During the Middle Ages, most people in Europe spent their entire lives in the village where they were born. But in the 13th century, a young Italian named Marco Polo traveled all the way to China! In this lesson, students will learn about the remarkable travels of Marco Polo.
In this lesson, students will learn about the lifestyle of the wealthy elite and then expand their view of medieval society by exploring the lives of the peasants, craftsmen, and monks.
Marco Polo was one of the first Europeans to travel to China. Marco grew up in the 13th century in Venice, an important trading city in Italy. Here, students learn about the Venice of Marco Polo's time.
In the early years of the Middle Ages, most people in Europe lived in small farming villages. Everyone knew his neighbors, and there was little need for last names. But as the population expanded and the towns grew, a need arose to find ways to differentiate between two people who shared the same first name.
Look into the sources of the Wife’s sermon on women’s rights to learn how real women lived during the Middle Ages.
Trace the elements of myth and history in the world of the Round Table.
Magna Carta served to lay the foundation for the evolution of parliamentary government and subsequent declarations of rights in Great Britain and the United States. In attempting to establish checks on the king's powers, this document asserted the right of "due process" of law.
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.
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:
MacDonald. Carpenter. Underwood. Green. These are typical American names that reflect a family's British origins—but they tell us little about the people who currently bear them. How times have changed! In the Middle Ages, a person's second name served a useful function. In some cases, it revealed where he lived; in others, it told who his father was, what he did for a living, or even what he looked like.
In this unit, students will learn about the origins of four major types of British surnames. They will consult lists to discover the meanings of specific names and later demonstrate their knowledge of surnames through various group activities. They will then compare the origins of British to certain types of non-British surnames. In a final activity, the students will research the origins and meanings of their own family names.
Become familiar with the materials used in the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark websites you plan to use. Download and duplicate charts used in the activities. Secure several copies of a local phonebook for the Assessment exercise in Lesson 3.
You can find additional background information about surnames at the following sites:
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.