Building Backgrond Knowledge: Asia & The Middle East Jigsaw

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SWBAT research a region in the Middle East or Asia, and then jigsaw their responses in a different group.

Big Idea

How do we get the most out of literature? Before we read novels, lets build background knowledge about their setting.

Introduce Research Topics & First Group

25 minutes

Today, I introduce our new unit, which consists of literature circles. Before I assign the books, I explain we'll need to build background knowledge. I pass out Researching Setting: Middle East & Asia and go over the instructions.

I also start with a visual. Google Maps is nice, because of the zoom feature. I ask, where is the Middle East? Where is Asia? Kids come up to the board to point out certain countries in the Middle East and Asia that they're familiar with.

I count off by fives to create groups. These cities and countries are based on settings from our upcoming literature circle unit. Depending on their number, they're assigned a setting.

1. Palestine

2. Kabul, Afghanistan

3. Karachi, Pakistan

4. Cholistan Desert, Pakistan

5. Afghan Desert


Research: On the back of this sheet, please record information about government/economy, religion, daily life, climate/terrain and women’s role’s in these regions. Also, your group will be given a world map. Please label the map with your assigned setting or region.

As they start researching, they divide up into within their small group and divide tasks. Here is a video of kids reporting back about their findings: Small Group Research and Findings.

When they're finished with World Book Research, they are responsible for all of the information covered in their small group. The purpose of this mini-research activity is to build background knowledge on the Middle East and Asia.



15 minutes

After kids have mastered their assigned region in their original small group: one group builds background knowledge about Afghanistan different group, each holding members from different regions.

During the jigsaw, they're broken further into three larger groups. In these groups, they're responsible for explaining to the new members a little about their setting. Kids use the note sheet to jot down important facts that contribute to setting. By the end of the activity, all kids should have a firm grasp on all of the different literature circle settings, so that no matter which novel they're assigned, they'll be able to comprehend their setting.

Begin Documentary: "Promises"

15 minutes

At the end of the period today, we begin the documentary "Promises," which we'll continue to watch in small chunks for the remainder of the unit.

"Promises presents a powerful portrait of seven Palestinian and Israeli children who live in and around Jerusalem. As filmmaker B.Z. Goldberg, who was raised in Israel, notes, They live no more than 20 minutes from each other, but they are each growing up in very separate worlds. The children include Mahmoud, Shlomo, Sanabel, Faraj, Moishe, and twins Yarko and Daniel."-taken from

The purpose of watching this documentary is so kids can build background knowledge on a part of the world that many know very little about.