December 2011


Students will:

  • Explore the concept of revolution and come up with a class definition for the term.
  • Learn about various Arab Spring protest movements in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Assess the accomplishments of the movements and discuss whether they meet definitions of revolution.


Handouts—The Arab Spring: Country Presentations and Looking at the Region

In the Classroom

1. Introduction

Write the focus question “What is a revolution?” on the board. Ask students what they know about revolution. What are some different ways that people use the term revolution? Can students give examples of revolutions from history? What characteristics do these revolutions share? How are they different? What different stages do revolutions go through? How can we assess whether a revolution is successful? Develop a definition of revolution together as a class and write it on the board beneath the focus question.

2. Group Work

Inform students that they will be researching the recent Middle East and North Africa protest movements and analyzing whether they should be considered revolutions. Divide the class into groups and distribute “The Arab Spring: Country Presentations.” Assign each group a country: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and any other countries you want to include in the lesson (i.e. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, etc.). Each group will be responsible for giving a 2-3 minute presentation to the class about the effects of recent protests in their assigned country. Have groups explore the sources listed below and consider the questions on the handout to help them prepare.

Note: You may want to have students do this lesson over two class periods, or have groups research their assigned countries the night before.

3. Presentations

Distribute “The Arab Spring: Looking at the Region.” Have students fill in the row for their assigned country. While groups are presenting, students should take notes on their charts.

4. Considering the Arab Spring Today

What is the status of the political movements today? How successful have the protests been? How do we measure their success? (Elections? New governments?) What have been the major obstacles to change? Why have some countries experienced violence? How has the response of the international community and the United States impacted various political movements? Why has the United States responded differently to protests in different countries?

5. Arab Revolution?

Ask students to compare the movements in the Middle East with the historical revolutions mentioned in the beginning of class and with the class definition of revolution. Can we call some of these movements “revolutions?” If so, which ones? Can we think of the Arab Spring as a regional revolution? Is it too early to tell? After looking at these different case studies, what do students think about their class definition of revolution—should it be changed in any way?

General Resources:

BBC: Middle East Protests—Country by Country

New York Times: Arab Spring and Fall

Strategic Studies Institute: The Arab Spring and the Future of U.S. Interests and Cooperative Security in the Arab World

Guardian: Arab Spring—An Interactive Timeline of Middle East Protests

BBC: How the Arab Spring began

Country-Specific Resources:


Al Jazeera: Egypt in Transition

New York Times: Egypt News—Revolution and Aftermath


Al Jazeera: Yemen Unrest

New York Times: Yemen—Protests (2011)

BBC: Q&A–Yemen Crisis


Al Jazeera: A New Libya

New York Times: Libya—Revolution and Aftermath (2011)

BBC: Libya Conflict Q&A

Al Jazeera: Empire—A Revolution for All Seasons (watch 21:23-23:20)


Al Jazeera: Syria Uprising

New York Times: Syria—Protests (2011)

Al Jazeera: Empire—A Revolution for All Seasons (watch 2:23-6:25)


Al Jazeera: 2011 Tunisia Election

New York Times: Tunisia

Al Jazeera: Empire—A Revolution for All Seasons (watch 23:25-28:22)

Back to top