The Silk Road Unit; To Tech or Not to Tech?

Course One- Final Project

Wow, it is hard to believe that we are already at the end of our first COETAIL course. Time really flies when you’re having fun. To think six little weeks ago I was a ball of anxiety worried that I would not be successful with my coursework. It was hard at times to fit everything in with a full-time job, but it was oh so very worth it.

When the time came to start work on my final project I knew that I wanted to challenge myself to rewrite an entire unit. It seemed like a win-win opportunity to redesign upcoming lessons, so I chose our next Unit of Inquiry on Trade.

Why make the change?

Our trade unit is under the transdisciplinary theme of “How we organize ourselves”. It is a fairly new unit that we adopted two years ago to meet new social studies standards issued by the UAE Ministry of Education.  I thought this unit would be good for a makeover because in the two years of use we hadn’t quite gotten it fully ironed out, and it was largely missing technology integration.

Page one of the unit

In the past years, we had mostly built the unit around creating a “travel journal” in which the students pretend to be a merchant on the Silk Road. It was a decent activity, but I think we were giving too much direct instruction to the students. We really needed to give them more opportunities to research and inquire on their own. Last year, we modified the end-of-unit assessment to include a choice board of leveled activities, but they remained mostly paper and pencil-based.

How Course One helped me to shape this unit.

This first COETAIL course really helped me to think about this unit in a different light. I think the big take-aways that I applied to this unit were, making it relevant, providing an audience, utilizing technology beyond “substitution” on the SAMR scale, and Connectivisim.

As I redesigned this unit I wanted to provide my students with a variety of opportunities to explore the content. A friend of mine who is a previous COETAILER, always says the best way to help students access the curriculum is to offer the content to them in a lot of different ways. So as I laid out the unit, I included shared readings, videos, games, art, and stations. My goal is to have my students become historians of the Silk Road. To do this I wanted to expose them to the information through several different mediums. In order to make this learning more relevant, I learned in this course, that I should provide my students with an authentic audience. As such, they will share their learning in a grade-level “museum”. They will upload some of their work to a Google Drive that will be shared with other grade levels and their families.

mohamed_hassan & 200degree – Pixabay

In order to provide different experiences with the content, I utilized technology a lot more than was previously used with this unit. In past years, students would mostly handwrite their learning for this unit. It seemed fitting at the time to use paper and pencil because we were asking the students to pretend to be Silk Road merchants, who of course wouldn’t have had computers. However, I have come to see that by using technology I can enhance the understanding and relevance of this unit for my students.

Throughout the unit, I also made sure to include ample opportunities for students to work together, share their learning, or simply bounce ideas off one another. In doing so I allow students to connect with their peers to grow their learning.

My goal for student outcomes

ElementsOfXploration – Pixabay

By the end of the unit, my goal for my students is for them to feel confident in their new content knowledge. The unit includes several standards from Common Core, ISTE, and the local Ministry of Education. Each lesson has specific guiding questions that are based on these standards. In particular, as we wrap up our unit we will be asking the students to reflect on some “Big Ideas”. They include; What are the benefits and potential problems of interconnectivity between different people? How is the silk road like trade in the modern world or globalization? How did the Silk Road, or international trade, impact the development and growth of communities, cultures, or countries?

Notes about the Unit

The unit plan is written in the format provided by my school. All resources (except the one mentioned below) are linked with open sharing throughout the different lesson plans.

The TPT resource

In the unit, I do use one paid Teachers-Pay-Teachers resource. I wanted to include this resource because we have used it successfully in the past and the students really enjoyed it. It is a Silk Road journey simulation. The students pretend to be a merchant traveling on the Silk Road. They chose their starting point and where they want to go. During the different rounds of the game, the students use a roll of a die to see what adventures or challenges they will face. Due to the licensing of this resource product, the links in the unit will take you to the TPT store. It can also be found here.


All said and done redesigning this unit was a lot of work, but I feel very proud of the end product and I am excited to implement this unit of learning when we return from our spring break. Once we are through the unit, I will be sure to share a reflection on how it went.

Thank you to all of my COETAIL teachers and Cohort members. It’s been a great course one!