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Making Sense of Islam

Subjects: Literature, Social Science, World History
Grades: 6-8, 9-12

Brief Description

In this lesson, students learn about the contemporary movements in the Muslim world.



  • learn about the role of the Islamic religion in the Middle East,
  • learn that Muslims live around the world, not only in the Middle East,
  • understand that Muslims believe Islam is a way of life,
  • analyze information on Islam and Islamic movements.


Islam, Quran (Koran), democracy, Middle East, Muslim

Materials Needed

Internet access is preferred, though not required.

Lesson Plan

Open the lesson by asking students to tell you what they know about Muslims and the Middle East. Have a student record the student responses on the board. Discuss each comment made by the students. Make sure to explain to the students that the Middle East is usually considered to be the countries extending from Egypt in the west to India in the east. Make it clear that the largest number of Muslims live in Indonesia, not the Middle East.

Explain to the students that Islam is the name for the religion practiced by Muslims. The word Islam means "peace." (See The Muslim's Belief.)

Tell the students that although Muslims live in various countries, from China to Trinidad and Zimbabwe, most of the people in the Middle East are Muslims. Make sure that the students understand that all Arabs are not Muslims; some practice Judaism, Christianity, and Druze.

Explain to students that Islam was founded in Arabia. Muhammed was the founder of Islam.

Students should be told that the religion of the Muslims is outlined in a holy book called the Quran (Koran). (See Transliteration of the Qur'an.) Explain that the Quran outlines the duties of a Muslim; provides information about how Muslims should live and dress; offers stories about the rise of Christianity and Judaism as well as stories about the prophets of those religions and Islam. Make it clear that Islam demands five things from the believer: (1) tawheed - belief in the Oneness of God, (2) praying five times each day, (3) offering of the zakat (obligatory charity), (4) fasting, and (5) performing hajj - making a pilgrimage. For Muslims, Islam is a way of life.

Tell students that there is a difference between Islam and Muslim culture. Explain that Muslims in various countries have their own cultural traditions, which determine such things as the forms of dress. In some cultures men might cover their heads with a turban; in others, the head might be covered with a smaller hat called a kufi. All male Muslims must have a beard; all women must cover themselves.

Next, arrange students into groups of four. Each group will find out more about Islam. They will prepare both a written and an oral report. Each cooperative group must use print and electronic media. Let them know that they will have to find at least one article about Islam on the World Wide Web. The members of the groups are to review the Web site and make this report a part of their oral presentation. The written report will include

  • information on Islam,
  • a sheet explaining the contribution of each member of the group to the final report, and
  • a bibliography of print and electronic sources used to complete the report.

The oral report should include at least four overhead transparencies. One transparency should be a summary of the report and another should be a map. The other two transparencies can include important information about Islam that members of the group believe the rest of the class should know.

The following are among the electronic resources students might use to complete their reports:


Allow several class periods for students to develop their written reports and oral presentations. Observe students working in groups, and evaluate each student on his or her participation in the group discussion. Count the written report as 35 percent of the final grade, the transparencies 20 percent, the oral presentation 30 percent, and the student's participation in the cooperative group the remaining 15 percent.

Submitted By

Clyde Winters, John Shedd High School, Chicago, Ill.


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