Lesson 2: History in the Arab World

Lesson Information

About this Lesson:

In the previous lesson, students explored the geography of the Arab world and the defining features that unite it. As students learn about the boundaries around the Arab world and the borders between countries, it is vital that they consider the origins of those borders (culturally and historically). Many factors contributed to the current political borders including internal dynamics and external forces. This lesson focuses on the Levant (the region of the Middle East including Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories), where many borders were shaped by European colonialism in the early 20th century.

Time

100 minutes (2 class periods)

In this lesson, students will:

  • watch the film, A History of Syria with Dan Snow (BBC, 2013).
  • work together in groups to understand how events throughout history impacted the development of the region.
  • read and analyze the Sykes Picot Agreement.

Key Terms:

  • Alawite: A sect of Shia Islam found predominantly in Syria.  For more information, click here.
  • Shia: A sect of Islam which believe that Mohammad’s cousin ‘Ali should have succeeded him in the Caliphate
  • Sunni: The largest sect of Islam; Sunni Muslims believe that the Caliphate should have been determined by consensus.  Click here to read about the differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
  • Sykes-Picot Agreement: A secret agreement authored by Mark Sykes (British) and Francois George Picot (French) in 1915 creating borders and spheres of influence in the Middle East. Pronounced: Sikes-Peecoh


Enduring Understandings

  • 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

  • How does culture influence our thoughts and actions?
  • What is the Arab World and what defines it (geography, language, culture etc)?
  • Who is a part of the Arab World?

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify relationships between historical periods in Syrian history.
  • analyze a primary document to understand the impact of colonialism on the Levant.

Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning:

  • Complete historical era worksheet based on the BBC film, A History of Syria.
  • Read and answer questions about the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
  • Rewrite the Sykes-Picot agreement in a way that makes it inclusive of all Arab peoples.


Curriculum Standards Information

Reading: Informational Texts

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.

Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
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.)

History/Social Studies

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
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.9-10.3 Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

Reading: Informational Texts

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.

Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
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.)

History/Social Studies

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
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.

Implementation

Materials Needed in Class:

“Middle East or Middle World” by Tamim Ansary

A History of Syria with Dan Snow

A History of Syria Note Sheet


Sykes Picot Agreement

Sykes Picot Agreement, abridged version

Sykes Picot Map


Sykes Picot Handout and Assignment

Implementation Overview:

Click here to download PDF version

Before Class

1.

Students will read “The Middle East or Middle World” by Tamim Ansary and complete the writing assignment (see homework assignment from Unit 1, Lesson 1).

In Class

2.

Review yesterday’s lesson and debrief on the Ansary reading by discussing the following questions as a group. Project a map of the Arab world and surrounding area to guide the discussion.

  • Which regions from yesterday are relevant to the area Ansary addresses in his introduction?
  • How does labeling the same area under a different name change the message that Ansary conveys?
  • How can maps and their names reflect and/or inform a particular perspective?

Remind students that they should be careful to distinguish the “Arab World” from the “Middle East” and the “Islamic World.”

3.

Introduce the BBC documentary, A History of Syria with Dan Snow. Explain that throughout its history, the Arab world has been conquered and ruled by various external empires, beginning in ancient times and lasting through the 20th century. This film, which explores the history of Syria, will help students see how the region’s history has had significant impact on the situation today.

4.

Divide the class into three groups and distribute History of Syria Note Sheet. Assign each group to take notes on one of the three time periods discussed in the film: Ancient History, European Colonialism, and Modern History

5.

After the film, have students gather in their assigned groups. Ask them to compile their notes and observations.

6.

Organize students into groups of three so that all three historical periods are represented in a group. Each student should summarize and share his/her their notes with the group. Each group will then complete step four on the History of Syria Note Sheet by writing in which they write the key information about each historical period and drawing arrows to indicate how the preceding period impacted the following. Allow time for group discussion.

7.

After discussing broadly how outside empires impacted the Arab world, tell students that they will focus on the Sykes-Picot Agreement, a document mentioned in the film that created the map of the modern Middle East as it is today. Distribute copies of the Sykes-Picot Agreement (you may choose between the original document or an abridged version), the Sykes-Picot Map, and the Sykes-Picot Handout and Assignment. Ask students to read the agreement and answer the questions on the handout.

8.

Bring the class back together and discuss the agreement, using the questions on the handout as a guide:

  • Who are the players mentioned in the Sykes-Picot Agreement?
  • Who wrote it and where are they from?
  • Who or what is not mentioned?
  • Regardless of any general knowledge that you may have of modern Syria, what do you anticipate the impact of an agreement like Sykes Picot would be?
  • Would a document like this be possible to make in the present day political landscape? Why or why not? What would need to be different?

Homework:

Students will complete the writing assignment on the Sykes-Picot Handout and Assignment: Edit or rewrite the original Sykes-Picot document to make it inclusive of Arab peoples.

Supplementary Material:

For more information about the Sykes-Picot Agreement, click here.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement was one of several treaties written to divide the land following WWI. Other documents include: