Crossing Borders/Breaking Boundaries V
Looking East, Looking West: Europe and Arabia, 1450-1750
July 18-25, 2005
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Lesson Title: The Intrepid Travelers: Middle School Adventures on the Silk Road

Name: Kimberly R. Ross (Director) and Liaa Walter (Visiting Artist)

Discipline: Language Arts and Social Studies (Ross), Arts Education (Walter)

School: Henson Valley Montessori School, Prince George’s County, MD (Ross), Capitol Hill Day School, Washington, D.C. (Walter)

Grade Level/Content Focus: Grades 7-8 / Literature, Social Studies

Time Required for Lesson: 3 class periods

Essential Learner Outcomes:
Students will present their best work and follow the guidelines of the rubric that either the Director will provide or the students will construct.

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

• discuss the historical and geographical background of the Silk Road;
• locate and map the routes and origin of goods that were exchanged on the Silk Road;
• discuss the diversity and exchange of various peoples and cultures on the Silk Road through literature and primary sources;
• analyze and interpret the adventure tales of the period by looking at various excerpts from 1001 Arabian Nights;
• examine and interpret primary source documents and contextually compare them with secondary sources;
• compose original adventure tales, using 1001 Arabian Nights as a model; and
• create artwork to convey the message of their adventure tales, working with a visiting artist in a book-binding workshop.

Students will examine vocabulary primarily through the utilization of context clues.



Burton, Richard. The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London, 1885-1888.
(For both student and teacher use)

Ross, Dunn E. The Adventures of Ibn Battuta. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.
(For teacher use)

Polo, Marco. The Travels of Marco Polo. Penguin Classics, 1958.
(For both student and teacher use)

Whitfield, Susan. Life Along the Silk Road. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.
(For teacher use)

World Book 2000 Encyclopedia

Web Resources:

Asia Society:

World History for Us All:

Other Materials:

• a map for geography work
• graphic organizers for historical research and for interpreting primary sources
• a list of exchange goods
• encyclopedia
• journals for daily responses to the literature and class discussions
• drawing paper and utensils
• pearls, glass, and silk
• apples, salt and pepper, sugar, cinnamon

Lesson Abstract:
Utilizing stories from 1001 Arabian Nights, as well as primary and secondary sources, students will research the commercial and cultural transactions of peoples through Silk Road encounters. The research will culminate with the students composing first-person adventure narratives and working with a visiting artist to create original artwork which will be bound into a class adventure book.

Lesson Components:

PERIOD ONE: Striking the Imagination

• Students will participate in a simulation activity in which they must barter with other students in order not only to keep portions of their own goods (see list above), but also to collect the goods of others.

• The teacher should ask the students what they did. The teacher should begin a discussion of the reasons for trade, and how trade is related to exploration.
• The teacher should ask students if they know what the Silk Road is.

• Through a mini-lecture, and with a map on hand, the teacher will construct a preliminary framework for the Silk Road. Students should take notes during this time.

PERIOD TWO: Student Exploration and Self-Guided Work

Guided Practice/Group Work:
• Students will be broken into groups to conduct research on the Silk Road using the Internet and the World Book 2000 Encyclopedia.
• Students will capture essential information on a graphic organizer.
• Each group will report what they’ve learned about the Silk Road. This will be recorded on a flip chart to use as a record.
• Next, students will be provided with a list of goods from various countries and a map.
• Students will work together to label countries on the map and to create map keys, matching each good with its country of origin.
• Lastly, students will draw the various trade routes that were traveled. The Director will begin to read 1001 Arabian Nights to the students while they follow along.

Independent Practice:
• The Director will prime students to look for passages that discuss trade and the exchange of culture.
• Students will continue to read silently (or, if they want to read in a group, they may).
• They will respond to the reading in their journals.

Guided Practice/Group Work:
• Students will examine primary source accounts of travelers on the Silk Road. They will use a graphic organizer to assist them in interpreting the passages.
• Students will then gather into groups, using the graphic organizer together to interpret the passages.

• A Socratic discussion will ensue in which the students will talk about the content of the passages and the process they used to interpret them.
• Students will discuss any discrepancies they find between first-hand accounts and secondary sources.

PERIOD THREE: Synthesis of Information / Project

Independent Practice:
• Students will imagine that they are travelers on the Silk Road. They will capture their experiences and adventures by composing first-person travel accounts and narratives.

Guided Practice:
• Students will work with a visiting artist to create drawings based on their travels.
• Students will work with the artist in a book-binding seminar.

• Each student will be evaluated based on a rubric designed either by the Director or the students themselves.

• Students will end the day, as usual, with a journaling exercise.
• Students will complete an assessment, asking them what they’ve learned, found interesting and informative. As an alternative, this assessment may be conducted orally.

Lesson Extensions:
Students will create a list of foods and their origins. They will then create a picture book for primary classrooms based on this information.

Sponsored by
the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies
and the Maryland State Department of Education