• 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.

  • Lesson 2: What's In A Name? British Surnames Derived from Places

    Last names as we know them now originated

    Over half of all English surnames used today are derived from the names of places where people lived. This type is known as a locative surname. For example, a man called John who lived near the marsh, might be known as John Marsh. John who lived in the dell was called John Dell. Other examples are John Brook, John Lake, and John Rivers.

  • 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.

  • George Orwell's Essay on his Life in Burma: "Shooting An Elephant"

    George Orwell confronted an Asian elephant like this one in the story recounted  for this lesson plan.

    Eric A. Blair, better known by his pen name, George Orwell, is today best known for his last two novels, the anti-totalitarian works Animal Farm and 1984. He was also an accomplished and experienced essayist, writing on topics as diverse as anti-Semitism in England, Rudyard Kipling, Salvador Dali, and nationalism. Among his most powerful essays is the 1931 autobiographical essay "Shooting an Elephant," which Orwell based on his experience as a police officer in colonial Burma.

  • Witnesses to Joan of Arc and The Hundred Years' War

    Statue of Joan of Arc in Meridian Hill Park, Washington, D.C.

    Joan of Arc is likely one of France's most famous historical figures, and has been mythologized in popular lore, literature, and film. She is also an exceptionally well-documented historical figure. Through such firsthand accounts students can trace Joan's history from childhood, through her death, and on to her nullification trial.

  • Edith Wharton: War Correspondent

    American author Edith Wharton

    Through reading chapters of Edith Wharton's book, Fighting France, From Dunkerque to Belfort, students will see how an American correspondent recounted World War I for American readers.

  • 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae: Herodotus's Real History

    “Μολον Λαωε!”

    Students may be familiar with this famous battle from its depiction in Zack Snyder's movie 300, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel. In this lesson students learn about the historical background to the battle and are asked to ponder some of its legacy, including how history is reported and interpreted from different perspectives.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    United States Entry into World War I: A Documentary Chronology (3 Lessons)



    The Unit


    American foreign policy continues to resonate with the issues involved in the entry of the United States into World War I-unilateralism versus foreign alliances, the responsibilities of power, the influence of the military-industrial complex on foreign policy, the use of force to accomplish idealistic goals. Understanding the choices the Wilson administration made and their consequences provides insight into international affairs in the years since the end of the Great War and beyond.

    In this curriculum unit, students reconsider the events leading to U.S. entry into World War I through the lens of archival documents.

    Note: This unit may be taught either as a stand-alone lesson or as a prequel to the complementary EDSITEment curriculum unit The Debate in the United States Over the League of Nations. It may also be taught in conjunction with the EDSITEment curriculum units African Americans Soldiers in World War I: The 92nd and 93rd Divisions and African American Soldiers After World War I: Had Race Relations Changed?.

    Guiding Questions

    • What important events led to U.S. involvement in World War I?
    • What is the most compelling evidence explaining why the U.S. entered World War I?

    Learning Objectives

    • List important events leading to U.S. involvement in World War I.
    • Take a stand on a hypothesis for U.S. entry into World War I, supported by specific evidence.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review the curriculum unit. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
    • Download the Master PDF. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of any handouts you plan to use in class.
    • Before printing any oversized documents, use the Print Preview function of your browser to see how each will look. Change the settings in Page Setup, as desired, by selecting Print Preview from the FILE option in your browser. Use the Print Preview function after making changes.
    • This unit is a Web quest. Given specified resources on the Internet (though not necessarily limited to those resources), student groups are challenged to create a slideshow using archival documents to tell the story of U.S. entry into World War I. No single cause would be sufficient to explain something as complex as the reasons behind U.S. entry into World War I. It's difficult to discuss the reasons, however, without talking about them separately. In this lesson, the students are looking for primary causes and a way to understand the process by which the U.S. entered World War I.
    • This unit is intended for students familiar with the basic facts about World War I.
    • For background on the entry of the U.S. into World War I, read the following essays from "An Outline of American History" (USIA, 1994), available on From Revolution to Reconstruction, a link from the EDSITEment resource American Studies at the University of Virginia:

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level


    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Developing a hypothesis
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Textual analysis
    • Using archival documents