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Medieval History and the Development of Cities

Produced by Michele Scott Hauser, El Segundo Middle School, 1996

My intent is to overlay several strategies and activities learned from this institute onto my already established curriculum for 7th Grade Language Arts/Social Studies. The seventh grade social studies text curriculum includes a survey of Medieval Cultures from various regions of the world: Middle East, Africa, Central & East Asia, Europe, and Latin America. I think it is important to include more current strands of physical, political and economic geography, current events and issues, and cultural enrichment. My hope is to incorporate a modified version of the Passport curriculum for each region (one per quarter) as well as ideas using the Billy Joel song, infrastructure, map projections, population data concepts, and "Romeo & Juliet in Sarajevo."

Strategies/activities:

Political maps, timelines, brief lectures, geographical maps, timelines, team assignments/projects, cities brochures/culture grams, brainstorming, simulated game of Middle East, "bluff game" for review, journal writing, videos, cultural feasts of ethnic foods, CIA Fact Sheets, TCI interactive slide, TCI experiential activities, role-playing, overheads.

I. Personal Timeline:

Middle School students tend to think mostly in the NOW, not caring or thinking much about either past or future. By requiring a personal timeline, my objective is to get them to realize that "history" has been happening throughout their lives and past history was what was occuring during people's lives as well. With the Personal Timeline, the students chart and illustrate the events important in their personal lives below the timeline and the "current events" simultaneously above the timeline of their lives.

The "We Didn't Light the Fire" strategy plays right into this. My intent is to introduce the Personal Timeline and "We Didn't Light the Fire" together and to create a slideshow product for Open House as suggested. If it goes well, I may use the idea to review the information from the cultures studied at the end of the year, by focusing on key terms from the passports.

"We Didn't Light the Fire"--Day 1:

  1. Play Billy Joel song at the beginning of the period.
  2. Print chorus on the chalkboard & encourage sing-along.
  3. Show my own personal timeline (which coincides with Billy Joel's), emphasizing current events on it.
  4. Use overhead of Billy Joel's words, while replaying the tape.
  5. Introduce the assignment of their own timelines.

Day 2:

  1. Using overhead of Teresa's "Building a Common Vocabulary", go over a few terms in both Billy Joel's and my timelines, categorizing type of term: cultural, history, politics/scientific, etc.
  2. Heterogeneous teams brainstorm "current events" they remember or have heard of from their lifetimes.
  3. Immigrant students will have different timelines; opportunity to highlight cultural influences.
  4. Share some team ideas and categorize together.

Day 3:

  1. Using End in Review issues of Newsweek and Time magazines, teams brainstorm and categorize more ideas for their personal timelines.
  2. Go over specifics of Personal Timeline homework assignment (due date, # & type of items required per year, illustrations, etc.).

Day 4 (Timeline Due Date):

  1. Share personal timelines within their teams.
  2. Each team then would be responsible to create the 2 verses for our own "Light the Fire" song, as well as to categorize so that some of each type of item is included each year.
  3. Each team assigns people within it to write the annotations of each item and bring in pictures, articles, headlines, etc. for slides.

Day 5 (Annotation due date):

  1. Compiled verses on an overhead, shown as music is played. Group singing, at least of chorus. Volunteers.
  2. Volunteers to prepare slides; sing verses.

Day 6: Review & practice & tape song and use of slides

Open House:

  1. Student run slides.
  2. Overhead of verses while music is played.
  3. Explanation to parents of procedure and importance of connecting current events to their own lives.

II. Cities Project:

Before embarking on our survey of medieval cultures, I like to have a unit dealing with the development of cities. This incorporates information on primary and secondary sources and the universal commonalities: need for water, protection, availability of transportation, access to resources/food supplies, etc.

Infrastructure as a concept seems appropriate to include here. By using overheads and brainstorming, the interrelationship among government, economy, people, and infrastructure could be developed. The students need to be familiar with the term and to think about and discuss the role of government & reason for taxes. Each quarter the passport will include a page dealing with infrastructure.

Together the class will discuss a few world cities as models (Rome, Washington DC, Mexico City, Constantinople). Overheads showing the layouts will be used. The access to universal needs of cities above will be analyzed.

The students (individually or with a partner) are then assigned to create their own original cities and report on them as if they were archeologists. This is a major assignment to include a poster-sized map with layout of city and illustration of surrounding land, latitude & longitude. Students also write a brief "history" of their cities and description and analysis of 3+ artifacts found. Realistic imagination is encouraged!

A. Imaginary city set AD 800- AD 1600.

B. Map (18 x 24 posterboard) illustrating the land and layout for city; including latitude & longitude (checked on real maps to be realistic with climate, landforms, vegetation, etc.)

C. Type-written REPORT on city attached to the back, as if student were an archeologist who had excavated and studied this ancient city.

  1. History of city (its founding, development, wars, plagues, natural disasters, etc.).
  2. Agriculture, trade, cultural facts (such as its religion, arts, architecture).

D. Artifact Form attached, illustrating and analyzing 3 artifacts found in excavated city (form provided)

E. Imaginative, but must be realistic and believable.

Each quarter, each team will be assigned a present-day city of the region studied. Teams will create "brochures" (culture grams) about their cities, to include information on the history, country, government, language, religion, and anything for which that city is famous. These cities will be included in the passport and in the political map tests each quarter and at the end of the year.


III. Passports Project:

Each quarter, students will receive a passport appropriate to the region studied: lst qtr-Middle East, 2nd qtr-Africa, 3rd qtr-Asia, 4th qtr-Europe (a short unit on Latin America too).

Passports to include information on:

  1. medieval history from our text
  2. city information for each team-assigned city (country, language, religions, ethnic groups, famous for) will be included
  3. Infrastructure comparisons of past & present (focus on cities that were once powerful but not now)
  4. Physical geography: maps of landforms/water features
  5. Political geography: maps of countries & major cities
  6. Economic geography: data on products, trade, resources
  7. Current events & issues
  8. Cultural information: religion, language, foods, etc.
  9. Music, art & crafts of region
  10. Key terms related to region

Activities will be provided to support the passport pages. These will include:

  1. Lectures, discussions, & assignments related to text
  2. Team cities brochure (culture gram)/ sharing
  3. Map assignments & map "races"
  4. **"Bluff game" reviewing terminology &/or map info
  5. "Blind" drawing of continents (ie from memory)
  6. Relative Bingo activity
  7. CIA fact sheets & Population Data Sheets activities
  8. TCI slide activities/experiential activities
  9. Crafts related to region studied
  10. Cultural "Feast" with food from region (students pay $2 and I bring food from LA ethnic restaurant)

**Bluff Game: This game involves the whole class as any or all students can stand to show they know the answer (or bluff); those not answering take turns choosing who will answer. Scores vary widely and students really get into it!

  1. Class divided in half and teams take turns with questions.
  2. Question given related to key terms, cities, maps
  3. Students on receiving side stand if they know the answer;
  4. Teacher counts number of students standing and
  5. Student from other side chooses one of those standing to answer the question (might be bluffing!)
  6. Team gets (or loses) point for each student standing
  7. Then other team gets turn to answer question

IV. Journal-writing throughout the World:

Each quarter, students will receive a regional identity to use for journal writing:

  1. Middle East- I have a simulated game for Middle East which lends itself to journal writing.
  2. Africa- students may be Ghana gold traders, Congo slave traders, Kalahari bushmen, East African traders, Sahara nomads, etc. from our study of early African societies. Students will send each other "postcards" from various African cultures.
  3. Asia- students use reader response journals to go along with the novel of medieval Japan, Of Nightingales That Weep. Students will be samurai, diamyo (landowners), courtiers, tenant farmers, Buddhist monks or nuns, etc.
  4. Europe- students adopt the identity of serf, lord, knight, cleric, apprentice, journeyman, guild master, even Viking or Visigoths, etc. for our study of medieval Europe.

V. Tribalism and Extreme Nationalism:

Seventh grade social studies touches on the Balkan region with division of Christian church into Roman Catholic & Orthodox, European crusades in sack of Constantinople, and Ottoman Turk conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul). This sets the stage for the conflicts among Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim ethnic groups of the Balkans.

Europe unit is 4th quarter, so previous information about ethnic groups and conflicts can be reviewed. Arab/Israeli and Turk/Kurd conflicts in Middle East; Hutus/Tutsis in Africa and end of apartheid; Chinese minorities in Indonesia; Armenians/Azerbaijani and Balkan conflicts in Europe.

I hope to include activities using "Zlata's Diary" video, "Romeo & Juliet" video, and current events on LA gangs to highlight the savagery of extreme tribalism and nationalism and the need to view others as fellow human beings, as well as commonalities and the effect of the cultural lenses through which we all view our world.


VI. World Maps:

  1. Lesson on map projections/ terminology
  2. World map pretest (first week of school) to determine "literacy" on major physical features, water features, and countries of the world
  3. Quarterly regional map work, map "races" and test
  4. June Review: (1) students review all the regions (2) volunteer to compete in 1-minute "Map races" (3) world map posttest for all students (4) "regional champions" and "world champions" honored, as well as "most improved"
  5. Certificates and prizes abound on last day of school!

Center for European and Eurasian Studies