Renaissance Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Are you seeking a one-stop shop for your instruction on the Renaissance? If so, this lesson plan has it all, including a full unit study with corresponding video lessons that can be easily broken down into short lessons, each with integrated activities that culminate in a mastery project. To stay on this path of enlightenment, consider our suggestions for supplementary activities and related lessons.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • outline key events, locations, and figures of the Renaissance
  • explain the humanistic underpinnings of the Renaissance
  • compare and contrast pre- and post-Renaissance art and architecture
  • analyze the Renaissance economy


6 to 8 hours (easily divisible into 30-minute segments to use over a period of days or weeks)


  • Photocopies of a map of Italy
  • Photocopies of a world map
  • A $1 bill
  • Construction paper
  • Markers or colored pencils
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • String, ribbon, or yarn

Curriculum Standards


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


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.


Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).


Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


  • Begin by having students brainstorm a list of things that they think they know about the Renaissance, writing them down on paper.
  • Now show the video lesson The Renaissance Timeline: Events Overview to help give a general overview of the Renaissance. Were any of the things they thought they knew about the Renaissance mentioned in this video lesson?
  • Collect the student's lists and hang on to them until later in this unit study.
  • Pass out the photocopies of the map of Italy, one for each student.
  • Now play the video lesson The Italian Renaissance and Italy's Transformation, pausing at 3:56.
  • Have students label the following on their maps: BIRTHPLACE OF THE RENAISSANCE, FLORENCE, VENICE, MILAN, and ROME.
  • Now play the remainder of the video lesson and once again, collect these for further use in this unit study.
  • Have students use the internet to research famous works of art created before the Renaissance. Have them select three and print small images of them out. They should cut them out and paste them to a piece of construction paper labeled PRE-RENAISSANCE ART. Have them list the themes they see in these pieces.
  • Play the video lesson Humanism in the Renaissance: Recognizing the Beauty of the Individual.
  • Ask students to conduct online research on some significant pieces of art from the period of the Renaissance. Once again, have them select three works and print small images of them to cut out and paste on a sheet of construction paper labeled RENAISSANCE ART. Again, they should list any themes that they see in the pieces. When complete, these should be turned in for later use in this unit study.
  • Play the video lesson Renaissance Art: Artists, Paintings, Sculptures & Architecture. Were any of the student-selected works featured in the video lesson?
  • Next, ask students to conduct online research on the Medici family and their role in the art of the Renaissance. Students should write down five key points found in their research on a piece of construction paper titled THE MEDICI FAMILY.
  • Play the video lessons The House of Medici: Rise and Fall of a Banking Family, Florence in the Early Renaissance, and Growth of Independent Trading Cities in the Renaissance. When they are complete, have students share and compare their key facts on the Medici family with those provided in the video lessons. They should add any significant facts gleaned from the video lessons to their lists. Have the students hand in their lists for later use in this unit study.
  • Play the video lesson Reopening the Ancient Silk Road During the Renaissance.
  • Now pass out the photocopies of the world map.
  • Ask students to use the internet to research the Silk Road of the Renaissance era. Have them track the routes on their maps, using a different color for each, and list the items that were commonly traded along those routes.
  • Next, play the video lesson Marco Polo's Travels & Routes, pausing at 1:35.
  • Ask students to use their world maps and a new marker color (not one used to identify the Silk Road) to trace Marco Polo's routes as they are provided in the video lesson, beginning with Venice to Arce.
  • Resume the video lesson and play in its entirety as students follow along tracing Marco Polo's routes of travel. When complete, have students hand in their maps for later use in this unit study.
  • Now have students use the internet to find examples of pre-Renaissance printing and post-Renaissance printing. Have them select two examples for each and print, cut out, and paste the images to a piece of construction paper titled PRE- AND POST-RENAISSANCE PRINTING.
  • Play the video lessons New Ways of Spreading Information in the Renaissance and How the Printing Press Changed the World. How do the examples provided in the video lessons compare to what they found? Collect these pages from the students for later use in this unit study.
  • Now take the dollar bill, allowing students to look at it closely, asking each student to write down the words they see on it. How many of them do they know? Have them look up unknown words. Write the translations on the board before playing the video lesson The Rise of the Vernacular and the Decline of Latin.
  • Have students reflect on the names 'Michelangelo' and 'Leonardo Da Vinci.' Can they recall why these two men were important in the Renaissance? Discuss their ideas together before showing the video lessons Michelangelo: Biography and Works and Leonardo Da Vinci: Biography. Did they miss anything in their discussion of the importance of these two men? How many of them selected their works of art to represent the Renaissance on their papers?
  • Next, ask the students to once again brainstorm the things that they know about the Renaissance, writing them down on a sheet of paper.
  • Have students create a a cover page using the construction paper and markers as the first step in assembling their Renaissance scrapbook.
  • Finally, pass out each of the papers that the students have handed in throughout this unit study and have them use the hole punch and string/ribbon/yarn to assemble them in the order that they were created to form a tangible representation of the content mastered in this unit study.

Discussion Questions

  • How did the list of facts known about the Renaissance change after completion of the unit study?
  • What lasting effects of the Renaissance remain visible in modern society?
  • How different might our lives be without the humanistic influence of the Renaissance?


  • Have students complete this unit study independently, completing the associated quizzes. Upon completion, ask them to write a report on the Renaissance.
  • Take a virtual field trip to some of the places that were pivotal during the Renaissance. What was it about these locations that ended themselves to the changes experienced during the Renaissance?

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