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The Silk Road and China

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Deirdre Harris
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The Silk Road and China
The Silk Road - (Book Resource for ages 9-12, 4th-9th grades) Curriculum Project for East Asian Studies to 1800

RationaleThe purpose of this Lesson is to teach students about the Silk Road, it's history, purpose, geography, cultural connections, and the people who's lives were affected by this amazing region.  

Skills and Content Objective: Keeping in mind that my students are in 4th grade, where we mostly focus on California, but this can be added to the curriculum, and used in grades 4-9 as mentioned by the CCSS listed below.

CCSS RH.9-10.1 - Students will analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them. 

CCSS RH.9-10.2 - Students will cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to the dates and origins of the information.

Students will be able to answer the following questions:

a)  What led to the establishment of the Silk Road?

b)  What was the greatest impact of the Silk Road?

c)  In what ways does the Silk Road represent a bridge between the East and West?

d)  Who benefitted the most from the  Silk Road?  The East, the West, or both?  Why?

Day One - Introduction to China and it's History - (60 Minutes) Students will visit various websites provided below, and get a general idea of the background of China.  Using a Map of China, they will look at the resources, geography, farming practices, Dynasties, and philosophies.  

Students will use the website: Asia for Educators, 

In groups they will discuss what they have learned about China.  There will be 5-6 groups, each with a different focus.  They will spend 30 minutes researching online, and will then each present for 5-7 minutes, what they have learned about China, in the categories referenced above.  All students will take notes as the groups present, creating a China/ Silk Road/Background Information notebook they each create.  Students will do vocabulary words, and definitions daily, to bring to class discussion time. 

Homework - Day One - Read Chapters 1-3 of "The Silk Road" - Young readers will see how ideas in math, science, religion, and art were spread by travelers along with the treasures they found.

Day Two -  ( 60 Minutes+ ) Teacher will present google slides showing maps of the silk road and how they connected to the past.  Each student will have access to these google slides, and can answer the above-referenced questions in the corresponding boxes.  Students will also have the book referenced above: "The Silk Road - Explore the World's Most Famous Trade Route" 

Students will independently answer the questions on the google slides questions seperately.  From the previous evening's homework, they will discuss what the Silk Road was like, and how it helped people attaining things they needed.  They will discover that Marco Polo was just one of many who set out on the Silk Road in search of wealth, power and and knowledge.  That these adventurers braved vast deserts, towering mountainpeaks, warring tribe, and marauding bandits.  Silk garments, wool rugs, and fine glass were just some of the prizes for those who survived the trip.  

Again, each group will present what they have learned to the rest of the class, while continuing to add to their notebooks for China/Silk Road / Background sections.  (By the end of class, all students will have a comprehensive notebook filled with resources, notes, and any materials handed out by the teacher.   Students will contiue adding vocabulary to the section of the China Notebook.  

Day Two Homework will be to Read Chapters 4-6 of "The Silk Road", and be ready to discuss in class the following day.


Day Three - (60+ Minutes) - Students will Watch the Film "The Silk Road by CNN" on Youtube:   (23 minutes)

 Students will watch as a class, and see how Italy ties into trading with Marco Polo's travels, who was from Venice, and who began his journey in Italy.  Students will take notes, and grasp a deeper understanding of the Silk Road through a visual medium for this third and final day.  After the film, students will get back into their groups, to plan one final presentation of to the rest of the class on how their category, played a role in the silk road.  (For example: Were there farm goods sold or was it only luxury goods?  How did one go about traveling on the Silk Road?  Was it dangerous?  How?  Where did people sleep as they traveled?  And any other questions students may have added to the Group Question List on the class poster of questions.

After the last presentations, students will grade each other based on the information each group presented, it's relevance to the topic, and their oral language skills.  (Did they make eye-contact, speak loud enough, with confidence? Did I learn something new?  Do I understand more about the Silk Road than I did three days ago?)

On Day Three: - Celebration with some specialty foods from China.  New Year Cakes, traditional foods, etc... While watching the film.  It can be a cultural celebration on the last day of Chinese Unit.  Each student can research and bring a small amount of food for sampling, and explain it's significance.  

Homework for Day Three:  Finish reading the Book "The Silk Road", and be prepared to share any final new information gleaned from it on day four in our  whole group discussion.  

Student Materials have been shared through this lesson.  In addition, they will need a 3-ring binder with tabs, to create their different categories in their China/Silk Road/ binder.  Websites have been listed throughout the body of this lesson. Grading will be done by students of each other, as well as the teacher giving a group score, and individual scores.  Attached please find the google slides teacher will be sharing on Day Two.  

 Please see vocabulary below:

Vocabulary:  Students will compile vocabulary as they read, and we will build a word wall, with some of the main words and their definitions of the words they are not familiar with.  Some words might include: merchant, trade route, saffron, geographer, bandit, silk, missionary, luxury, minerals, middle ages, emperor, dynasty, Roman Empire, jade, civilization, bronze, Alexander the Great, legend, prophecy, diplomat, alliance, nomads, celestial, parasite, bamboo, taxes...

Extensions:  Having students learn about the New Silk Road after learning about the old one, will definitely be of interest to them.  I would encourage them to watch the film on Amazon that I watched called "The New Silk Road" and discuss it's impact on our future with China building high-speed rail projects through many countries, ports, and cities, of 3rd world countries and using the resources of poor countries for their benefit.  See what they think about whether it is a good or bad idea, and who is really benefitting from this enormous endeavor.  

Pose questions to the gifted students like I have in class to extend further learning:

* How does the BRI connect with Climate Change? 

How is China showing the world they are doing this in a responsible way? 

Are they using new innovative technologies to build these new conections? 

What are the economic implications of the BRI? 

Does China have the support of their allies to carry on this project? 

How do they compensate the countries they are impacting? (Financially and otherwise?)

Websites - This is a website resource from National Geographic Resource Library for 6th graders. - This is from Ducksters, where it actually compares on the same map, the old silk road and the new silk road for students to understand.  (Very good Resource for this activity.) - This is another wonderful resource specifically for children studying about the new silk road, and it shows how some of the same cities and countries are being used for the old and new projects.