Document-Based Activities: Medieval China

Year of Publication
Social Studies School Service
Citation Key
Curriculum Unit
Average: 3 (1 vote)


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Curriculum Unit Review

Field of Interest/Specialty: history
Posted On: 06/01/2011

Names: Kierah Hanna and Matt Martocci
School: Upper St. Clair High School
Course/Grade Level Taught: Honors/MYP World History – 10th Grade
Curriculum Unit: Document Based Activities: Medieval China developed by Social Studies School Service (2002)
Suitable Grade Levels: Grades 7-12. Although some of the primary source reading materials are at an advanced high school level, with the appropriate adaptations, the activities and resources could be utilized at the middle school level or in a differentiated instruction setting by all ability levels.
Unit Review:
The Document Based Activities: Medieval China unit includes five lesson plans designed to provided students with information on the political systems, technological inventions, religion/philosophy and artistic expression during the Tang and Sung Dynasties. In order to fully implement the unit, students will need to have prior knowledge on the dynastic cycle, the chronology of the Tang and Sung dynasties, geography of China and the basic principles of Buddhism and Confucianism.
The lesson plans follow a predictable model, with limited variety in the instructional methods implemented. Each lesson includes an anticipatory set (usually reviewing a key concept, vocabulary term or previously lesson idea), a student worksheet (overview article, web site linking to a primary source and questions) and concluding discussion questions. All of the lessons rely on a web site, linking students to an image or primary source reading (examples: Longmen Cave Temples image or Diamond Sutra text). Some of the materials are provided in the printed curriculum materials, but not all. It is worth checking the viability of the websites and students ability to access the sites before assigning any of the activities. The lessons offer basic, but interesting ideas for extension activities. For example after comparing medieval and modern Chinese art, the extension activity suggests students research specific Tang/Sung dynasty artists and give an oral presentation. However, the unit developers do not provide any materials or resources to complete these types of extension activities.
Overall, the lesson plans and resources provide a framework for constructing a lesson, but not (we believe) a full daily lesson or comprehensive unit. While the questioning solidly works from lower level comprehension skills to higher level analysis, the worksheets would take most high schools students a relatively short amount of time to complete (10-15 minutes if not shorter, depending on the depth of answers and internet accessibility). We appreciated the web based resources provided on the characteristics of the political structures and civil service exams of the Tang Dynasty. To broaden the depth of the lesson, this information could be incorporated into a comparative unit on medieval western Europe and Japan, studying medieval political structures from a cross-cultural perspective.