The Great Schism Lesson Plan

Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

If you're planning to teach your students about the Great Schism, this lesson plan will help them learn about the events surrounding the Great Schism. An activity incorporates art techniques to engage students with history.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify the problems that caused the split between Catholics in the West and those in the East
  • explain the chain of events that led to the Great Schism


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.


  • Art supplies (paper, colored pens and pencils)

Instructions: Learning through Sketchnotes

  • Explain to the class that they'll learn about the Great Schism that divided the Catholic Church into two branches. Also explain that the class is going to try a technique called 'sketchnoting' to engage more directly with the material and hopefully improve their retention of the information.
    • If your students are unfamiliar with sketchnotes, teach a mini lesson on the technique. Emphasize that sketchnotes do not involve a lot of drawing. Instead, they're a more visual form of note-taking that emphasizes things like font or lettering, frames, different types of bullets, ways to draw emphasis to key terms, graphics like arrows that draw connections between concepts, and easy-to-draw icons and stick figures.
    • Either model sketchnoting or show a video tutorial on the technique. It's also a good idea to practice. Call on a student to give a short talk about a memorable day from elementary school. While that student talks, have the class try sketchnoting as you model the same on the board or through the use of a document camera.
  • Now that students have the basics of sketchnoting, play the video lesson, The Great Schism Between East and Western Churches, and ask students to take sketchnotes. You may find that until they've built up their speed, the video will go too fast for them. That's OK! Play it a second time, or pause at appropriate points so students can catch up.
  • Finally, move students into groups of four and ask them to compare their notes. Students can make additions to their notes based on what their group members share.

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