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Mali to Mecca, Mansa Musa Makes the Hajj
is a problem-based learning unit based on Internet research and integrating history-social science, English-Language arts and visual and performing arts. While this unit is designed for Internet access, it can be modified for one-computer classrooms and no-internet access situations.

As a problem-based learning experience, this unit uses the historical event of Mansa Musa, Ruler of Mali, making the Hajj or holy pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 AD. Legend has it that Mansa Musa's entourage included over 50,000 members of his court, including 500 men who proceeded him, each carrying a six-pound solid gold staff. Behind this awesome spectacle came over eighty camels, each bearing hundreds of pounds of gold dust. When Mansa Musa passed through the Egyptian city of Cairo, he was so lavish with his gifts of gold that the price of gold fell and the Egyptian economy was affected for more than two decades!

Students are challenged to become councilors in Mansa Musa's court and are charged with preparing a report on the short- and long-term effects of this journey on the future of the Empire of Mali. Through research and group collaboration, students will become knowledgeable about the glories and achievements of the African Islamic Empire of Mali and the Muslim Empire centered in the Arabian Peninsula.

Sequencing with the Textbook
This unit of study correlates with "Across the Centuries" by Houghton Mifflin Publishers. It serves as a major research project and bridge between Unit 2 The Growth of Islam and Unit 3 Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Product(s)
While this unit is developed for presentation through web pages or multimedia presentations such as HyperStudio or Power Point, low-tech alternatives such as posters, oral reports, short skits, interviews and written reports can be substituted. These authentic assessment alternatives can be very appropriate for resource, inclusion and ESL students.

The web page and multimedia presentation products assume that your students have an appropriate level of word-processing and web page design skills. It is not the intent of this unit to include direct instruction and time to teach the basics of web page design and multimedia presentations to students.

Periodic Assessment
To keep students focused and on-track, it is advisable to have a series of periodic due dates for certain stages of the unit. This will allow the teacher to check on student progress and redirect a student if needed. This approach breaks down the total assignment into less overwhelming small steps and simulates real world deadlines.

Lesson Sequence

Time Frame
This day-by-day sequence is based on 50 minute periods which meet daily. The activities can be adjusted for block or flexible schedules. The time sequence can be shortened if students do the Internet and library research as homework.

Day 1

  • Introduce the challenge of Mansa Musa deciding to make the Hajj to Mecca. Have students read the royal decree that outlines the general tasks for the councilors.
  • Students will randomly draw council positions resulting in four or more members in each of the five council groups. Record the student names for each council.
  • Students will read the specific duties for their specific council.
  • Have council members meet and go over their specific duties as a group. Students will brainstorm a list of research questions, which will be submitted to Mansa Musa (the teacher) at the end of the class. This work should be checked for focus and understanding of the assigned task.

Day 2

  • Lead all students in a class discussion of what they know and what they need to know to start researching.
  • Use the vocabulary list as a starting point for formulating research strategies. The vocabulary list can also be assigned as an upcoming quiz .


Day 3

Council meeting

  • Members of each council should meet to refine their research list from the class discussion of the previous day.
  • Members will take responsibility for researching a specific topic from the task and write a research plan of action which includes vocabulary and research questions.


Days 4-8

Initial Research - five periods

  • Research will be done on an individual basis, using Internet sources, print materials, CR-ROMS and other sources of information. Research can be accomplished through a combination of classroom reading time, library research time and research at home.
  • Before each structured research period, have students fill out a research plan-of-action to help keep them focused and to record collected information. These forms should be periodically collected and graded by the teacher. This will provide periodic check-points of progress for both the students and the teacher.
  • As students are researching, instruct them to collect 'artifacts', maps and images and save them to their disk.


Day 9

Council Meetings

  • Members of each council will meet to compare collected research and share information on valuable web sites to visit.
  • Members should go over their task again to be sure that they are collecting relevant information.
  • Council members can now decided where they need to concentrate their research efforts to cover all the areas of their assigned task.
  • Each member will fill out a Research Plan-of-Action form to help focus them.


Day 10

Integrated Council Meetings

  • Council groups will meet together to share information that is useful for each group.
  • Councilors of Transportation will meet with Councilors of Commerce and the Councilors of Knowledge to select trade goods and technologies which will impress the Arab and Western worlds.
  • Councilors of Knowledge will meet with the Councilors of Transportation and the Councilors of Commerce, to discuss how to use the intellectual and technological achievements as products of trade throughout the Arab and Western worlds.
  • Councilors of Religious Faith will need to confer with Councilors of Arts and the Councilors of Knowledge to discuss possible mosque designs.

Days 11-13

Refined Research - three periods

  • Students will use the next three periods to fill in the 'holes' in their collected research within their specific topics.


Days 14-20 - 7 periods

Council Meeting - Presentation Preparation

  • A review of the assigned task is a good idea to refresh everyone's memory and make sure they are focused on all the elements of the task.
  • Members of each council meet to again share information and select the most relevant parts for their presentation to Mansa Musa. Each of the topics should again be assigned to each member.
  • Council members will start 'story-boarding' their assigned area into one to three web pages or power point slides. Use the story-boarding form.


Presentations - 3 class periods

Student presentations can include a combination of the following:

  • Web pages or power point presentations
  • Maps, charts and posters
  • Images, drawings, 'building plans' or models
  • Oral presentations
  • Bibliography with sources cited. (Must be included)