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Volume 64, Number 2March/April 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 is divided into two sets of activities. The first set, based on "Bijapur: Gem of the Deccan," has students exploring what constitutes evidence that can be used to tell a story about a place and the people who lived there. The second set, based on "The Rålamb Mission," has students practicing the kinds of reading comprehension skills identified in the Common Core Standards. And if you're in a hurry, there's a 15-minute activity about metaphors, based on "The Celestial Stone."

Theme: Evidence

When you read history textbooks, you're reading stories that someone has written about the past. But what do the writers use to figure out what the story will be? They gather things to use as evidence. Evidence can take many forms, as you'll see when you read "Bijapur."

Location as Evidence

Start thinking about Bijapur by studying the map on page 5. Search for it on-line, too. With a small group, talk about what you notice about where Bijapur is located. Then do a little more research to find out more about Bijapur's location: For example, what are the physical characteristics of the place, such as the landforms and climate? What about the people who have lived there at different times? See if you can find a historical map that shows Bijapur and its surroundings during the time period that the article considers—the late 1400's to mid-1600's. Based on what you've found, what would you predict about Bijapur and its people? In other words, think about Bijapur's location as a piece of evidence that may reveal something to you about the place and the people who lived there in the past.

Then read the first two pages of Louis Werner's article. What does Werner say about Bijapur's location? What does he suggest that the location tells you about the city, its people and its past? Write one or two sentences about what you might be able to learn about Bijapur from its location. (Hint: Bijapur exists at a boundary.) What is on either side of the boundary? Think about places you know about that are on boundaries. How is a city, for example, affected when it is located on a boundary? If you need a prompt, look at an example from the United States: El Paso, Texas.

Time Period as Context

Just as there are physical boundaries, you can think about drawing boundaries around time periods, too. Like physical boundaries, these kinds of boundaries mark the edges of an era—a chunk of time that for some reason you will look at as one piece. In this article, on what time period does Werner focus? Why does it start and end when it does? For the purposes of thinking about evidence, why is it important to know the historical boundaries within which you will gather evidence?

Visual Art and Music as Evidence

Now that you're situated in time and space, let's get back to evidence. Continue reading the article. Underline the main points that Werner makes about music and art during the reigns of Ali i and Ibrahim ii. Reread what you've underlined, and answer these questions with your group: What does Werner use the music and art as evidence of? How do the music and art support the major point that he is making about Bijapur?

Buildings and Monuments as Evidence

Now turn your attention to Bijapur's buildings and monuments. The article addresses four aspects of the buildings and monuments that provide evidence about Bijapur's past:

  1. the material that the buildings and monuments are made of,
  2. the decorative touches,
  3. the design of the buildings and their settings, and
  4. the location of the buildings and monuments relative to other parts of the city.

Using these four topics as a guide, read about the buildings and monuments. As you did with art, underline the main points about them. (You might want to use a different color.) If it's helpful to clarify your understanding, make four headings—one for each of the four aspects—and list examples under each heading.

Once again, the historical context is an important part of understanding the buildings and monuments. What does the article say about when different structures were built? What stories does it recount about the reasons for building them? Why is it useful to know this information?

In Conclusion...

One way to put together what you have learned is to reflect on it before you move on to something else. Write a paragraph that summarizes what you have learned about context and evidence in these activities. Then pause and think about how this learning can apply to your own life. Try looking at a building or monument in your town or city, for example, as a piece of evidence. What does it tell you about your community? About its past? About its people and what they value? Or you might use a work or art or music and answer the same questions. Write your analysis (it can be as brief as a paragraph) and present it to the class. See if other students have analyzed objects and/or artwork and come to similar conclusions about where you live. As a class, discuss this question: If we were to write a magazine article about our town or city, what would we say about it, and what evidence would we use to support our conclusion?

Theme: Reading for Understanding

When you read the first paragraph of "The Rålamb Mission," you can see that it promises to be intriguing—and complicated. Reading complicated texts can be rewarding—if you read mysteries, you know that complication is all part of what makes it interesting. It can also be, well, confusing. How can you keep track of all that interesting stuff? That's what you'll be doing in these activities—trying out different ways to keep track of an article that's well worth the trouble!

Start by reading the whole article once. Use whatever reading strategies you usually use to help you keep track of what you're reading. For example, if you usually underline important parts, do that. If you usually take notes, do that. If you don't usually do anything, do nothing. When you're done, turn to the person sitting next to you, and have each person take a turn telling the other what you remember from the article.

How did it go?

Right. Now let's see how you can add to that.

Getting Oriented: Time and Space

As you did with the article about Bijapur, start by figuring out when and where the article takes place. Make a timeline. Start when the first action in the article took place and end when the story ends. Then go through the article and fill in the various happenings that the article describes. This will help you have a sense of the order in which things happened, which is essential if you're going to understand the intrigue. Then, when you've got the timing down, use the map on page 21 to get situated in space. Plot on the map as many of the activities on your timeline as you can.

Getting Oriented: Who's Who

Another aspect of understanding the story fully is to know who the players are. In this case, the players are both individuals and countries. Go through the article and highlight or list the significant cast members in this real-life drama. Now, how are you going to keep straight who's allied with whom, who seeks alliances with whom, and who's fighting—or going to fight— whom? Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Some people keep it straight by making a graphic organizer. They create a visual image that represents how the players are connected to each other. Try doing that, working with a partner, if you want. After you've created the visual, talk with your partner or write down the reasons why the different players were aligned the way they were.
  • Other people learn by doing. Try that, too. For that, you'll need a larger group, where a person (or people) represent each of the key players. Arrange them in the room in a way that shows the connections among them. You might want to put tape on the floor to mark territories, and have people use string or yarn to show the connections among them.
  • How else might someone organize their thinking to follow this story? If you've got another idea, try it out with the class.

Drawing Conclusions

Finally, think about how the story concludes: Author Jonathan Stubbs suggests that although Claes Rålamb's mission looks, on the surface, like a failure, some evidence suggests that it actually succeeded. Thinking about evidence—as you did with the first set of activities—what evidence points toward success? Discuss whether or not you are persuaded.

Now bring it back to your own experience. Have you ever done something that looked like a failure at first glance, but on deeper reflection actually marked a success? Here's an example. Suppose you wrote a paper that got a low grade. (This is completely hypothetical, of course.) That certainly looks less than successful at first. But suppose that in that paper, you figured out something you really wanted to understand, and that has changed the way you think about something. In other words, you got something very important out of doing the paper, regardless of the grade you received. Maybe you would call the paper a success. Now think of your own example. Write about it in a journal entry that you need not share with anyone. It's just a chance to reflect on the meaning of success.


Use "The Celestial Stone" as a stepping-stone (pun intended) to think about metaphors. Read the article and identify the two major types of metaphors that people have used when describing lapis lazuli. According tothe article—and by looking at the pictures that accompany it—why do these metaphors come up over and over again? What is it about lapis that inspires them? Then try it yourself: Choose an object or a color that you will describe. Using the lapis metaphors as a model, what metaphor(s) can you use to help describe it? Yours should create a deep and emotionally stirring description of whatever it is you are describing.

MA13 Standards Alignment
McRel Standards


World History

Standard 28.Understands how large territorial empires dominated much of Eurasia between the 16th and 18th centuries

Standard 30.Understands transformations in Asian societies in the era of European expansion

Historical Understanding

Standard 2.Understands the historical perspective


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

Standard 13.Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of Earth's surface

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

Reinventing the Wheel


Standard 3.Understands the historical perspective

The Rålamb Mission


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

Standard 13.Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of Earth's surface

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

World History

Standard 28.Understands how geography is used to interpret the past

Standard 30.Understands transformations in Asian societies in the era of European expansion

Historical Understanding

Standard 2.Understands the historical perspective

The Celestial Stone

World History

Standard 45.Understands major global trends since World War II


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 16.Understands the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources


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.