Teacher Notes

Grade Level/Unit:

H/SS Framework: Grade 6 Ancient China


Draft H/SS Standards
Grade 6: Students address an event or issue regarding ancient civilizations; marshall needed information of the time and place; and present a cogent, objective analysis of it, drawing on valid primary and secondary resources.
Language Arts Standards
Grade 6: Students write clear, coherent, and focused essays. Writing exhibits awareness of audience and purpose. Essays contain formal introductions, bodies of supporting evidence, and conclusions. Students successfully use the stages of the writing process.

Lesson Purpose:

Students will explore the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road, with a focus on Turpan, a caravan stop in China's westernmost province of Xinjiang. They will identify artifacts from the countries that once traveled this route, and research how and when these items might have arrived in the city of Turpan.


Related to History-Social Science content, students will...

Related to Information Literacy Skills:


Length of Lesson: Five 45-50 minute periods


Additional Resources/Materials:

Internet resources; atlases; A Message of Ancient Days (or other world history texts); National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 189, No 3, March 1996; Eyewitness Books (China, Greece, Rome, Bible Lands); encyclopedias; The Silk Road: A History by Irene Frank and David Brownstone (this invaluable resource is now out of print, but is available at most UC libraries)

Background information that might be helpful: Along the Silk Road: People, Interaction, And Cultural Exchange, developed by the China Project, Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE)--an outstanding unit as well as an excellent resource; Xinjiang The Silk Road: Islam's Overland Route to China by Peter Yung (Oxford University Press, 1986); The Silk Road by Luce Boulnois (translated by Dennis Chamberlain, E.P. Dutton & Co.,Inc. 1966); Foreign Devils on the Silk Road by Peter Hopkirk (John Murray Publishers, London 1980)

A useful Internet source is Pam Logan's page

Lesson sequence:


To familiarize your students with the geography of Asia, I recommend beginning the unit by devoting a class period to the Political Map Hunt Activity from Stanford's SPICE publication Mapping Asia.

To introduce your students to the "voices" of the Silk Road, you might want to hand out the following poem written by the Chinese princess Liu Xijun about 110 B.C.E. She was given in marriage to a "barbarian" chief of Wusun, an area northeast of Tien Shan Mountains, wild yet strategically important to the security of Han trade routes.

My people have married me
In a far corner of Earth:
Sent me away to a strange land,
To the king of the Wu-sun.
The round tent is my palace,
Its walls are made of felt,
Dried meat is my only food,
Koumiss is my drink.
Endlessly I dream of my country,
And my heart is all bruised.
Oh to be the yellow swan
That returns to its homeland!

Have your students read this poem in their groups and brainstorm for its meaning. What do you know about Liu Xijun's living conditions? Her diet? Her state of mind? Her dreams? What does this poem tell us about the time in which it was written?

The World Cultures Model handout could be used to help the students organize and record their understanding of the poem.

Starting the project:

Draw countries - Assign or have your teams (up to 7 with 4-6 members each) pick a country card.


EGYPT- Has the style of your artifacts been influenced by the conquest of Alexander the Great - or do your artifacts date back even further in Egyptian history?

ITALY - Travel back to the grandeur of the Roman Empire. Your artifacts could have been crafted during the reign of Augustus, or earlier.

IRAQ - Where in the region that was once known as Mesopotamia would be the origin of your artifacts? Sumer? Babylon? Assyria?

INDIA - After your conquest by Alexander the Great, many civilizations may have wanted to trade with you.

ISRAEL - The land of Canaan was known as a battlefield but also as an important market and trading route.

CHINA - Even though Xinjiang is part of China, it is also an autonomous (independent) region and often has its differences with the Chinese government in Beijing. If you wish to keep your artifacts in China, you too must show what you could find in Turpan, along with a reasonable theory as to when and how the artifacts were brought there.

Start Brainstorming Session

Help the students define the task by having them brainstorm as a class the following three questions:

What do we know?
What do we need to know?
Where can we find out what we need to know?

Record their answers on the board or overhead. Tell them a high-quality presentation will be the result of research and teamwork. Explain that they will be using the Internet as well as other electronic and printed resources (books, magazine articles) from the class and school library.

Guiding the process:

Handout the action plan. Each team member needs to complete one! Stress how important it is for them to start each class period in an organized manner and with a purpose. Without a clearly defined plan, they will have difficulty completing the task on time.

Hold daily briefings with each group. By meeting with each group for a few minutes, you will be able to guide their progress, check their process, and verify that all team members are contributing to the effort.

Adaptations for special needs students:

Since this task involves research writing, and layout, teachers may wish to assign the tasks within groups so that each student can both work to a strength and develop an area in which he or she is not yet strong. Students with limited skills might be encouraged to use only one website as a resource, so they can spend more time with writing and creating the displays.

Author: Gail Desler
School/Dist.:Pleasant Valley Middle School--Gold Oak Unified School District
SCORE-CH/HSSP Technology Academy 1997
Reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Susanne Cahill, University of California San Diego