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Volume 64, Number 1January/February 2013

In This Issue

Classroom Guide

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.


Jump to If You Only Have 15 Minutes...

Jump to McRel Standards


This Classroom Guide has students looking at both the form and content of articles in Saudi Aramco World. The first theme is Genres, in which students can improve their reading comprehension and writing by analyzing how an author organizes content. The second theme, Hubs, is geography-based. In it, students explore, in a physical way, how being a geographic hub affects the people who live there.

Theme: Reading and Writing Different Genres

Have you ever read something and found it like reading a collection of paragraphs randomly thrown together on a page? Most of us have, and there’s one of two reasons for the confusion. It could be that it’s not good writing—that what you’re reading really is a bunch of random paragraphs thrown together. But it could also be that you’re not recognizing the structure of what you’ve read, and so you’re having trouble putting the pieces together. Good writers put a lot of thought into how they organize their writing. They make lots of decisions about how to say what they want to say so that readers will understand it—because the purpose of writing is to communicate. If readers don’t get it, then the communication process isn’t working!

In the following activities, you’ll read some examples of good writing, and analyze how that writing is constructed. Doing so will help you in two ways. First, you’ll walk through the process of figuring out what kind of structure an author used. That will help you understand more of what you read. And second, you’ll get some ideas about how to organize your own writing so that readers will understand it. Put them together, and you can become a better communicator yourself.

Let’s start with the definition of the word genre so that you know what this theme is about! A genre is a category, or a type, of writing. Genres can be either fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction genres include biography, autobiography and different types of essays. Common fiction genres include fable, science fiction, mystery, fantasy and many others.

Outlining What You Read

Your teachers have probably told you about writing an outline before you start writing. An outline is a way to organize what you’re going to say. But you can use outlines in another way: You can write an outline of something you read. Your teachers would call this a “reverse outline.” That’s because you’re working backward—reading what someone else has written and then writing an outline of it to help you recognize how it’s organized.

Read one of this month’s well-written articles, “Pasta’s Winding Way West.” It covers a lot of ground, and so it’s a good model for identifying organization. To get you started: Early in the article—in the sixth paragraph on page 15—writer Tom Verde asks three questions that he (and we) will need to answer in order to unravel the mystery of where pasta came from. Write each question at the top of a piece of paper. Think of these three questions as the three big organizing categories of the rest of the article. (If you were doing a formal outline, they would be Roman numerals I, II and III.) Spread the three pieces of paper out in front of you. You can be sure that everything you read in the rest of the article will help answer one of the three questions. And you can guess that by the end of the article, Verde will have answered them.

Now read the article again. But this time, instead of reading it straight through, you’re going to look for how different segments of the article answer the three questions. Most likely, Verde organized the article in the same order in which he listed the questions. So start reading, looking for answers to the first question. If you think it would help to work with another student or students—so that you can share insights and talk through any questions that come up for you—do so. If you prefer to work alone, that’s fine, too.

Read one paragraph at a time, and write notes on your page with the first question on it. Stop when you start to read things that relate to the second question. Study the notes under question one. You’ll find that Verde has been presenting evidence to help you answer that question. What evidence has he presented? What conclusion has he reached based on that evidence? At the bottom your first page, write an answer to the question. Then move on to the second and third questions, reading and taking notes in the same way, and answering the question at the bottom of each page.

Identifying the Genre

Your notes on the three questions are summaries of the article’s content. And they provide a window for you to see the genre in which this article has been written. Discuss it with your classmates: What kind of story is this? Here are a few hints. First of all, we know it’s non-fiction. But beyond that, the question-and-answer format offers a big clue to the genre. What type of writing (or movie, for that matter) poses questions and then guides the reader (or viewer) to figure out the answers? Spoiler alert: The answer follows. If you haven’t figured it out yet, stop here, and don’t read any further until you have.

It’s—a mystery.

Changing the Genre

Why do you think Tom Verde decided to write about pasta as a mystery? One way to get at the answer is to think about how else he might have written it. Think about how you’ve learned to write essays. You state your thesis—the main idea that you want to prove. Then you organize supporting evidence and come to a conclusion. Try that with this subject. What is the main point of the article? Write the answer—it will be your thesis—on another sheet of paper. Then make a list of the evidence that supports that thesis. Write a one-sentence summary of each piece of evidence. When you’re done, you’ll have a streamlined summary of the article. Trade your summary with another student (or group) and read each other’s work.

Discuss with the other student or group the different ways of telling the history of pasta’s origins. Which way was more interesting to read? What made it more interesting? To bring this closer to your own experience, think about how you tell a story. Do you tell it in the order in which events happened, revealing the conclusion like the punch line of a joke? Or do you start with the overall point (like a thesis) and then go back and fill in the blanks? Share with the people you’re talking with an example from your experience.

Theme: Hubs

These activities are more about the content of articles than about the form in which they are presented. They are based on “Hebron’s Glass History” and “Malaysia’s New Art Mix.”

Defining and Mapping a Hub

Begin by defining the word hub. List anything that comes to mind when you hear the word. (For example, what is a “hubcap,” really?) Then look up the word and read the definitions. In this activity, you’ll be working with the definition of hub that is related to a place.

“Hebron’s Glass History” describes how that city’s location has contributed to its becoming an important regional hub. Find a map that includes Hebron and the various places with which it has been connected over the years. As a class, you’re going to make a large copy of that map either on the floor of the classroom or on concrete or a paved (non-road) area outside. Use tape or chalk to make your map. Put Hebron in the center, and put the other places where they belong. Have a person stand in each location holding a sign that identifies that location.

Take turns walking along the routes that connected Hebron to the other places. Before each person takes a turn, have someone read aloud where that person comes from and is going, and why. Then walk the paths to get a feel for Hebron’s location as a hub. As a class, talk about the many reasons that people passed through Hebron, and the many effects their passing through had on the city and its people. You might also want to look at a map to locate Kuala Lumpur and discuss how being a hub has affected the people there.

Think about an example of a hub in your area or in your experience—for example, the center of a small town, an airline hub city, a city bus station where all the buses stop and so on. Map your hub, showing and identifying all the routes that converge there. Describe in writing, or create a diagram to show, all the ways that the hub affects people, the culture and the economy. Share your map and description with the class.


Write a reverse outline of “Interpreter of Treasures: A Menagerie.” It samples and comments on stories about animals written over the course of nearly a millennium. How did author Tim Mackintosh-Smith organize such wide-ranging information? One way to figure it out is to look for transitional phrases that let readers know when the writer is moving from one section of the piece to the next. Go through the article and circle the transitional phrases. Here’s an example: “To return to cats…” signals to the reader that the article is shifting from one topic to another. Locating the transitions should help you figure out what kind of structure the author has used. Then, look at the notes in the margins: Why do you think he chose to present additional information this way, instead of in the main part of the story? Once you’ve figured these out, think about other ways Mackintosh-Smith could have organized the article. Share your thinking with another student. Explain your thinking.

If you have time and want to continue...
Imagine you have been asked to bring “A Menagerie” up-to-date with a recent example of human-animal interaction. You can use either something written or something visual, such as a YouTube video. Here are your guidelines: Your example can’t be more than one typewritten page. That’s because it needs to fit in with the format of the article as it’s been written. If you choose a video clip, it can’t be more than two minutes long. Write the text that introduces your example, and the text that explains its significance, using the article as your model. Share your examples with the class.

JF13 Standards Alignment
McRel Standards

The Lost Explorations of Frederic Caillaud

World History

Standard 35.Understands patterns of nationalism, state-building, and social reform in Europe and the Americas from 1830 to 1914

Standard 36.Understands patterns of global change in the era of Western military and economic dominance from 1800 to 1914

Historical Understanding

Standard 2.Understands the historical perspective


Standard 6.Understands that culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions

Standard 10.Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Pasta’s Winding Way West

Historical Understanding

Standard 2.Understands the historical perspective

World History

Standard 9.Understand how major religious and large-scale empires arose in the Mediterranean Basin, China, and India from 500 BCE to 300 CE

Standard 19.Understands the maturation of an interregional system of communication, trade, and cultural exchange during a period of Chinese economic power and Islamic expansion

Standard 20.Understands the redefinition of European society and culture from 1000 to 1300 CE

Standard 25.Understands major global trends from 1000 to 1500 CE


Standard 10.Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 11.Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface

Standard 17.Understands how geography is used to interpret the past

Malaysia’s New Art Mix

Arts: Art Connections

Standard 1.Understands connections among the various art forms and other disciplines

Arts: Visual Arts

Standard 4.Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures


Standard 10.Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 11.Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface

Found in Translation

World History

Standard 18.Understands major global trends from 300 to 1000 CE

Standard 25.Understands major global trends from 1000 to 1500 CE

Historical Understanding

Standard 2.Understands the historical perspective


Standard 10.Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Julie Weiss ([email protected]) 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.