CEP 800 – Lesson Implementation and Reflection

My lesson is on the causes and consequences of the current civil war in Syria and I will be using interactive maps to help guide the lecture and discussion.

Since school is out for the summer and I am in the US for the summer (my school is in Shanghai, China), I decided to involve my family in implementing this lesson plan. I asked my wife and parents to indulge me and they were happy to help. It will definitely be different implementing this lesson plan with high school students in China this Fall. Some of the differences are that my students do not have the same level of proficiency in English, so I will have to move slower through some of the explanations and interactive features, as well as provide definitions for key terms. The class will be bigger than three, obviously, so I will have to be cognizant of getting all students involved and engaged. But one positive difference is that the students will be used to my classes and teaching style, so they will know my expectations and be more likely to be motivated to learn and participate. It was difficult for my family to “go back to school”. Another difference will be using my desktop PC with the projector at school, versus using my Macbook Pro on my parents’ 55” HDTV.

The lesson with my family only took about 30 minutes, but we were able to move through the reading sections (timeline, interactive map features) fairly quickly and our discussion was pretty simple and short. In a larger classroom, I will have to move slower to involve many students and allow time for everything to process the information. Also, I can push my students to go deeper in the discussion issues, particularly about the reasons and motives of war, as well as the courses of action which might lead to peaceful situations in Syria and in the region. My family was not that interested in discussing these issues in depth and I did not want to push them too hard since they were helping me out. The technology was pretty simple to use and interact with for me, especially since I had practiced with all the interactive maps prior to the lesson. To prepare for the lesson, I brought up all the websites I needed into separate tabs in order of my need for them, so it was easy to assess them when I was in the midst of the lesson. My original intent was to let the students to interact with the maps, either giving them control of the computer or by telling them what they wanted to see next. But when I did the lesson with my family they had no interest in telling what to do next, nor did they feel confident in choosing things to view, especially on the map of Syria. It was easier to suggest certain countries on the CNN map, but it was still hard to get them to offer me a suggestion or an opinion.

Last year I tried to teach my students about the war in Syria on the tail end of our Conflict and Peace unit, and it did not go very well. I used an article about refugees in Turkey to start, because we had been talking about war refugees in the days before. I found that most students not only had no clue about the civil war in Syria, but that most students did not even know where Syria was on the map. We had not talked about the Arab Spring either, which would have been appropriate background context to understand the larger geopolitical movements. That day I showed a few maps on the projector to show them where Syria is, including the major conflict areas, the Turkish border that was discussed in the refugee article, and other neighboring countries. I did most of the talking and demonstrating, and the students probably did not remember much from that lesson. I hope next year that preparing better to give the students more background knowledge and using the interactive map technology will make the lesson more engaging and memorable. I would like to use this current event to discuss larger issues of governance and war. Most Chinese students have not heard of the Arab Spring because that type of media content is censored in China, along with the subsequent Chinese “Jasmine Revolution” in 2011 following on the heels of the Arab Spring. I don’t want to make revolutionaries of my students, but I do think it is valuable for them to consider just causes of revolutionary war by citizens against an unjust government.

In regard to the technology I used, I do feel like maps (whether interactive or not) are great tools to teach social studies topics. When discussing places, it is imperative that students have the proper context. I like to use Google Earth to zoom quickly from our current location (Shanghai) to the location we are discussing (Syria) so that students get a feel for where on the globe we are in relation to the place we are currently studying. The use of detailed maps is useful for presenting information in an interesting and precise way. Additionally, the use of interactive maps adds another dimension of intrigue, leading to greater anticipation and engagement in the students. Today’s students are so used to clicking on everything to discover more about it, so maps that are not interactive are less interesting. Students love the concept that we can discover more and go deeper simply by clicking the mouse on the object we are curious about. I think that is an appropriate technology for this lesson that will both enhance the content as well as student engagement, and it is free and easy to use. I plan on sharing the links to these maps with the students on our class website (edmodo) and possibly assigning so more homework that requires them all to personally interact with the maps even more.

CEP 800 Lesson Plan

Course: (IGCSE) Global Perspectives

Unit: Conflict and Peace

Lesson Topic: War in Syria

Lesson Objectives:

  1. Students will identify Syria and the surrounding countries on a map.
  2. Students will understand what events and motives have led to the current civil war.
  3. Students will analyze maps and information to evaluate the interests of all parties (Syrian government, Rebels, surrounding countries, etc.).
  4. Students will evaluate reasons and motives for war.
  5. Students will hypothesize courses of action that might lead to peace.

Lesson Resources:









Google Earth software

Lesson Activities:

  1. Ask a student to point out Syria on the big paper map on the wall.
  2. Ask questions to see what students know about the situation in Syria.
  3. Using the computer and video display, review the timeline (assigned to read as homework the night before) for key events in Syria’s history and especially since the Arab Spring in 2011. Discuss the reasons and motives for war.
  4. Use Google Earth to show Syria in the context of the world and the region. Start zoomed way out, then zoom closer and closer. Ask students about the region, including neighboring countries, geographical features, etc.
  5. Look at the BBC and NY Times maps which give an overview of the conflict zones and the movement of people. Ask questions of students to check for comprehension. The NY Times map shows refugee camps. Reference the article assigned as homework on refugees in Turkey. See what students know/remember about the article. We have discussed refugee camps previously talking about the 1994 Rwanda genocide, so students should remember this term, but we can briefly review it.
  6. Look at the Guardian interactive map showing violent events per quarter since Spring 2011 in different areas and make conclusions based on this. Let the students dictate what is clicked on and looked at, and let them make judgements about it.
  7. Look at the PBS interactive map which has details about various places. Let the students choose which ones to click on and read the information aloud in class. Help them discover differences among cities/regions and the various rebel groups throughout Syria. This will inform our discussion on the interested parties later.
  8. Lastly, look at the CNN interactive map showing Syria’s neighbors. Click on each country and have students read the different perspectives.
  9. Revisit the discussion on the reasons and motives for war, involving other countries as well. Ask students to consider the possibilities for the region based on consequences of events in Syria.
  10. Talk about the involvement of countries outside of the region, including Russia and the US, and others who are purposely staying out of it, like China. Discuss their interests.
  11. Discuss possible courses of action that could lead to peace in the country and in the region. Guide students through the possible onsequences of different sides “winning” the war. Talk about obstacles to lasting peace in the Middle East.


For homework, I will have each student blog (100+ words) about their opinion on the best way forward to helping end this conflict, using at least one piece of information from either the BBC interactive map or the CNN interactive map.


More information about my lesson plan:

  • Content: What is the content you are teaching and what are the big ideas? What are the challenging concepts that students struggle with or are difficult to teach? Consider your state standards (GLCEs or HSCEs) as you develop the essential questions you are trying to address.

We are in a unit on Conflict and Peace and the big ideas are the causes and conseqeuences of war, as well as formulating strategies for making/keeping peace. Students know some of the big examples about war, like World War 2, but they don’t really understand the current conflicts in the world.

  • Pedagogy: What pedagogical strategies are you using and why? What theories of learning inform your strategies? What learner characteristics did you take into consideration?

I am using interactive lecture by showing them information on interactive maps. I will use inductive methods of discussion as I get them to consider the causes and motives of war, as well as develop solutions for peace. I am mainly using cognitive and constructive theories of learning. Learners learn thing better when presented in a variety of stimuli, so the images should them understand and remember better.

  • Content & Pedagogy: How do these particular strategies help you teach the content mentioned above? Why choose these strategies over other approaches? Are there any technical or physical constraints that figured significantly into your choices?

There is a need to present some information on the current events that students do not know about. I can give some background information prior to the lesson via a news article and a timeline of events, but there is a need for teacher-directed instruction to ensure students understand the main issues at play. The use of maps will also be an interesting and more informative way to present the data.

  • Technology: What technology will you be using and why? Is the use of this technology absolutely necessary to achieve your objective? That is, would be impossible to teach the lesson without it? Remember that content specific technology (e.g., probes, graphing calculators, Geometer’s Sketchpad, United Streaming videos) are used to teach a content-specific concepts, whereas content-general technologies (e.g., Flash animation, Web 2.0 technologies) may facilitate deeper understanding by allowing students to manipulate information, explore a “network of ideas,” and investigate multiple representations of material.

I will be using online articles, Google earth, static maps, and interactive maps all on my desktop PC in my classroom that I will display on the projector for the class to see. I can control the content that the students are seeing, guiding them through the places I want to talk about, and giving them something interesting to look at as we discuss the issue. It would be very difficult to grasp the issues of the war in Syria without using a map, and the interactive maps greatly enhance the learning of this lesson.

  • Technology & Pedagogy: How does the technology you have chosen fit with your pedagogical strategies and theories about learning? What types of learning strategies are employed by the technology?

The technology fits very well with the guided lecture, as it supplements and enhances the information we need to talk about in regard to the civil war in Syria. Students are learning through the use of images and maps, which supplements the text from the articles that we will read. The interactive features on the maps will also help the student be more actively involved in the lesson as they have a little bit of choice, as well as giving them something to anticipate, which should help to hold their attention.

  • Technology & Content: How does your choice of technology help you teach the “big ideas” and address the essential questions underlying the concept your lesson addresses? 

To understand the big idea of the causes and consequences of war, we need to dig into the details of this conflict in Syria. We need to see the places that have differing interests in what happens in Syria and we need to see how certain areas of Syria are under government control or rebel control and why. Seeing the war zones and the resulting changes on the map will help students discern what issues are at play in this conflict and help them talk about who should be involved in bringing about a peaceful solution.

  • Assessment: What do you want your students to know, and how will you know when they know it?  How will you assess what students have learned?  What role does technology play in these assessments?

I want students to know the basics of this conflict, and throughout our classroom discussion I can get a feel for whether or not most students are tracking with me on the topic. I will then have each student blog about their opinion on the best way forward to helping end this conflict, using at least one piece of information from either the BBC interactive map or the CNN interactive map. The technology is useful because the students can go back later and study the maps, interacting with the different features, and this will help them make a more informed suggestion on what could possibly be done to help bring this conflict to a peaceful solution.



CEP 800 – Student Understanding Podcast

While studying student understanding and its influence on student learning, I interviewed three of my students to see what they know about the development of the world. I focused on why European countries developed technology faster than other places in the world and have been the ones to conquer and control all the other places in the world. I just finished reading Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, and I hope to teach a unit on Geography next year in my Global Perspectives class that discusses the reasons why different places in the world developed differently historically. Click on the link below to hear or download the podcast.

Student Understanding Podcast (11:08)