Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Post-Classical Africa

Africa in the Post-Classical period is characterized by its golden age, brought on by the effects of the Bantu migration, the spread of Islam, and the intensification of trade on the Swahili coast. 

The Bantu Migration
The Bantu-speaking peoples of West Africa migrated East and South between 1500 BCE. As they moved, they came into contact with new environments and people, bringing knowledge of animal herding, metal working, and agriculture. The Bantu used technology to alter the landscape and societies.

AP Connection: As people move to new environments, they bring language, technology, and plants and animals, altering the new people and places they contact. 

Other Example: Polynesian Migration

Remind message: I sent a basic image showing the migation routes along with a question. Which way did they go? (or something like that). A better question would be: Which way did they not go?

Ibn Battuta

Since spread of Islam and the expanding view of the world are themes in the Post-Classical, Ibn Battuta is a good choice to learn about how people of different cultures perceived on another.

We focused on a reading selection that describes his visit to the kingdom of Mali and the customs and interactions of the people. This is a powerful source considering the impact of Islam on the development of West African kingdoms and how Islam was similar and different in new places as opposed to its Arabian homeland.

I mentioned the Marco Polo's journeys provided a similar value in terms of what different cultures new about one another.

Mansa Musa DBQ

This DBQ is a mini-Q that has journal activities. Like Ibn Battuta, students are traveling in Africa. The only difference is that they have documents that relate to Mansa Musa's hajj, which didn't iuclude Ibn Battuta.

The purpose of the scenarios related to each document are to help students practice developing context and interpreting the documents. I had students include at least one fact from the document as they wrote the short journal entry (one or two sentences).

We watched this Crash Course and reviewed the slides below before taking a Plickers quiz. The DBQ activity is part of a skill-building cycle that will be assessed at the end of the unit.

Closing the Frontier: Railroads in Canada and the United States

Railroad development was similar and different in Canada and the United States. Reasons for traversing the vast unsettled frontier in both countries were influenced by a combination of political and economic goals, yet the consequences of the developments became highly social by nature.   

GOAL: Discuss the causes and effects of industrial growth and economic modernization in the United States and Canada, including railroad construction.

The End in Mind

What better way to start a unit than to look at the part of the exam that relates to unit. We looked at four years of IB diploma history exams. It sounds like a lot, but it's only two questions each exam. After reviewing a handful of the questions,

I showed the students that the questions are often based on the same themes and content, which is how we came up with the prompt we used for the inquiry activity.

Inquiry Activity

After reviewing the past IB paper 3 exam questions related to industry and railroad, I wrote a question that might be asked on the exam. 

Students broke into groups to write three questions each, which were then placed into the basket. The purpose of this is anonymity, so no names were exchanged.  

Then, each group organized the questions and chose three to submit (as a group) via Google Forms.


The responses were read and discussed. The students did such a great job writing these questions. Most of the main ideas of the two readings they were about to study were related to the questions. We pointed out the analysis versus evidence elements of their questions, and I shared brief descriptions to get them ready to look for the meaningful chunks in their guided reading. 


Students read a short piece on Canada's railroad development and one on the United States. Since they had access to the question responses via link on Google Classroom, I encouraged my students to review them as needed while they made notes about the main ideas of each reading. 


A short quiz with Plickers was all they needed to make sure they were focusing on the right stuff. The score from these five questions was formative, so it did not factor into a summary grade for report cards. Students are encouraged to make notes about the areas they missed so they can reflect on why they missed the question and ask for help as needed.

Additional assessments might include writing a thesis statement response to the original question / prompt, followed by an outline of the evidence and analysis used to support the argument. 

What's Next?

The next lesson will look at three entrepreneurs: Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Carnegie. This lesson will inherently include reflection and connection with industry and railroads, as well as monopoly issues and expanding markets.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reconstruction: Visible Consciousness

It always seems like I gloss over Reconstruction, hitting the main points and never doing much more than a vocabulary lesson. This year, it was time to dig deeper.

Evaluate the success or failure of the Reconstruction plans.  

The first task was to read about the three plans and make notes. Students were numbered one or two to determine who was going to use the book and who would use their own device. Even though we have Chromebooks for everyone, it's important to vary the tools students use to complete tasks. I want them to be comfortable with a variety of resources.

DBQ Practice 
A short set of four documents and a background essay were analyzed to practice analyzing for point of view and grouping / labeling documents. The group labels were then used to formulate thesis statements that were written on index cards and tacked to the wall. We could have used digital technology for the thesis statements, but I wanted to change it up. Plus, paper is visible and becomes a symbolic of the work we are doing.  

Study Vocabulary

Stream of consciousness Activity

Writing is only going to get better if you do it. One of my favorite ways to teach writing is through stream of consciousness. It's messy. It's riddled with mistakes. It has many learning opportunities.

Students were able to spend 5 minutes (timed) reviewing their research on the Reconstruction plans and the Quizlet deck. Then, they had to write for 12 minutes (with the timer visible) without stopping. I told them that the goal was to write every word that comes to mind in as close to an essay format as possible.

When they finished writing, we talked about what it was like to write everything on their mind. We ask questions about how this time was different than others (if this is not the first time doing it).

Then, the students underlined all of the descriptions relevant to the lesson goal, circled all of the analysis points, and starred the specific examples. The purpose of this part was to practice identifying the difference between descriptions and recalling facts and actually analyzing the evidence and formulating a substantive argument.    

Reconstruction Slide Discussion

The closing discussion started with a look at a few of the thesis statements the students wrote after the DBQ activity.

This thesis focuses on the negative effects of Reconstruction. It uses white supremacy as a theme to categorize the documents.  

This thesis focuses on the positive effects of Reconstruction. It highlights the step forward our country makes as black males were allowed to hold office. 

This thesis is conflicted. Although it talks about both the positive and negative effects, it does not choose a side. Avoid using the word "but." Arguments are stronger when they take a stand on one side of the issue or the other. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Islam: Development, Spread, and Achievements

3.1.III. Cross-cultural exchanges were fostered by the intensification of existing, or the creation of new, networks of trade and communication.

The expansion of the Arab Empire in the years following Muhammad's death led to the creation of caliphates. These early caliphates, coupled with Muslim economics and trading and the later expansion of the Ottoman Empire, resulted in Islam's spread outwards from Mecca towards both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the creation of the Muslim world. Trading played an important role in the spread of Islam in several parts of the world, notablysoutheast Asia.

Muslim dynasties were soon established and subsequent empires such as those of the Abbasids,Fatimids, Almoravids, Seljukids, Ajuuraan, Adal and Warsangali in Somalia, Mughals in India andSafavids in Persia and Ottomans were among the largest and most powerful in the world. The people of the Islamic world created numerous sophisticated centers of culture and science with far-reaching mercantile networks, travelers, scientists, hunters, mathematicians, doctors andphilosophers, all contributing to the Golden Age of Islam


3.1.III.A Islam, based on the revelations of the prophet Muhammad, developed in the Arabian peninsula. The beliefs and practices of Islam reflected interactions among Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians with the local Arabian peoples. Muslim rule expanded to many parts of Afro-Eurasia due to military expansion, and Islam subsequently expanded through the activities of merchants and missionaries.

3.1.III.A How did Islam develop and expand?

3.1.III.D How did Islam spread to Africa?

DBQ: Mansa Musa

3.2.I.B. In some places, new forms of governance emerged, including those developed in various Islamic states (Abbasid Caliphate)

The spread of Islam DBQ was an excercise in sorting documents (into "buckets") and using the labels for each grouping to write a thesis statement. 

3.1.III.E. Increased cross-cultural interactions also resulted in the diffusion of scientific and technological traditions. The influence of Greek and Indian mathematics on Muslim scholars

DBQ: Muslim Contributions

Byzantine Empire: Justinian's Code, Constantinople, and Russia

The Byzantine Empire continued many of the traditions of the Roman Empire. After the Roman EMpire was split into the Latin East and the Greek West, it lasted from 330 to 1204, almost a thousand years. At it's height (if you're counting territory), it controlled the southern coast of the Black Sea, southern coast of the Mediterranean, Italy, and southern coast of Spain under Justinian in 555. He preserved and updated Roman Law, which is the basis for modern constitutional law.

3.1.I.E. The expansion of empires facilitated Trans-Eurasian trade and communication as new peoples were drawn into their conquerors’ economies and trade networks.

3.1.I.E What effects did expansion of empires have on Trans-Eurasian trade and communication?

We did a rule-based summary of the reading on Constantinople. This activity was good for skill building, background on the Byzantine Empire, and a focus on trade cities, which is one of the AP standards. 

Site: Byzantine and Trade
Summarize: Constantinople

Reading: Influences on the Development of Russia Notes: Chart (copy not for students)

The influences on Russia cannot be overlooked. The interaction between the Kiev Rus and Constantinople are a strong example as to how civilizations developed in the Post-Classical Era.

The Byzantine DBQ was a quick analysis that focused on POV. Students had to label each document as either positive or negative before coming up with a potential source that would provide a contrary POV. This was only an analysis exercise for discussion and preparation for the Islam DBQ.

DBQ: Justinian’s Byzantine Empire

We also study Byzantine and China in 3.2 (see below).


How did the Byzantine Empire and China incorporate traditional sources of power and new sources to reconstitute the empires?

"Roman Empire 460 AD" by Tataryn77 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -