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Who Was Marco Polo?
About this Daily Classroom Special
Global Gateways--Teaching Activities for the Global Classroom was written by Dany Ray, Teacher for the Gifted, Grady County School System, Cairo, Georgia, and former Teachers Network web mentor.

Who Was Marco Polo?

Background: 
Marco Polo was an Italian merchant and explorer who traveled with his father and uncle the overland route to Cathay, the name they gave to China, in the late 13th Century. He spent over 20 years in the service of the Great Kublai Khan. During this time, he traveled throughout Asia and encountered new ideas and inventions unknown to him. He returned to Italy and told of his adventures. Many felt that he was stretching the truth. Others took the things he told of to expand their knowledge of China, India, and Japan. 

Marco Polo's encounters and reflections were written down by others who knew him. In 1296 he was taken prisoner during a battle between his native Venice and Genoa. While in jail, he dictated in French the story of his travels to a fellow prisoner. The Book of Marco Polo  was widely read by people such as Christopher Columbus. This publication and others  like it led the way for the Age of Exploration.

Materials: 
Paper, pencils, list of inventions/concepts.

Procedures: (for the teacher and students) 

  • Read aloud the background to the class. Review with class the kind of person that Marco Polo was-intelligent, curious, and willing to learn new ways of doing things. 
  • Divide class into small groups. Have each group generate a list of ten attributes that Marco Polo and other explorers might possess. 
  • Ask students to rank order the list on a scale of 1-10. 
  • Discuss the lists and why students ranked the attributes as they did. Draw some conclusions as to the personality traits of successful explorers. 
  • Give each group one of the inventions/concepts from the list. Ask them to write a description of that invention/concept as if they had seen it for the very first time. They then read the description to the rest of the class without using the name of the invention in the description. The class will then try and guess from the description the invention/concept that Marco Polo brought back from the Far East. 
Invention/Concept Card List

Porcelain 
Printing Blocks 
Tea 
Compass 
Eyeglasses 
Paper 
Money 
Coal 
Noodles 
Silk

 

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