95 Theses Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

This lesson plan will assist in your instruction about Martin Luther's '95 Theses.' A video lesson will explain the key components found in the theses as students discuss content before they are challenged to translate the theses to modern language and life.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • outline who Martin Luther was
  • explain the goal of Luther's 95 Theses
  • summarize in modern language some of the changes outlined in the 95 Theses
  • discuss why those in power in the Catholic Church opposed the reformations proposed by Luther


  • 60-90 minutes


  • Copies of Martin Luther's 95 Theses, one for each student
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Paper copies of the quiz, one for each student

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.3

Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).

Key Terms

  • Denomination
  • Indulgence
  • 95 Theses
  • Protestant Reformation
  • Zwickau Prophets
  • Diet of Worms
  • Peasants Revolt

Warm-Up and Connections

  • Review and connect students to the topic by dividing students into small groups and asking them to discuss:
    • How much power did the Catholic Church hold in Western Europe in the 16th century?
  • If necessary, remind students that the Church had launched the Crusades and wanted to maintain as much control as possible throughout the continent.
  • Title the board 'Martin Luther' and have groups share their prior knowledge of Luther. Share and discuss as a whole class.
  • Preview vocabulary words and have students title their notebooks 'Martin Luther and the 95 Theses;' instruct students to take notes as the lesson plays.


  • Start the video lesson Martin Luther, the 95 Theses, and the Birth of the Protestant Reformation, pause at 2:39, and ask:
    • Why did the Roman Catholic Church hold unchallenged sway over the hearts and minds of Western Europe?
    • Why was the Church's power so hotly contested at this time? How did the Church address any who would challenge it?
    • How may members of the Church have felt about this absolute power? Why?
  • Resume the lesson and pause again at 6:28 and discuss:
    • What specific actions did Luther attempt to stop?
    • What role did money play in launching the Protestant Reformation?
    • Why did the fact that Luther could read matter? How did he use this skill?
    • What was Luther's goal in writing the 95 Theses?
  • Restart the lesson. Pause at 8:12 and ask:
    • Why do you think the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire would want to punish Martin Luther? Remember that the most educated people came from the church.
  • Play the remainder of the lesson and have groups discuss:
    • How did the translation of the Bible into German accelerate the Reformation?
    • What role did Luther play in the Reformation?
  • Pass out to students the quiz. Ask them to take the quiz individually, but review the answers as a class.

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