The other night I created two short ways to introduce the Silk Road and the Great Wall to sixth graders. Feel free to use them or edit them as you choose.
1) Silk Road-- Corner the Market
I got the inspiration from a card game I played with my family over the holidays. I can't remember the name, but I thought it was corner the market.
I made a set of 36 playing cards. These were simply printed pictures that I cut up (I have links below). From there you split students into groups of six and you give each player 6 random cards. Therefore, each student has 6 cards or "products" in their hand. Once trading starts their goal is to get all six of one product. Whenever they want to make a trade, they simply turn to one of the six players and say I will trade you two for two or three for three. The other person does not see the traded cards until the transaction is made. This continues until one person has all of one product. They then have cornered the market. In order to add a new wrinkle to it you can assign each product a point total. This means that rice may be worth 50 and art 200. The students then have to figure out if it is better to make the most "cheap" transactions or try to wait and make the more "lavish" ones. This becomes a lesson in supply and demand and price for sixth graders even though I really didn't stress those points. After this you can introduce the Silk Trade and the students are pumped to find out more.
If you take this game an use it my only wish is that you make sure it stays a game and not a competition. I was clear that we were not keeping score or points and the kids had not problem with that.
My products were: Rice, Asian Horses, Silk, Art, Cows, Chinese Paper
Google Doc with for cards
(When I uploaded to Google Docs the pics went astray so you can email me email@example.com for word doc)
#2 Make you own wall
Before class, I asked the teacher next door to try and get into our classroom in 15 minutes. As the students walked in I announced that angry Ms. B was trying to invade the class. We would have 10 minutes to try and block her. I told the students that they could use anything to build a wall blocking the door. As long as there was no running or screaming everything was game. One student asked what would happen if there was a fire and my response was, "I hope that doesn't happen". Students stacked desks, chairs, and supplies to fortify the classroom (while they were all their I briefly thought about burning them). In 15 minutes the teacher could not come in and then we had a brief discussion as to why countries build wall and barriers. It was a great intro to the Great Wall.