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The Age of Exploration and Marco Polo

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Heidi Kwalk
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The Age of Exploration and Marco Polo

Curriculum Project

Lesson Plan


  1. A rational for the proposed unit: 

5th grade

In order to provide deeper contextual understanding of the 5th grade unit on European Age of Exploration, students will learn about the Silk Road and Marco Polo. Students will analyze what impacts or contributions the Silk Road and Marco Polo may have made in facilitating the European Age of Exploration. The following three lessons will lead to launching of the unit of the Age of Exploration: 1) What is Silk Road? 2) Who is Marco Polo 3) Did the Silk Road and Marco Polo have impact on the European Age of Exploration?


  1. Skill and content objectives:

*Reading: Note details when reading; make inferences based on evidence;

*Writing: Cite evidence from multiple sources; write clear and cohesive paragraphs

*Social studies: Reasons Europeans chose to explore the world


  1. Lesson Plans:
  1. Day 1: What is Silk Road?
  1. Chart paper with the question:  What is Silk Road?
  2. Ask students to think-pair-share this question.
  3. Share out: Students volunteer to share what they think it might be. Some may have some background knowledge and some may have heard the word for the first time. Give no response to either of the responses but acknowledge their thinking.
  4. Display the following map:
  1. Ask students to observe the map and share their observations (guide students to observe the lines, arrows, circles—white and dark
  2. After about 5-10 minutes of sharing observations, have students share their inferences based on their observations. Make sure to ask why—based on what evidence (observation) they have made that observation.
  3. List students inferences on a chart paper
  1. Print and pass out the following text about the Silk Road. Have students close read in small groups and annotate along the margin. (Close reading/annotating text should already have been taught at this point.)


  1. At the end of the period, have one speaker from each group share 3 interesting information about the text.
  2. After all the groups have shared, have each group write one or two liner explaining what a Silk Road is.
  3. Close the lesson by saying, “Tomorrow, we will read about one person who travelled this road.”
  1. Day 2: Who is Marco Polo?
  1. Display the image of Marco Polo with the Emperor.

Primary Source Analysis Tool from the Library of Congress:

  1. Using the above form, have students go through the analysis process in small groups
  2. Share out after finished in groups
  1. About the Travels of Marco Polo:

  1. Class discussion:
    1. What is the content of the book?
    2. Who wrote it and when?
    3. If you were living back then in Europe, how would you feel about reading Marco Polo’s Travel?
  1. Close today’s lesson by saying, we will learn about how the Europeans received the book of Marco Polo’s Travel.
  1. Day 3: Did the Silk Road and Marco Polo have impact on the European Age of Exploration?
  1. Ask students about the closing question from Day 2. Share out.
  2. List some of the names of the explorers students learned about in fourth grade. Ask why they think they took such risk going on far away journey
  3. Assign reading of the first lesson in Exploration chapter in social studies textbook.
  4. Focus students’ reading by directing them to think about Marco Polo about 200 years before the Age of Exploration and how he could have  influenced the explorers and their time.


  1. Assessment:

Formative  Assessment: class discussions, primary source analysis sheet/tool from

Essay: What was happening during the time of the Age of Exploration that you think encouraged explorers to go on a risky journey?