In this module, students explore the question: "What makes a just society? How have ideas about what makes a just society changed and stayed the same?" As students learn about different medieval societies, they read primary sources from that time to analyze beliefs about what makes a just society. They focus on universal beliefs about a just society. Over the course of the module, students track how their own thinking about a just society develops.
Students also become familiar with a framework for studying societies that they will use throughout the module: They learn to sort information about a society into the aspects of government, economy, culture, environment, and social groups. Students use this framework to organize their learning about three medieval societies: ancient China, the Islamic empire, and medieval Europe. For each society, students explore the questions: What is society? What changes society? They develop and use cause and effect thinking to analyze how particular events changed a society.
In Unit 1, students build a foundation that will support their work for the rest of the module. They explore the question of what makes a just society, develop a familiarity with the framework they will use for studying societies, and build reading and discussion routines. They then begin their study of ancient China. As they build background knowledge about the different aspects of society in ancient China, students continue to practice using the six aspects of society and the Strong Reader protocol. They are also introduced to some historical thinking tools they will use throughout the module: interpreting timelines, reasoning about cause and effect, and analyzing primary sources. Finally, students apply all of these skills to understand how one event changed society. They analyze how the expansion of the civil service examination system during the Song dynasty affected Chinese society. They learn how to craft a strong cause and effect paragraph that uses relevant textual evidence. They also consider the beliefs about a just society shown by the civil service exam system and in a Confucian text commonly referred to on the civil service examinations. The End of Unit 1 Assessment is a reading assessment (focused on using evidence from text, identifying sequence and cause and effect in texts, and determining the meaning of unknown words in a text) as well as a content assessment of what students have learned about ancient Chinese society.
In Unit 2, students strengthen the skills introduced in Unit 1 as they study first the origins and spread of Islam and then medieval Europe. In both cases, they first use the aspects of society framework to build background knowledge. They then focus on how a particular event affected that society. Finally, they explore what this topic offers their exploration of what makes a just society. Students begin comparing how primary and secondary sources treat the same subject. In the first part of Unit 2, students study the origins and spread of Islam. They analyze how the spread of Islam affected government, economy, culture, and social groups. They also read parts of a speech by Benazir Bhutto, the first woman prime minister of Pakistan, in which she articulates how Islam informs her vision of a just society. The Mid-Unit 2 Assessment addresses writing and content outcomes, as students write an on-demand paragraph about how Islam affected society and complete a more traditional content assessment about the origins of Islam. In the second part of Unit 2, students use the aspects of society framework to learn about feudal society in medieval Europe. They then study the Black Death and analyze how it affected all aspects of that society. They read parts of Boccaccio's Decameron, a primary source that describes the arrival of the Black Death in Florence, and consider how a just society might respond to catastrophe. The End of Unit 2 Assessment is a reading assessment, and it asks students to evaluate and synthesize multiple primary and secondary sources related to the effects of the Black Death.
In Unit 3, students synthesize their understandings of the module guiding question. First, they write an informational essay about how the Black Death affected European society. The unit includes robust instruction on writing structure and organization. Students apply what they have learned about the aspects of society framework and about analyzing how an event affects society. Finally, students return to the question about how ideas about a just society have changed and remained the same. The performance task is a Socratic Seminar about what makes a just society. Students support their thinking with evidence from the multiple primary-source "voices of social justice" they have encountered over the course of the module.