Category Archives: Online Lesson Plans

These lesson plans provide everything you need to explore the role of religion in world history and contemporary societies.

The Hijab Between Secularism and Piety

The purpose of this lesson is to elicit discussion on the contemporary meaning of hijab and the various reactions it draws from different cultures.

This lesson is provided free of charge. The lesson is based on a reading selected from a contemporary journalistic source. CIE is in no way affiliated with the author or publisher of the source. The source was utilized solely for its value as an educational tool.

Frontline: Muslims

The lesson packet bridges between the constraints of a documentary video production and the needs of the classroom. A correlation demonstrates that the materials meet content standards and skills mandates cited in state and national curriculum documents. They provide preparatory material that helps students get the most out of viewing part or all of the film with vocabulary, note-taking pages, as well as pre- and post-viewing questions for comprehension and critical analysis and assessment.

The background lessons on Islamic beliefs and Muslim history can supplement or replace textbook units on Islam. They include a glossary of key terms, an overview of the origins, beliefs and practices of Islam, a biography of Muhammad, and a reading on Muslim history from the seventh to the twenty-first century. Map activities include the spread of Islam and its contemporary distribution in the world. A geography project outline completes the second group of lessons.

The third group of lessons explores Islamic law and contemporary social issues. They can be used alone in any unit on historical and contemporary Islam, or in conjunction with all or parts of the Frontline:Muslims film. Topics addressed in the interactive lessons include the basic principles and practice of Islamic law, a comparative document study activity on human rights, including religious tolerance, a primary and secondary source analysis activity on marriage and women’s rights, a current events lesson incorporating the issue of official policies on wearing hijab (Muslim women’s dress), a set of overhead transparencies and handouts on the subject of jihad and terrorism in Islamic law, and an activity exploring the civic and religious dimensions of interactions among adherents of world faiths in the context of American life. Students also explore Muslim values through analysis of quotations from the Frontline: Muslims film.

Learn more about the film at
Order the DVD at Independent Production Fund

Artistic Exchange: Europe and the Islamic World

This lesson is designed to increase comprehension and appreciation of the National Gallery of Art brochure Artistic Exchange: Europe and the Islamic World, and the accompanying informational labels on featured works in the National Gallery of Art’s permanent collection. Reading comprehension activities help students understand the background essay about the context of cultural exchange between Europeans and others in the eastern hemisphere during the century before 1500. Through picture study, students learn to identify the evidence of these exchanges in the art objects and correlate them to the larger context of interaction among cultures over a long and formative period of world history.

Journey Along the Silk Road

This lesson plan ties together the subjects of history, geography, religion, art and economics while taking into account the fact there are many ways in which children learn.

All students make up a 13th – 15th century character and write a Rihla, or Travel Journal describing their journey from their home to one of the great Islamic cities known for its grand markets and universities. Since people traveled primarily along the great trade routes, students will learn about the Silk Road as well as the Islamic world as they work on this project. The students can write their travel journal as if they’re traveling for the sake of trade, education, or religious pilgrimage, or even a combination within those options, since people often combined things like trade and intellectual pursuits on one trip.

The focus of this lesson will be on the city of Cairo, with its Khan al Khalili Market which was built in 1382, and can still be visited today. The city also boasts Al Azhar University that was established in 972 and is the oldest continuously functioning university in the world. Students still travel to Al Azhar today to study Islamic science, law and theology. Of course teachers and students can select other cities as their interests direct them.

Students also select two additional activities from a list of options. Because of the broad scope of this subject, I’ve provided a list of activities students can select from that takes into account Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. This list suggests activities that accommodate various learning styles. Students must select activities from two different modes of learning: for instance, one from the Linguistics list and one from the Natural Science list. They can work in a group or alone. Teachers may want to add options to the list below, taking into account the specific interests of their students.

At the end of this program, students will share their projects with the class during a Celebration of Learning. This could be simple, or it could develop into a costumed banquet with food, music, and students playing the role of the character they made up for their Rihla, such as a Malaysian indigo merchant or a Syrian calligrapher.

The Transfer of Classical Knowledge Before the Renaissance

Students will learn the chronology and events related to the preservation and transfer of Greek and Roman learning after the classical period to the Byzantine, Sassanid Persian and Muslim civilizations, including its translation into Arabic and the further development of scientific and philosophical knowledge in Muslim civilization. They will understand the process by which it was transferred to European scholars from the 12th century on, and how this development relates to the rise of intellectuals and universities in Europe and what role this knowledge transfer played in the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet

CIE has prepared an extensive set of lessons that correlate with content found in the documentary film Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet. Teachers can show the film or various clips and use the following resources and lessons to enhance student understanding.

You can download PDFs for the sections or have the option of downloading the entire set of lessons as a single PDF file.

Learn more about the film at
Order the DVD at Unity Productions Foundation

Guidelines For Lesson Plan Authors

Teaching about world religions and the history of religious groups can be especially challenging, since faith is a sensitive issue. However, there are a number of things teachers can do to better equip themselves to address this important content area. First of all, educators committed to presenting accurate, balanced information to their students must ensure that instructional materials accord with academic perspectives on the topics covered. They should also be familiar with state curriculum requirements, state standards, and other pedagogical frameworks that describe how the topics may be addressed.