We hope this two-page guide will help sharpen your reading skills and
deepen your understanding of this issue's articles.
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 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?
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
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.