Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Social Studies Classes - In the unit coming up, we learn about the Middle Ages in Europe, the Great Kingdoms of West Africa and how all of it evolved.  For this unit, I will give the curricular information to the kids at the beginning of the unit; I've read about other teachers doing this.  We will then talk about how the kiddos would like to learn about these things.  I expect we will have as many different ways of learning as we have kids in the class.  The kiddos will have access to all of my materials and, while we will conduct several class-wide lessons involving some of the most pertinent information, they will be able to delve more deeply into areas that interest them.  Indeed, we will probably have each student studying in-depth a different aspect of the Middle Ages.

In order to organize things better, we will use some of our online tools (probably a mix of Google Forms and Google Docs, etc.) so that kids can give structure to their learning and chart their progress.  It is going to be on me to be highly organized so that I can properly see the progress that each kiddo is making.

The curriculum topics are pretty straightforward and I reworked them a bit to be more student-friendly:

7th Grade Social Studies Curriculum of the Middle Ages

Topics to Cover - Europe:

The Rise of Kingdoms, Feudalism, and the Crusades all contributed to the development of Europe in the Middle Ages.
• The collapse of Rome led to rise of feudalism
• There is a feudal social order that includes a monarch, lords, knights, and serfs
• The Magna Carta was a significant document because it limited the power of the King (King John) and all future kings and governments
• no taxation without representation
• speedy trial
• Crusades re-opened communication and trade between East and West

What you should be able to do:
Analyze the social and political development of Europe in the Middle Ages.

Topics to cover - West Africa:

The West African Empires of Songhai, Ghana, and Mali had strong central authority and a strong economy, so were wealthy.
• Songhai, Ghana, Mali got wealthy because controlled trade routes and taxed for use.
• Trade routes for gold and salt supplies went through Songhai, Ghana, Mali.
• Rules were based on controlling trade.
• Oral tradition was an important part of passing along history.
• Islam became the primary religion of the West African empires.
• Mansa Musa, emperor of Mali, contributed to the spread of Islam, after making a pilgrimage.
• Muslim traders brought their religion with them, spreading Islam along the trade routes.
• Because Islam was a “world religion” its introduction in west Africa caused it to be more
respected, bringing more trade, education and scholars to the area.
• The Koran is the holy book of the Muslims.
• East Africa (Ethiopia) was also a trade center, but was predominantly Christian.

What you should be able to do:
Analyze the rise of the African Empires during the Middle Ages

While the curriculum topic list looks content-heavy, I want the kids to be able to look at this historical time period through the lens of how it applies to things going on in the world today.  It is important for them not only to be able to relate current happenings to things that happened in the Middle Ages, but also to be moved to do something about the causes they learn about and feel passionate about.

This is all a work in progress and I'm eager to see how it works out, not only to see how much the kids learn but also to see how much the kids take charge of their learning. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

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