By Julie Weiss
For students: We hope this two-page guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles.
For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from Saudi Aramco World, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classroom or through home study.
Analyzing Visual Images
We spend a lot of our time looking at visual images—on television and computer screens, in newspapers and magazines, in art galleries and on billboards. Most of us enjoy them without thinking too much about them. It’s a good idea, though, to be able to look at visual images with a critical eye—to know what draws you in, how it does so, and what you get from it.
“A City Adorned” presents beautiful photographs of Cairo’s mosques. Among the photos are three in which doorways are prominent (pages 24, 25 and 28). Different visual approaches to three different doorways provide information about the buildings where the doorways are, as well as a way to think about how photographers create different effects from similar subjects.
All of the photographs include people. What do you learn about the doorways and the buildings because the people are present? What kind of “feel” does the people’s presence give the photos? What would happen if the people were not there?
Photographers capture images that include light and shadow. The light and shadow exist at the time the photographer is shooting, but s/he can use them or emphasize them to create certain effects. For example, about one third of the photo on page 25 is in shadow. Why didn’t the photographer simply crop (cut) the photo so that it included only the lighter parts? In addition, the lower right-hand corner includes an angular shadow. What effects do the shadows create? Think about it by looking at the part of the photo that’s in sunlight. Why did the photographer choose to take a photo with that part of the doorway in bright light?
Now look at light and shadow in the other two photos. If you squint your eyes, you will see that the lines between light and shadow create distinct shapes in each picture. What are they? Look closely at the shadows in the photo on page 28. What do you think is making them? Describe how they support the photograph.
The activities in this section are designed to engage students with the material in Saudi Aramco World while encouraging them to connect it to the larger themes they explore in their other studies. This month’s activities revolve around two basic concepts: Storytelling and Boundaries.
Stories are everywhere. You come across them every day—read them in the newspaper or a magazine, or watch them in a movie or tv show. These activities focus on a story in this edition of Saudi Aramco World about a particularly interesting mystery—the search for Troy. In the activities that follow, you’ll have a chance to think about what makes a good story, and to put one together yourself.
What makes a good story?
In this activity, you will be a scriptwriter for a movie. Start by reading “In Search of the Real Troy.” Make a list of as many events—things that happened—as you can. Then think about the order, or sequence, in which the author revealed information and described events. How did the author choose to organize the stories? What came first? Write an outline of the story as it’s been written. Keep the outline in mind as you proceed.
Read the questions in bold type that follow. They are key questions that writers ask. List them on a separate sheet of paper. Think about one of your favorite movies. Ask the same questions about that movie. (Or watch one, by yourself or as a class, so you can see how they apply.)
What story do you want to tell?
There are lots of ways to tell a story. For example, you could tell the story of the excavation of Troy by focusing on the life and work of Heinrich Schliemann, or the current excavations of Manfred Korfmann. Or you could present a chronology of all the archeologists’ efforts for the past 150 years.
Who is/are the main character/s?
Describe your main character or characters. What are they like? Write a paragraph profile. Include what you know about the person’s background, what he or she looked like, what type of temperament s/he had, what others thought of him/her. Think of this description as similar to the sketch a painter might make before actually putting brush to canvas.
What are the characters’ wishes?
What motivates your character or characters? Any lead character in a story must have a goal. What is it? Why is achieving that goal important to him/her/them? In other words, why would someone be willing to go to great lengths to achieve the goal? What do they want?
Where does your story take place?
Where is the action in your story? At what time in history does it happen? What’s the place like? Why is the story set in this particular place? Are the characters created, in any sense, by the place and time they live in? What exists in the place that affects the characters—making something possible or perhaps making something difficult or impossible?
What obstacles do your characters face?
A good story involves motivated characters facing obstacles that could prevent them from achieving their goal. For a movie plot to move forward, characters must face repeated roadblocks. What obstacles do your characters face? Are they physical, financial, legal and/or personal? Some of these obstacles may be stated in the articles, and others may be implied. Think carefully.
How will you tell the story?
Now that you’ve got what looks like all the pieces, outline your movie. Choose a beginning and an end point. Write a description of the plot. You don’t need to go into great detail, but a reader should be able to get the general idea of what your movie will be about and what will make it fascinating.
What visual images will accompany your story?
A storyboard is a series of drawings that show what a scene will look like. Storyboards for movies, as you might imagine, are quite long. But get a sense of how a storyboard works by making a storyboard for one scene you would like to see in your movie. Under each picture, write a short statement that summarizes that segment of your film. Remember these are rough sketches so very simple drawings are fine.
Boundaries separate one place from another. It may be easiest to think about how borders separate one country from another. But national boundaries are only one type among many. In the following activities, you can explore different types of boundaries and different ways of thinking about them.
What boundaries exist in nature? Long before people created boundaries, they had to deal with natural barriers. Read “The Eagle Hunters.” Although the Kazakh people now live in several countries, they remain quite isolated in wild parts of those countries. What physical and climatic barriers separate the Kazakhs from others? How Rebecca Schultz and Philipp Engelhorn managed to cross those barriers makes up a large part of their story. How were they able to traverse nature’s obstacles?
What other physical barriers exist? Think about where you live: Does a steep hill define the edge of your neighborhood? Does a stream separate one side of town from another? Make a map of your neighborhood or town that includes the physical boundaries you’ve identified. Now add human-made boundaries to your map. Put in the following features: the town line, the boundary of your school district, one-way streets, stop signs and traffic lights, highways, railroad crossings and the like. Compare the physical and the human-made boundaries. How do they overlap? In other words, see if, in your town, people have drawn boundaries that emphasize natural boundaries.
Pull the camera back for a bigger picture. On a national map, highlight the physical features that define boundaries in your state or province. For example, the Mississippi River creates a border between Illinois and Missouri. On a world map, highlight the geographic features that create boundaries between nations. The Pyrenees Mountains, for example, create a border between Spain and France. Then mark natural boundaries between continents. Again, do you see overlap between geographic boundaries and human-made boundaries? Write one or two sentences that describe any relationship you see between the two.
Climate creates barriers, too, as “The Eagle Hunters” describes so vividly. Get a world climate map from an encyclopedia or geography book. Make a transparency with climate zones and overlay it onto your world map. As you did with physical boundaries, look for connections between climatic and human-made boundaries. As a class, discuss the relationships between natural and human-made boundaries. What generalizations can you make?
How else do people make use of natural boundaries?
People have long used natural boundaries for their own ends. Choose one of the following examples to research: Siberia, Elba, or Alcatraz. What physical features define the place you’re studying? Find out, if you can, when the decision was made to use these physically bounded locations as prisons. Who decided? What led to the decision? Share your findings with the class. On your own, write a one-page history explaining how and when people decided to make prisons out of physically isolated places.
Why do people create boundaries between countries?
While many Kazakhs live in the same area they have lived in for millennia, they now find themselves in several different countries. “The Eagle Hunters” begins by explaining how the Kazakh population is distributed among them. What political factors does the article identify as causes of the Kazakh dispersion across national boundaries? Do some historical research to find out how the boundaries in that part of Asia have changed over the past 100 years. How have the changing boundaries affected other ethnic groups living in the area? Compare these experiences with any similar experiences that you or your family may have had recently or a few generations ago.
How and why do people override natural boundaries? Is doing so always for the best?
Many Kazakhs have long been isolated from national governments, but “The Eagle Hunters” reports that increasingly people are able to overcome the Kazakhs’ natural isolation. Roads now pierce the boundaries that once isolated them. Rebecca Schultz writes, “Along the newly completed summer tourist roads, we arrived at many a hunter’s door only to find authorities from the Bureau of Forest Resources had recently done the same, demanding to watch the eagle set free.” With the roads has come government authority. Is the presence of government conservationists positive or negative? As a class, debate the issue.
||Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Lowell, Massachusetts. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies and develops curricula and assessments in social studies, media literacy and English as a Second Language.