en zh es ja ko pt

In This Issue

Classroom Guide

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.



This issue of Saudi Aramco World contains articles that in one way or another are about the past. The activities in the Classroom Guide approach studying the past in a couple of different ways. In the first theme, "On the Road," students compare past and present to explore continuity and change over time. In the second theme, they consider how people examine evidence, then draw conclusions and make inferences based on it.

Theme: On the Road

If you've traveled for any distance, you're probably at least a little bit familiar with some of what makes it possible: highways, airports, hotels, restaurants and so on. Have you ever wondered how travelers got to places before there were trains, planes and automobiles? Where did they stay before there was a Motel 6 or a Comfort Inn? Where did they eat? It can be hard to imagine what things were like before people did things the way we do them today. But they had their ways�over centuries and centuries. In these activities, you'll learn about services for travelers who lived hundreds of years ago. By the time you're done, you should be able to imagine what it was like to travel along the Silk Roads. Then you'll see what's changed�and what's remained the same.

Your Own Travel Experience

Think about a trip you've taken. Maybe your family got on a plane and flew to a big city where you visited family or maybe some museums. Or maybe you drove to a national park. Or took the train to visit your grandparents. Or rode the subway to the beach. Decide on a trip, and write answers to these questions about it: Where did you go? Whom did you go with? What was the purpose of the trip? What kind of transportation did you use? What did you do while you were there? Where did you eat and sleep?

Write a paragraph describing some aspect of the trip. For example, you could write about the eight-hour ride with your family, stuffed into the car with the dog panting on your lap. Maybe what you remember most was being hungry and having to wait for what felt like forever until lunch. Have volunteers share their paragraphs with the class.

Now step back from the specifics. As a class, think about the things that made the trip possible. Make a class list. Use the questions above as your guide. For example, transportation will be one of things. Use them as categories. When you've got the list, leave it where everyone can see it so you can use it to guide you in your reading.


Travel in the Past: Reviewing the Reading

Read "Spine of the Silk Roads," on pages 16 to 23. When you're finished, discuss with a small group the following questions, just to be sure you understand what you've read. What were caravanserais? What were khans? What were funduqs? What did they look like? What amenities could visitors find there? What were some different reasons that people traveled? Who benefited from the elaborate systems of funduqs and caravanserais? When did people stop using caravanserais? Why?

Comparing Travel Then and Now

Working with a partner, compare travel accommodations on the Silk Road with travel accommodations you might find today. Make a T-chart. Title the left-hand column "Travel Then" and the right-hand column "Travel Now." Go through the article to fill in the left-hand column with descriptions of what caravanserais, khans and funduqs looked like; who stayed there; what was expected of travelers when they stayed there; and what amenities travelers could expect. In the right-hand column, identify elements of modern travel that correspond to each of the items in your first list. For example, in the left-hand column, you may have written, "travelers who stayed in a caravanserai had to provide their name, hometown and what they had with them, including livestock." In the right-hand column, you might write, "travelers who stay in motels have to register, including providing their address, credit card information, and license plate number." Have pairs get together to compare their charts. Add to your chart if you get new ideas from the pair you've met with.

Advertising Travel Accommodations

No doubt you've seen or heard advertisements for travel accommodations. If you've traveled on a highway, you've probably seen billboards; if you listen to the radio, you may have heard jingles; and if you watch TV, you've likely seen ads. Web sites also function like ads. Visit the Web site for a motel or hotel chain. Notice what the site emphasizes. Working with a small group, take the role of someone developing an ad campaign for a caravanserai. Here are some things to consider:

  • In which media will you advertise? (Billboards, radio, TV, newspapers/magazines, Web site? All of them? Some?)
  • To whom will you be marketing your accommodations?
  • What need(s) does your accommodation meet?
  • What will you emphasize in your ad campaign
  • How will you distinguish yourself from other caravanserais, funduqs and khans?

With your group, put together an ad campaign for your caravanserai. Choose at least two media in which to advertise, and be able to explain why you chose those media (that is, why they are appropriate for your target audience). Put together a presentation of your ad campaign, as though you are pitching it to executives who run the caravanserai you are advertising. Remember that you need to be persuasive on two levels: First, you must persuade your listeners that the ad campaign will effectively increase their business; second, your ads must persuade potential travelers to visit your caravanserai.

Evaluating What You've Learned

Effective learners can explain what they've learned. As a class, discuss what you have learned from this activity. Here are a few questions to guide your self-evaluation: What have you learned about continuity and change over time? What have you learned about the role that advertising plays in the economy? What have you learned about how to be persuasive?

Theme: Assumptions, Evidence, Conclusions and Inferences

Another way to learn about the past is to study objects that people have left behind. What can you learn from just one object? How can one object help us understand the past? "Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an" shows us that we can learn a lot. Read the article, on pages 2 to 7, in which writer Sebastian Prange carefully examines Jefferson's copy of the Qur'an and shows how to use evidence to figure out a piece of the past


Research always begins with assumptions. Sometimes the assumptions are as simple as assuming that something is important and worthy of attention. "Spine of the Silk Roads," for example, reports that only a few people have assumed that caravanserais are worth preserving and studying. "Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an" assumes that this one particular copy of the holy book is worthy of attention�that it can reveal something worth our knowing.

In the case of Jefferson's Qur'an, Sebastian Prange identifies another assumption�but it's one that he sets out to disprove. Find that assumption in the article, and underline it or highlight it. Discuss with a partner why Prange might believe it is important to disprove this assumption. As you proceed with the rest of these activities, remember what Prange is trying to accomplish. Keep asking yourself, "How does this evidence help or hurt Prange's effort?"



In the article, Prange goes through, step by step, the process of posing questions, identifying evidence and determining what that evidence shows. Fill in the chart below to help you see clearly what he has done.

Notice that all the questions in the table can be answered based on the evidence. It's possible, with the right documents, to know when Jefferson bought his Qur'an and where he catalogued it in his collection. Historians love it when this happens: evidence answers specific factual questions.


Now that you've got the information and you understand what it reveals, move on, as Prange did, to the more difficult question: What can you infer about how the Qur'an influenced Jefferson? Begin by looking up the word "infer." You will notice that there are several definitions. One suggests that inferences are conclusions based on evidence, but another suggests that inferences can also be guesses. For the purposes of this activity, let's make this assumption: inferences are tentative conclusions we can draw based on evidence, but proving these inferences would require more evidence. Prange himself is cautious when he suggests that making inferences from the data he has gathered is tricky. Find the part of the article where he states what he is hoping to infer from the work he has done. Highlight it.

What does Prange hypothesize about Jefferson's Qur'an? Highlight the places in the article where he makes these hypotheses. Notice that he frames his ideas with conditional words like "may." What evidence does Prange offer to support his hypothesis? Do you find it persuasive? Why or why not?

Now take a step off the solid ground of evidence and conclusion and make some inferences of your own. What evidence do you imagine you would need in order to be convinced that that the Qur'an influenced Jefferson's ideas about religious freedom? With your partner, write down one or more examples. Then ask the opposite question: What evidence would you need to prove to you that the Qur'an did not influence Jefferson's ideas about religious freedom?

Finally, create a new piece of evidence: a fictional document that would�if it were real�either prove or disprove Prange's hypothesis about how the Qur'an influenced Jefferson. To get ideas about what kind of document you might create, look at the kinds of evidence Prange has used to make his case. (You can also look at the kinds of evidence presented in another article, "In the Shade of the Royal Umbrella," on pages 8 to 15, for examples.) Create your document and pre-sent it to the class, explaining how it proves or disproves Prange's inferences about how the Qur'an influenced Thomas Jefferson.

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.