Sunni & Shiite Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson contextualizes the conflicts in the Middle East, teaches students about the religious divide between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and addresses the geographical divide in the Middle East.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe the cause of the division between the Sunnis and Shiites
  • Compare and contrast the Sunni and Shiite origins and beliefs
  • Identify the geographic locations inhabited by Sunni and Shiite Muslims


This lesson will take 90-120 minutes. The optional extension activity can take up to an additional 60 minutes.

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.


Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.

Materials Needed

  • Sunni and Shiite Muslim Distribution Map
  • Video clip from the movie 'The Kite Runner'
  • 10 current event news articles about conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the Middle East


Divide the room into three stations and put your students into three groups. Have students rotate through the groups in 20 minute intervals.

Ask students what they have been told about conflicts in the Middle East and the Muslim religion. Explain that this lesson will help them better understand what is happening in the Middle East.

Watch the video lesson Islam Divides: The Sunni and the Shiite as a class. Pause at 2:18.

5-minute quick write: Have students fold a paper in half. On the top half, they will write everything they learned about the Shiites. On the bottom half they will write everything they learned about the Sunnis.

Allow students to share the things they wrote. Make a point for students to add (if they don't already have it written) the names of the original Sunni and Shiite leaders.

Watch the remainder of the video.

Show students a Muslim distribution map that indicates where the Sunni and Shiite are concentrated. Allow students to reflect on which group is larger and on the pockets of Shiite communities in the middle of predominantly Sunni countries.

Use the lesson's printable worksheet to check for understanding before sending students to their first station.

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