Thus far in this unit students have focused on local communities such as the class and the city of Memphis. During the rest of the year students will explore the histories of distant societies. This final activity can help students connect what they have learned about local communities to what they will be studying about larger societies.
First, write the word society on the board. Ask students if they have any ideas about how a society is the same as a community and how it is different. Both communities and societies include groups of people. Indeed, sometimes people use these terms as synonyms. However, typically communities represent smaller groups of people. You would not usually refer to a class or a school or even Memphis as a society but you would call all of these groups communities. On the other hand, the United States or the Mayan Empire is more often identified as a society rather than as a community. Because societies are just large communities, everything that students have learned about communities applies to the societies they will be studying in world history. You could also take a few moments to brainstorm other words people use to describe the large communities you will be studying. Terms like civilization and culture may come to mind.
In the main activity, students used their description of Memphis to generate broad categories representing some of the key factors that shape communities. Have students share the main categories they created. As they name a category, write it on the board or on a large piece of paper, grouping related categories such as geography and physical characteristics. Inform students that when they look at societies from around the world they will be studying the same factors.
Curriculum connections: Elements that make up societies include the following: geography, government, religion/values, economics/trade, arts/entertainment, education, science/technology, and social structure. The images selected of Memphis allude to these factors that shape a community. You can keep a list of these categories on the wall as a tool for students to use when describing and analyzing the societies they will study throughout the school year.
Communities and societies change over time. Indeed, exploring how societies develop and why they decline is often a central theme of a world history course. To introduce students to the idea that societies change, ask them to create a list of the ways Memphis has changed over time. Challenge groups to come up with one change for each of the categories listed on the board. As an extension question, ask students to guess why or how these changes took place. Students can add their ideas about how Memphis has changed to their identity charts of the city.