Lesson Plans: Grades 3-5
Curriculum Unit

On the Road with Marco Polo (8 Lessons)

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The Unit

Overview

In the 13th century, a young Venetian named Marco Polo set out with his father and uncle on a great adventure. Following a series of trade routes, they traveled across the vast continent of Asia and became the first Europeans to visit the Chinese capital (modern Beijing). Marco so impressed the reigning emperor of China, Kublai Khan, that he was appointed to the imperial court. For the next 17 years, Marco was sent on missions to many parts of Kublai's sprawling empire. The Polos finally returned to Venice via the sea route. Marco later wrote a book about his experiences, which inspired new generations of explorers to travel to the exotic lands of the East.

In this curriculum unit, students will become Marco Polo adventurers, following his route to and from China in order to learn about the geography, local products, culture, and fascinating sites of those regions. Students will record their "journey" by creating journal entries, postcards, posters, and maps related to the sites they explore. The EDSITEment Marco Polo Journey Map, with its guiding questions, may be used either as a culminating exercise or a method of reviewing previous lessons and introducing new ones.

Guiding Questions

  • What routes did Marco Polo follow to China and back?
  • What sorts of natural environments did he travel through?
  • What were the major products of the places he visited?

Learning Objectives

  • Trace the routes of Marco Polo on a map of Europe and Asia
  • Describe the major geographical features of regions along these routes
  • List some of the important products of these regions

Preparation Instructions

Read through the entire lesson plan and become familiar with the content and resources. Bookmark relevant websites for later reference. Download and duplicate the map of China available through EDSITEment-reviewed resource Xpeditions for Activity 5 and the Map of the Indian Ocean Area available through EDSITEment-reviewed resource SARAI for Activity 6. It would be very helpful to have a large map of the world in your classroom as well as a set of atlases.

As you progress through the lessons, you may want to speak to your students about the changing status of maps, and the various ways maps can be used to represent a geographic and political area. Since students may find themselves confused by the large number and types of maps in these lessons, you may want to pick one or two to serve as reference points against which other maps are compared (your classroom atlas or a large map of the world might be a good choice). A good online map to use as an overall guide is the Map of Marco Polo's Route available through EDSITEment reviewed resource Asia Source.

Review the EDSITEment Marco Polo Interactive Map. You may use the map either as a culminating exercise or as a way of reviewing material from the previous day's lesson before introducing new material.

Additional background materials can be viewed at the following websites:

The Lessons

The Basics

Grade Level

3-5

Subject Areas
  • Art and Culture > Subject Matter > Anthropology
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
  • History and Social Studies > World > The Medieval World (500 CE-1500 CE)
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Asia
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Exploration & Discovery
Skills
  • Compare and contrast
  • Critical analysis
  • Cultural analysis
  • Discussion
  • Evaluating arguments
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Internet skills
  • Interpretation
  • Journal writing
  • Logical reasoning
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Map Skills
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Visual analysis
  • Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

    Animals of the Chinese Zodiac image

    In this lesson plan, students will learn about the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. In the process, they will learn about Chinese culture, as well as improve reading, writing, and researching skills.

  • Lesson 2. The Debate in the United States over the League of Nations: Disagreement Over the League

    Woodrow Wilson for League of Nations

    American foreign policy debate over U.S. entry into the League of Nations-collective security versus national sovereignty, idealism versus pragmatism, the responsibilities of powerful nations, the use of force to accomplish idealistic goals, the idea of America. Understanding the debate over the League and the consequences of its failure provides insight into international affairs in the years since Great War. In this lesson, students read the words and listen to the voices of some central participants in the debate over the League of Nations.

  • Lesson 8: On the Road with Marco Polo: Homecoming

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    This lesson can serve as the culminating review lesson for the entire EDSITEment Marco Polo Curriculum Unit, or you may use it to complete your own series of lessons for 3rd through 5th graders that focus on Marco Polo's journey to China and back.

  • Lesson 6: On the Road with Marco Polo: Sea Voyage to India

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    After spending 17 years in China, Marco Polo and his father and uncle finally had an opportunity to return home to Venice. Student follow their homeward journey starting with a sea voyage to India.

  • Lesson 4: On the Road with Marco Polo: Crossing the Deserts of China

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    After resting up and replenishing their supplies in the trading city of Kashgar, Marco Polo and his father and uncle continued eastward on their journey from Venice to China.

  • Lesson 2: On the Road with Marco Polo: From Venice to Hormuz

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    Marco Polo's father and uncle returned to Venice when he was 15 years old. Two years later, when they set off again for China, they decided to take Marco with them. Students will take a “virtual” trip with Marco Polo from Venice to China and back. The first leg of the journey ends at Hormuz.

  • Lesson 3: On the Road with Marco Polo: From Hormuz to Kashgar

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    The Polos were so concerned about the seaworthiness of the ships they found at Hormuz that they changed their plans and decided instead to follow a series of trade routes across Asia to China. Students will "accompany" them on this leg og the trip, from Hormuz to Kashgar.

  • Morality "Tails" East and West: European Fables and Buddhist Jataka Tales

    Malaysian Buddha figurine.

    Fables, such as those attributed to Aesop, are short narratives populated by animals who behave like humans, and which convey lessons to the listener. Jataka Tales are often short narratives which tell the stories of the lives of the Buddha before he reached Enlightenment. In this lesson students will be introduced to both Aesop’s fables and to a few of the Jataka Tales, and through these stories will gain an understanding of one genre of storytelling: morality tales.

  • Lessons of the Indian Epics: The Ramayana

    Lessons of the Indian Epics image

    The Ramayana (ram-EYE-ya-na) and the Mahabharata (ma-ha-BA-ra-ta), the great Indian epics, are among the most important works of literature in South Asia. Both contain important lessons on wisdom, behavior and morality, and have been used for centuries not only as entertainment, but also as a way of instructing both children and adults in the exemplary behavior toward which they are urged to strive and the immoral behavior they are urged to shun. In this lesson, students will read an abridged version of the Ramayana, and will explore the ways in which the story of Rama contains elements, such as the Epic Hero Cycle, that place it within the epic poetry tradition.