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The Roadmap to the Jewish Golden Age of Spain
Introduction Learning Activities Materials Bookmarks Standards
Learning Activities
Iberian Peninsula, 732-1492: Historical Overview
Understanding Judaism within the Context of Islamic Rule
Muslim and Jewish Partnership
Thriving Jewish Culture in Medieval Spain as Explored through Poetry
Learning Activity 1:
Iberian Peninsula,
732-1492: Historical Overview

This learning activity is intended to provide students with basic historical, geographical, political, and cultural information regarding the region during this time period.

Introductory Activity:

1. Ask students to characterize, briefly, what they know about Islamic-Jewish relations. Write their answers on the board.

2. Explain to students that they will be learning about a particular historical epoch in the history of Islamic-Jewish relations often referred to as the "Golden Age of Spain." Ask students why we might call a historical period a golden age. What kinds of things might have taken place during such a period?

3. Optional Question (to be used if students have some prior knowledge of the Jewish Golden Age of Spain): Ask the students what they know about the Golden Age of Spain. Write their responses on the board, then restate and categorize the information. Summarize the basic facts about the period students will be studying and encourage them to take notes on the summary.

Note to teachers: The following Web sites and books offer a good historical overview of the period:

Golden Age of Muslim Spain, Part 1: The 11th Century

The Almohads Disrupt the Golden Age of Spain

Golden Age of Muslim Spain, Part 2: The Beginnings of Christian Reconquest, 9th - 12th Centuries

The Golden Age of Spain Tarnishes, 1250-1391

Gerber, Jane S. Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience. New York: Free Press, 1992.

Dodds, Jerrilynn Denise, Thomas F. Glick and Vivian B. Mann. Convivencia: Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Medieval Spain. George Braziller, 1992.

4. Explain to students that in order to understand the rise of the Golden Age of Spain, they need to understand what was happening in the region politically, economically, and religiously in the centuries leading up to the Golden Age. Display the DVD-ROM image Heritage Bookmark Atlas: Europe/Near East/North Africa to the class.

5. Distribute the Atlas Exploration (PDF) handout and ask students to explore the atlas segment of the DVD-ROM in small groups. If you only have one computer, this can be done as a class activity. Ask students to write down five questions and answers based on the information they encounter in Atlas.
  • Begin by reading the summary aloud to students while the map is projected. This will provide the necessary historical context for students to understand what was happening in the region at the time. Flip between the modern and historical view, and explore the changes that occurred in earlier periods by clicking and dragging the timeline bar to the left of the map. Notice the changes in empires, trade routes, and borders.

  • Next, zoom in on the Iberian Peninsula and read the summary.

  • Zoom out, and move on to the next time period (732-1492). Read the summary, flip between the modern and historical view, and click and drag the timeline bar to explore the changes that occurred during this time period.

  • Zoom in on the Iberian Peninsula once again, and read the summary for this time period.

6. Divide the class into small groups and ask each group to select a scribe (the person responsible for taking notes) and a reporter (the person responsible for reporting the work of the small group to the class). Instruct students to discuss the questions and answers they've written down. Students, during their discussions, should select five important facts that help to characterize each time period, and the scribe should write these on large paper. Tape these papers on an appropriate wall so that the entire class can see them.

7. Regroup and ask the reporters to share their group's work with the whole class. Encourage students to take notes on the information presented by the small groups.

8. Finally, students should create in their journals a rough timeline of events for these periods. Ideally, they can do this at the end of the lesson, with the small-group lists and the DVD-ROM as resources. The purpose of this assignment is for students to begin to build a set of resources/references that will help them remember the context of various time periods. Alternately, you may want to have students keep a journal with a "growing timeline" that builds over the course of this lesson.

Continue to Learning Activity 2: Understanding Judaism
within the Context of Islamic Rule

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