Evaluating the Muslim Innovations of the Middle Ages

The following is a lesson on evaluating using Google Drawings. The lesson is centered around evaluating the significance and impact of Muslim innovations and inventions during the Middle Ages. Of course the lesson can be tailored to any content. I had the students use Google Drawings but this also can be adjusted, and can be done with paper and pencil supplies or another program. I find Google Drawings to be an effective tool because of the collaboration and feedback capabilities, and its ease of simple formatting.

My lessons, and this post, are organized using the GANAG lesson plan schema but can be easily adapted to fit any active learning cycle.


The content goal of the lesson was for students to know the major innovations and inventions that came out of Muslim society in the Middle Ages. I find this unit particularly important in our current climate due to the many misconceptions and stereotyping surrounding Muslim culture, history, and current events. In addition to the content goal, I want students to learn how to systematically evaluate in order to determine something’s significance. Finally, I set a collaboration goal for students to recognize the difference between collaboration and working together.

The student goals read:

I can evaluate Muslim innovations of the Middle Ages to determine which ones have had the most significant impact on modern society.

I can determine the difference between collaboration and working together, and describe the benefit of collaborating.

Copy of Sophia C._Diana P._Renata L._Muslim Adaptation and Innovations

Access Prior Knowledge

After students copied down the goal and rated their before level of understanding, I asked them to discuss with their partner and write down in their notebook what it meant to evaluate, and to give some examples. Students then shared aloud with the class. I reminded students that to do any thing skill related one must use an organized set of steps, or a process, that guides the work. I gave examples such as cooking or hitting a baseball for students to see how this is true outside of the classroom as well.

New Information

For this lesson I then moved right into the directions of the project. Right away I went over a four step process to evaluating.

  1.  Set Goal
  2. Determine Criteria
  3. Test
  4. Draw Conclusion

As I described each step I used an example of my family’s quest to find, or evaluate, the best burger in town. I described my criteria of bun, meat, cured pork product (BACON!!!), and sauce. I love giving personal examples like this when I teach. I find students like to hear about a teacher’s personal life because it makes us more human, and the students loved to know that we eat at many of the same restaurants (yes students, we teachers are eating and breathing humans just like you!).

Together we then set the goal and criteria for evaluating the significance of Muslim innovations. I use a Google Doc for the directions, which is linked below, and I added the criteria and goal directly to the document as the students and I worked together. I often will make live changes like this to directions and other student sheets, which is one of the many benefits of using Google Docs for such work.

Next, the students and I looked over the rubric and graded a sample project. I purposely created a sample that spanned a wide quality of work. I like to show students the varying degrees of work that could be done and why certain work meets standard while other word does not.


IMG_0151For this project I provided to the students a presentation and already prepared notes of the most important Muslim innovations from the Middle Ages. Normally I have students read, watch or listen, and take their own notes. I strongly believe in building reading and note taking skills but for this project because the focus was evaluating, I decided to give them already prepared notes. I also stressed to them that there would be no need to do any additional research, although they could refer to our textbook or ask questions for clarification.

Students then worked through the notes to find 6-9 innovations they wanted to evaluate. I continued to stress to them collaborating meant trying to find consensus and that I should hear arguing and disagreements as they evaluated which innovations were the most significant.

The students had to then complete a Significance Line Graph using Google Drawings. The students had to place the innovations and their write-ups along the line graph according to how significant they believed each innovation to be. During this part of the lesson I circulated the room playing devil’s advocate trying to test each group’s ideas. In addition, students had to include historically accurate photos. The photos add an aesthetic value to the project and also give the chance for students to see back into history. Also, it gives me the opportunity to show students how to go deeper with their Google image searches to determine the origin of the source and to see if it is from the time period we are studying.

Goal Review and Summarize

I always try to include an authentic and meaningful audience whenever possible for my students. In this case, I gave the students 20 minutes to do a gallery walk, where students had the chance to move around the classroom to see and read their peer’s work. In other times I have had students set up Google Forms with their work to get detailed feedback from their classmates, however this time I went low-tech with post-it notes. Students had to write one thing they thought the group did well and one thing the group should work on for next time.

Next, I led a class discussion/debate to determine which innovation had the most impact. Students took turns presenting findings and their arguments to the class. Students agreed and argued, and after getting it down to a small list they voted. I had students use PollEverywhere.com, which is my go-to survey/poll site. It’s fast enough to set up on the fly and the students loving watching the votes get tallied.

With just a few minutes left in class I had students go back to their goal sheets to rate their after level of understanding.

Copy of MJ Justina_BlockG_MI (1)


Students completed the project with partners or groups of three, however I graded each student individually. I had students take responsibility for writing up 3 of the evaluations and they labeled which ones they did. To give students feedback on their work I used the comments feature on Google Drawings and a comment key and rubric.


Notes Presentation


Teacher Sample

Hi 5!


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