Middle Ages Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

With this lesson plan and a video from Study.com, your students' understanding of the Middle Ages will be anything but 'Dark.' Opportunities to explain feudalism and the Black Death are included.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify the main events of the Dark Ages
  • Explain the role of feudalism during the Dark Ages

Length

30-45 minutes

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

Materials

In addition to the video The Dark Ages: Definition, History, & Timeline, you may find it beneficial to have some examples of medieval artwork and other cultural representations from the period.

Key Vocabulary

  • Feudalism
  • Liege vs. Vassal
  • Serf or Peasant

Instructions

  • Have students watch the Study.com video lesson The Dark Ages: Definition, History & Timeline, stopping at the following points for discussion:
    • 1:17 - Why do you think that later historians wanted to downplay the accomplishments of the Dark Ages? Which do you think Petrarch wanted to be more a part of, the Dark Ages or the Classical Period before it?
    • 3:07 - Take this opportunity to make sure that students understand the concept of Feudalism. Also ask students how they think that the role of the Church changed as a result of the Bubonic Plague and the Crusades.
    • 3:29 - Draw on artwork and philosophy from the period and ask your students to describe the material culture of the period.

Activity

  • Assuming students are not already familiar with the art of the period, introduce the idea of an Illuminated Manuscript. Encourage students to write their own 1-2 paragraph history of a topic in the Middle Ages and then illuminate it.
  • Alternatively, you could introduce the ideas of medieval philosophy. For example, illustrate Occam's Razor (better known as keeping it simple) by coming up with outlandish explanations for something simple, then something more straight-forward. Here are some examples that are from the period:
    • Cinnamon is used by phoenixes to build their nests, and those who harvest it must be careful to not be engulfed in flames OR it just doesn't grow in Europe.
    • We can't see beyond the horizon because the world is flat and across the horizon we'd fall off OR things get smaller in the distance, with or without the world being flat.

Extensions

  • Ask students to put themselves in the position of a low-ranking feudal lord, having to write a letter to their liege explaining the status of the manor.
  • Encourage students to learn more about the Black Death, focusing especially on how many of the attempted cures were more superstitious that anything.

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