Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-8, students explore BrainPOP resources to learn about Musa, the 14th century emperor (or mansa) of the Mali Empire in West Africa. After learning about Musa’s famous pilgrimage to Mecca, students will conduct an exclusive interview with the “bling king” about his journey, focusing on how he expanded and developed the Mali empire.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Review where Mali is on a map, and preview Musa’s pilgrimage route.
  2. Watch a BrainPOP movie and review resources about Mansa Musa.
  3. Take notes about Musa’s journey, and his influence along the way.
  4. Conduct an interview, taking on the role of the interviewer or Musa.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Recording device, such as smartphone (optional)


Lesson Procedure:

  1. Display the Mansa Musa topic on the whiteboard. Invite a volunteer to read the description below the movie.
  2. Show a world map and have a volunteer find and point to Mali. Explain that this is modern-day Mali but that back in the 14th century, when Musa ruled, the empire was much bigger--covering hundreds of thousands of square miles. Point out that today, nine countries sit on parts of what was the original Mali.
  3. Tell students they will learn all about Mansa Musa and his influence, and after they will conduct interviews about the pilgrimage, either as a reporter or as Mansa Musa.
  4. Show the movie Mansa Musa  on the whiteboard to the whole class. Enable closed captioning to aid in student comprehension. Pause to explain and clarify as needed.
  5. Allow time after the movie for students to independently explore some of the other Mansa Musa features. They can take the quiz, explore Related Readings, do the Challenges, etc.
  6. Next, have students open their Make-a-Map assignments (or if not assigned, just open Mansa Musa Make-a-Map). Instruct them to watch the movie again independently, this time taking notes about the journey, including where Mansa Musa traveled, who he saw, what he did, the effects of his actions, etc. Remind the class that they can include video clips and images to their notes. Allow time for this activity, walking around and helping as needed. Encourage students to include details they may have learned about in some of the other features, such as the Related Reading articles.
  7. After everyone has completed their notes, divide the class into pairs. Within each pair, one student takes the role of TV reporter and the other of Mansa Musa. The reporter can use both sets of notes (their own and their partner's) to draft a set of questions for Mansa Musa. Allow time for the student playing Musa to review the questions and write down answers, again using both sets of notes. Have pairs practice their interviews.
  8. When ready, students record (if recording) their interviews, or present live to the class. Be sure that the reporter states his/her name and the station airing the interview (e.g., This is Maya from Mali Media bringing you an exclusive interview with Mansa Musa, Mali’s Bling King)
  9. If recording the interview, have everyone share their final interviews on the white board with the rest of the class.
  10. After everyone has presented, bring the class together to share what they learned about Mansa Musa, his pilgrimage, and his influence.

Extension Activities:

Create a Make-a-Movie of the interview.