Act 1: The Rise of Islam
This is a basic background PowerPoint on Muhammad, the rise of Islam, and the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates. I find that students need a little more direct teaching on this topic, partly because it’s a section of history most kids have never encountered before and also because there’s so much misinformation floating around about Islam.
Act 2: Cue Up Toto, We’re Talking About Africa
This is a PowerPoint that introduces students to historiography and poses questions as to why traditional history classrooms tend to de-emphasize African history. Then, there is a basic overview of postclassical African civilizations that were thriving on the eve of European “discovery.”
Act 3: Thanks China For All the Useful Things
Every year this is one of my FAVORITE activities. I have students divide up into teams (with one team serving as my “sharks”) and we put on an episode of Shark Tank: Postclassical Edition. Teams create marketing campaigns to convince the “Sharks” to invest in their new innovations: paper, printing, gunpowder, and the compass.
- Background Information pages for each group to begin their research
- I tell each “pitch team” that they need to write a visual to sell their product and a 1-2 minute pitch that includes historical evidence (but with a creative “spin”). They should highlight both short-term (in the postclassical era) and long-term impacts of their product. All group members should be prepared to answer questions from the “Sharks” about their product and its impact on history.
- My team of “Sharks” should spend the time researching each product and writing probing questions for the various “pitch teams.” Each Shark gets the same amount of currency (I make my own, because of course I do – here’s what I created!) and they can divide up their investment however they want (give all their money to one team or divide it up proportionally).
- The “pitch team” that ends up with the most money wins!