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The Enlightenment & World Revolutions Activities for High School

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

The Enlightenment and the world revolutions that followed make for an exciting chapter of world history. This lesson offers some activities that will keep your students engaged as they learn about this aspect of history.

Teaching the Enlightenment and World Revolutions

As a world history or European history teacher, one of the periods you are sure to cover is the Enlightenment. This usually also goes with the global revolutions that came along with this massive period of change in world history. Helping students understand this time period will let them learn about the history of science, the ways cultural changes can occur, and the meaning and significance of the modern revolution.

To teach the Enlightenment and subsequent revolutions, it can help to have some activities to incorporate into your instruction, thus maintaining student engagement and motivation. The activities in this lesson appeal to a variety of learning styles and strengths while familiarizing students with this time in world history.

Visual Activities

Here, you will find activities that appeal to visual learners, those who work best with images and graphic organizers.

Portrait of a Thinker

Have students work independently or with partners for this activity. Each student will focus on the life and works of one major Enlightenment figure, such as Voltaire, Kant, or Rousseau.

They should create a visual portrait of this person and around the illustration, they should create a frame that uses a combination of words and drawings to illustrate some of their major ideas and contributions. Be sure to leave time for students to share their portraits with classmates and discuss similarities and differences.

Timeline of Revolutions

Students can work in small groups for this activity. Ask each group to create a timeline that shows the years and months of the beginnings of each of the major world revolutions associated with the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment period.

For each item that they place on the time line, they should add an image or drawing that represents something about the country and its ideals. Then, have students compare their timelines and discuss the relationships between and among the revolutions of this period.

Kinesthetic Activities

The activities in this section encourage students to use their hands and bodies to make more sense of this time in history.

Impact on the Arts

The Enlightenment had a significant impact on the arts, and the arts also had a major influence on the Enlightenment. Individually or with partners, ask students to create sculptures representing one of the artistic movements associated with the Enlightenment period. Alternatively, students with musical knowledge and inclinations can also work on playing pieces from the time.

Host an Enlightenment art gallery in which students share their works and discuss the changes in the arts that occurred during this time.

Science and Religion Debate

One of the most important issues of the Enlightenment period was the emerging and ongoing debate regarding the primacy of science over religion. Have students work in small groups for this activity.

Each group should write and enact a brief skit that dramatizes these issues. They can act out the roles of real Enlightenment thinkers or everyday citizens impacted by changes in surrounding discourses. Leave time for students to perform their skits for each other and discuss the nature of the issues and controversies of the time.

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