For students: We hope this 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.
— THE EDITORS
This issue’s Classroom Guide focuses on understanding history. You will use the articles to make timelines, and then you will use the data from the timelines to do the kind of analysis that historians do.
Theme: Understanding History
What is chronology? Why does it matter?
History is the study of the past. Time is one convenient unit of measure we use when we study history. One of the first things a historian does is figure out the order in which events happened. This is called chronology. Why is chronology important? Working with a partner, think about something that happened recently where the order of events was important. For a simple example, did you eat the candy before or after your parent told you not to? Did the water boil before or after you put the tea bag in it? More complex sequences include events such as driving a car from one place to another. What needs to happen in order to start the car? Does the driver’s foot need to be on the brake before the ignition key will turn, or can s/he put it there after? Think about the directions to get to your destination. Which happens first, driving half a mile or turning right? Why is the sequence of all these actions important?
With your partner, choose a situation such as driving a car from a specific starting point to a specific destination. List all the steps involved and put them in the order in which the events took place or need to take place. Create a graphic organizer that shows the steps in order. Share your graphic organizer with the class. Discuss: In your scenarios, why was it important to know the sequence of events? In history, why is it important to know the sequence of events? Find examples from a textbook or from your knowledge of history that show why knowing the order of events is important to understanding the past.
In what order did events happen?
“Shyrdak and the Art of Felt” is about women in Kyrgyzstan who make felt rugs that, in the Kyrgyz language, are called shyrdak. It is also an excellent example of an author telling readers about a very long history. Read the article. As you read, highlight or underline the parts of the article that tell the history of felt-making, starting with the domestication of sheep in 8000 BC and continuing to the present. Then as a class, use the article—and your markings on it—to make a timeline on pieces of chart paper hung on the wall of the classroom or on a blackboard or whiteboard that is big enough to show the 10,000 years you will be looking at. Have different students come up to the
timeline and add significant events. These include (but are not limited to) humans harvesting wool from domesticated animals (4000 BC); humans inventing felt (3000 BC); and Genghis Khan conquering Mongolia (1200’s). You will have long periods of time that the article does not address. Add any events that you think might have affected felt-making, such as the Industrial Revolution. Explain why you think such events belong on the timeline.
What things change over time and what things remain the same?
The timeline shows you the sequence of events that are related to felt-making. One way historians use that information is to look at what things change over time and what things remain unchanged. Studying continuity and change over time is one of the most significant things historians do. Just as your class discussed why chronology is important, discuss why it is important to know what changes and what stays the same. Use examples from your own experience, from news stories, from the articles in Saudi Aramco World and/or from your knowledge of history.
Now look again at your timeline and at “Shyrdak and the Art of Felt.” The article describes some things—such as governments—that have changed many times over the years. It describes other things—such as the process of making felt—that have stayed the same for a very long time. As a class, decide how you want to show change and continuity on your timeline. Then have individual students come up and add that information.
Look at your finished timeline. You have created it by extracting information from “Shyrdak and the Art of Felt.” You have created a visual summary of parts of the article. Now use the timeline to write a one-paragraph summary of the article, using this prompt as a starting point: “The art of felt-making in Kyrgyzstan is much the same as it was thousands of years ago, despite the many changes that have taken place in the region.” When you’re done, compare your paragraph with other students’ paragraphs. If they differ significantly, go back to the article and check to see whether your understanding of the article is accurate. Revise your paragraph if you need to.
“From Moravia to Arabia” is another example of history. Read the article. As you read, highlight the parts that describe Alois Musil’s accomplishments. Then make a
timeline similar to the one you made from “Shyrdak and the Art of Felt.” (Of course, your timeline will cover a much shorter period of time than the last one.) Use the data from this timeline differently from the way you used data from the last one. Instead of looking for continuity and change over time, look at Alois Musil’s accomplishments on the timeline. Working from the article and your timeline, write a resume for Alois Musil. You can find a model for resumes on the Internet, and many word-processing programs have resume templates. Be sure that the resume has a statement at the top that summarizes Musil’s most important qualities and/or achievements. (Hint: Write the statement after you have completed the rest of the resume.) Obviously a resume is different from a magazine article. Does the resume
format highlight anything about Musil more clearly than the article? If so, how does it do that? In what circumstances would one format be better to use than the other? Why?
Appreciating Magazine Layout
Many people collaborate to put together the pages of a magazine like Saudi Aramco World. Writers write articles, photographers take pictures, designers lay out pages and editors make decisions about text, illustrations and layout. Numerous photos accompany the text of “A Trail of Promise.” For this exercise, you will look at photos in two ways. First you will study specific photos closely to enhance your appreciation of visual images. Then you will look at which photos appear on which pages, and the photos they share those pages with. You will think about how photos work together in a layout, and how designers and editors decide on their choices.
Let’s start with the photos on page 33, the first page of the article. Describe to a partner what you see in the top photo. Here are some questions to guide your description: Start with the subject matter. According to the caption, where was the photo taken? Find and mark the location on the map on page 37. Then look at the composition of the photo—how it’s “put together” visually. Does the photo show a large space or is it a close-up? What is in the foreground? What is in the background? What objects do you see? Where in the picture are they? Where are the people in the photo? What are they doing? What colors do you see? Where is the light focused? Where do you see shadows? How do the light and shadow affect you as you look at the photo? What feelings do you have when you see the photo? Now look at the bottom photo on the page. Switch roles. Have the person who listened to the first description take a turn describing this photo. You can use the same questions to guide your description.
Think about why the magazine’s editors have chosen to put these two photos on the first page of this article. How is the subject matter related to their placement at the start of the article? In terms of composition, what do the photos have in common? How are they different? Make a Venn diagram that shows similarities and differences. Discuss with your partner the effect of having these two pictures on the first page. Based on the two photos—their subject matter, composition and placement—what do you expect you will read about in the article? What perspective do you think the writer (who is also the photographer) will take? Why do you think these two photos—which are very different in some important ways—appear on the same page? Look at the photo on the bottom half of page 34. Do you think it would look good on the first page of the article? Why or why not? If it replaced the bottom photo, what effect would that have? What would be lost?
After page 33, the next two pages of the article appear side-by-side for a reader, who is likely to see the two-page spread as one unit. So in addition to studying the photos on each page, you will want to see how the whole spread works together. Look at the photos on page 34. Where were they taken? Find and mark the places on the map. How are the photos on the page alike? What is the focal point of each photo? Why do you think these two photos appear on the same page together? If you were to put different photos on this page, which ones would you choose? Why? If you leave the photos as they are, why would you do that?
Now look at the photos on page 35. Find and mark on the map the places where they were taken. Then look at the composition of the photos. How are they alike? How are they different? How are they similar to and different from the photos on the left page of the same two-page spread? What effect do the photos on the two pages together have for you as a reader? What questions do they answer about the subject of the article? With your partner, make a list of those questions. See how many you can write down. (Hint: Start simply, with “the five W’s”—who, what, when, where, why—and then more questions are likely to come to you.) Then, think about substituting these photos for others that appear with the article. How would using different photos, or different combinations of photos, change the appearance of the spread and the feelings it inspires?
|Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Eliot, Maine. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons, develops social studies, media literacy, and English as a Second Language curricula,and produces textbook materials.