9th Grade New York

Silk Road

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the complex trade networks throughout Eurasia, collectively known as the “Silk Road.” By investigating the compelling question, students evaluate the descriptor “Silk Road” by considering its accuracy and determining whether or not this label should continue to be used or if there is a more appropriate title that better reflects the network’s historical, sociocultural, and economic role. Students begin by gathering research about the types of commodities traded, as well as the geographic reach of the network. The next task asks students to consider the importance of silk within various cultures of Eurasia and the sharing of both cultural and technological knowledge. Using the previous formative performance tasks along with the featured sources, students will propose one or more different names for the Silk Road, supporting their suggestions with defensible reasons. After considering the complexities of the Silk Road trade networks and the appropriateness of its name, students should be able to make a claim supported by evidence as to whether we should continue to call it the “Silk Road.” The progression of the inquiry will help students recognize the problematic nature of simplistic titles applied to complex historical phenomena.


Compelling Question:

Should We Call It the “Silk Road”?

Staging the Question: Brainstorm the meaning of Ferdinand von Richthofen’s label of the Eurasian trade networks as the “Silk Road,” paying attention to the individual implications of both terms (i.e., “Silk” and “Road”).

Supporting Question What was the “Silk Road”?

Formative Task Create a map that illustrates exchanged commodities and their movement along the trade routes.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from Travels of Marco Polo
Source B: Excerpt from “Traveling the Silk Road”
Source C: Excerpt from “The Great Silk Road”


Supporting Question Why was silk so important?

Formative Task Write a paragraph on the silk market’s impact on Chinese and Western societies.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from Suleiman
Source B: Excerpt from “Silk Road: Connecting People and Cultures”


Supporting Question What, besides silk and other goods, was shared on the Silk Road?

Formative Task Create a T-chart that lists cultural and technological knowledge shared along the Silk Road.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from Letter to the West
Source B: Excerpt from “Silk Road: Spreading Ideas and Innovations”*
Source C: Excerpt from “The Legacy of the Silk Road”


Supporting Question What else could this trade network be called?

Formative Task Propose a different name for the Silk Road and cite reasons for your suggestion.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from “Following the Mythical Road”
Source B: Excerpt from “The Silk Road in World History: A Review Essay”

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Should we call it the “Silk Road”? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that addresses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Create an eBook of your community that highlights your local culture(s). Share with international students through Skype Classroom.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Research current efforts to foster cultural exchange through organizations such as the Silk Road Foundation.
Assess: Determine the extent to which various cultural traditions and practices impact your local culture.
Act: Create a “Sharing the Road” web page to encourage dialogue with students from the Skype Classroom connection.