stance students must review the evidence and weigh the charges against their client before entering a plea.  Is he/she guilty or not guilty?  To figure this out students need to complete the Evidence Chart and then make a decision.  You will need to make copies of this chart for each student. It is a good idea to encourage students to visit some of the links listed above to gather more evidence to support your plea.  Students should think about the following questions while making a decision.

  • If your client is not guilty, how will you prove it? 
  • If your client is guilty, to what extent are they guilty? Did your client act alone so it is all their fault? Or did your client have accomplices? If there were accomplices what were their involvement in the crime? Maybe your client doesn't have to take all the blame.

9. Students are now ready to begin writing their legal brief that will be presented at the trial. Students need to follow the step-by-step procedure on the Legal Brief SheetAcquaint them with the evaluation rubric on the webquest.  Discuss what an exemplary legal brief would look like.

10.  Now that students' legal briefs are complete they need to get ready for the trial.  Again have students look at the evaluation rubric below for Presentation.   Discuss what an exemplary presentation would look like. 

11.  Students are now ready for the trial.  This is where you take control of the lesson.  Revisit the four defendants and their indictments.  Explain to students that they will be grouped according to who they are defending and how they plea. For example, all Montezumas who are pleading not guilty will be in one group, etc.  Explain to students that you are the prosecutor and will argue the charges against  each defendant.  Explain to students that their responsibility will be to: 1) defend their clients against the charges, and 2)explain who they think is guilty and why.

12.  Before the trial begins, you will need to choose a group of students who are willing to serve as the jury.  Give them a copy of the following sheet they will need to complete as the trial advances- Jury Comparison Chart.

13.  Each group will present their brief collectively based on plea- you will need to allow some time for students to formulate a united force.

14.  As each group presents, the jury will be allowed to question the defendants and a rebuttal is then allowed to be given.

15.  This process is repeated until all the groups have presented.  The jury then will decide on a verdict.  While the jury is deliberating, students can be formulating their own verdicts and justifications.  The jury will be asked to unanimously declare a verdict per case.  The verdict must include an explanation.

16.  Closing discussion and journal entry:  This may be the most important part of the lesson.  Students need to be given a chance to voice their opinions and process what happened in the trial.  Some of the questions you may want to ask are:

  • Was anyone entirely not guilty?  Or guilty?  What does this tell you about this event?
  • Did you change your mind about the guilt or innocence of your defendant during the course of your research?  During the course of the trial?
  • Why didn't the Aztecs just killed all the Conquistadors since there were so many more Aztecs?
  • How do your think the conquistadors felt about what they did to the Aztecs?
  • If you were a member of the Tlaxcalan tribe (Aztecs' archenemies), would you have assisted Cortés in defeating the Aztec Empire?

17.  An estimate of five-six 60 minute periods for working through the webquest and two-three periods devoted to the mock trial will be needed. 

Resources Needed

Describe what's needed to implement this lesson. Some of the possibilities:

  • Class sets of books
  • E-mail accounts for all students
  • Specific software (how many copies?)
  • Specific hardware (what kind? How many?)
  • Specific reference material in the classroom or school library
  • Video or audio materials
If the lesson makes extensive use of specific websites, it would be appropriate to list, describe and link them here. It would also be helpful to link the names of books suggested to Amazon or other online sources.

Describe also the human resources needed. how many teachers are needed to implement the lesson. Is one enough? Is there a role for aides or parents in the room? Do you need to coordinate with a teacher at another school? With a partner in industry or a museum or other entity? Is a field trip designed in as part of the lesson?


How will you know that this lesson was successful? Describe what student products or performances you'll be looking at and how they'll be evaluated. This, of course, should be tightly related to the standards and objectives you cited above.

You may want to just copy and paste the evaluation section of the student page into this space and add any clarifications needed for another teacher to make use of this lesson.


Make some kind of summary statement here about the worthiness of this lesson and the importance of what it will teach.

Credits & References
Many of the resources we used were from the internet.  Please visit each link for further information and credit. 

The beautiful images came from : Indigenous Mexican Images and 

Books used were: Rethinking Columbus- The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson; The Teacher Curriculum Institute (TCI); The Buried Mirror by Carlos Fuentes; A history of Latin America, Vol.I 4th edition by Benjamin Keen; Yo Moctezuma, Gran Orador de los Aztecas que Hubo de Entregar su Imperio a los Conquistadores by