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Lesson Plan: The Knight's Code of Chivalry

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 2/14/2012

Teaching about chivalry involves learning content, identifying examples, applying it in certain situations, analyzing it, and making interpretations.

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    Do the Right Thing

    A former student wrote me this letter:

    Dear Teacher:

    I was in your class years ago. I was looking for direction in my life. We read the Tales of King Arthur, and to be honest, I couldn't figure out what practical purpose Arthurian tales had in the real world. Then you started teaching about chivalry, and we discussed the Knight's Code of Chivalry. Everyone in the class thought the knights were stupid. Then it hit me. The Knight's Code of Chivalry governed the knight's behavior. You weren't teaching about chivalry. You were teaching us to Do the Right Thing.

    Sincerely,

    Spike

    I'm not sure what Spike was talking about, I thought of that lesson driving to school that morning. I now share with you my "Teaching about Chivalry" lesson plan:

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    Procedures

    1. Discuss chivalry:
      • It was a strict code adhered to by King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
      • It stated knights must be courteous, truthful, honest, chaste, loyal, and honorable.
      • It encompassed the concept of courtly love, a highly conventionalized code of conduct for lovers. Knights were obligated to perform any duty their lover wished.
      • Some knights lived up to the code better than others.
    2. Make a chart for each character in a King Arthur story whose actions you wish to analyze:
      • The chart should be three columns by six rows.
      • Across the top, label the columns Chivalric Code, Examples of Living up to the Code, Examples of not Living Up to the Code
      • In the far left column, write the following traits: Courteous, Truthful, Courageous, Loyal, Chaste, Honorable
    3. Read an Arthurian Legend: The Crowning of Arthur, Sir Launcelot Du Lake, The Mists of Avalon, The Once and Future King, The Once and Future Merlin, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, The Knight.
    4. Fill out the chart for each character.
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    Extension Activities

    Now that your students understand the Knight's Code of Chivalry, make them analyze their knowledge with one or more of the following activities:

    1. Write an analysis paragraph on one or more characters in the context of the code of chivalry. The paragraph must include specific examples from an Arthurian story.
    2. Put one of the characters on trial or debate the guilt or innocence of a character with the Knight's Code of Chivalry as the guideline for judgment. Guinevere, Mordrid, Launcelot, and Arthur make likely defendants.
    3. Create your own "code" and write a narrative. The characters have all adopted the "code" and struggle at times to meet the ideal.
    4. Write the "code" you live by. It could be a religious code, a family code, a school code, a sports team's fan code, or an organization's code.
    5. Write about a time you struggled to live up to your personal code of conduct.
    6. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.