Lesson 1: What is the Arab World?
About this Lesson:
The Arab world is a diverse geographical and cultural region spanning two continents, yet is united by a shared historical, cultural, and linguistic fabric. In order for students to critically study and discuss the Arab world, it is important to identify the region, define relevant terms, and review its basic history and geography. In doing so, this introductory lesson brings forth the question of unity and diversity in the region, a recurring theme in this curriculum.
This lesson is designed for students to consider elements of unity and diversity in the region. Encourage students to ask questions and think critically about the similarities and differences they see in the sources provided.
In this lesson, students will:
- read The Arab Table, by May Bsisu.
- listen to a mix of music from the Arab world.
- examine maps of the region.
- read “Middle East or Middle World”, by Tamim Ansary, published in The Globalist, June 17, 2009.
- Arab world: A region of 22 Arabic-speaking countries whose populations are ethnically Arab. See map here.
- Middle East: A geographical region that includes countries in West Asia and Egypt. See map here.
- Levant: A geographical region comprised of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, and Syria. See map here.
- The Arab world is defined by shared historical, geographical, religious and linguistic factors.
- The Arab world is a large and diverse region containing religious, political, geographic, ethnic, and linguistic differences.
Curriculum Framing Questions
- What is the Arab world and what defines it (geography, language, culture etc)?
- Who is a part of the Arab world?
- What insights can art and literature from the Arab World offer about Arab culture(s)?
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
- identify patterns of unity and diversity in the geography and culture of the Arab world.
- analyze maps of distinct regions that share area with the Arab world.
- reflect on identity of the Arab world.
Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning:
- Written response to “The Middle East or Middle World,” by Tamim Ansary, exploring how external forces have impacted the region.
Curriculum Standards Information
Reading: Informational Texts
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
Speaking and Listening
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
Reading: Informational Text
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
Speaking and Listening
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
After a short brainstorm, divide students into small groups and ask them to discuss the questions on The Arab Table Handout:
- According to the reading, what defines the Arab world as a single entity?
- What language does the text use to talk about unity and diversity?
- What reasons does the text cite for diversity in the Arab world?
- What comes to mind when you think of the Arab world?
- Are your associations with the Arab World and the author’s similar or different? Why do you think that is?
After a brief discussion, ask students to take notes about unity and diversity as they watch the Arab Music Video of songs from around the Arab world. Consider:
- What do you notice about the music and the visuals?
- What appeals or does not appeal to you in the music?
- What sounds unfamiliar to you?
- What sounds and styles are the same? What is different?
Distribute maps covering the following regions (or a selection from them): Asia, Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the Arabian Peninsula, West Asia, the Islamic World, Mediterranean, Levant, Arab World and the Map Handout. In small groups, ask students to look at the map and discuss the questions on the handout:
- Whose perspectives, interests, and values are represented in the maps?
- How do the regions designated in these maps overlap with the Arab World, and how do they extend beyond it?
- How might the inclusion of parts of these maps impact the reality of the Arab world?
- Is it important to designate the Arab world as a distinct region despite the many labels you have explored? Why?
Some notes about this activity
- This activity illustrates to students the regional expanse of the Arab world and geographical reasons for both unity and diversity. By comparing the map of the Arab world to maps of other distinguished regions, students should consider the arbitrary nature of these borders and how culture migrates through them.
- While there is no single definition for the Islamic World, the map used in this lesson consists of member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
- The Mediterranean Map includes countries who border the Mediterranean Sea.
- What insights does this resource bring to the influence of outside powers on the “Arab world” and the “Middle East”?
- How have outsiders shaped the perception as well as the physical and political reality of the region?
Background on the Arab World
- Facts and Figures: This collection of short articles from ME Analysis presents different information on the Middle East: historical and informative facts, statistics, important figures of the region and useful and interesting quotations of the experts on the Middle East
- Arab Cultural Awareness: 58 Fact Sheets: This document includes facts and information about the Arab world. Created by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, US Army Training and Doctrine Command
Food and the Arab World
- Food from the Arab World: This cookbook, by Marie Karam Khayat and Margaret Clark Keatinge (1959), has information about Arab cuisine (focusing on Lebanese food) as well as recipes for students to try out. As a supplement to the May Bsisu reading, you may have students make a recipe at home or have them write a how-to piece on a select recipe.
- Food in the Arab World: You may have students look at this website and compare recipes from two different countries.
This lesson assumes a basic knowledge of the geography of the region. For classes that need a geography review, you may use the following:
- Geography of the Modern Middle East and North Africa: This lesson introduces students to the basic geography of the MENA region. It can be adapted for the Arab world.
- Mapping the Middle East and North Africa: This lesson introduces students to the basic political geography of the MENA region.
Online geography games for the MENA region:
- Rethinking Schools Map Game
- Countries and Capitals Map Puzzle
- Interactive Activities from Teachers First
How Designers Shape the World: A Short Essay on Cartography, Design, and Ideology. This article may be helpful for you and/or your student as you work on the map activity.