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Middle Ages in Middle School
With these middle school lessons on Europe in the Middle Ages, your students can explore the similarities and differences between life in medieval and modern times, while gaining understanding of how the events of the era changed the world.
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- Students will understand the basics of the feudal system of government.
- Students will explore various areas of life in the Middle Ages, including village life, education, clothing and sumptuary laws and other fields of interest.
- Students will understand the impact of the Black Plague epidemic and how it contributed to exploration and world expansion.
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The Feudal System
Begin by discussing the ranks commonly recognized in the feudal system (monarch, nobles, lords/knights, villeins/serfs), including the duties and entitlements of each.
Divide students into four groups and assign each group the task of researching one level of the feudal government system. Groups should report at least five facts to the rest of the class. They should also develop a graphic reminder for the rank and for each of the facts and create copies for each student.
After the groups have reported their findings to the rest of the class, allow students to create mobiles from the pictures provided by each group. To reinforce the hierarchical nature of the system, students should build the mobile by connecting the rank pictures to one another, with the fact reminders then suspended from each of those.
End the lesson with a discussion of the effects of feudalism on the European way of life and commerce.
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Divide students into pairs and assign each a topic for research, including housing, education, clothing, food, recreation, health and medicine, music, festivals, commerce and literature. Don’t worry about duplicating topics.
Allow the pairs time to research their topic thoroughly. When they have completed the research, the partners should design and illustrate an ABC sheet (see the template in the media gallery). Provide copies of all of the pages to each student; laminate and bind one set to create a class book.
Extend the research lesson by having each group make a display that includes a tri-fold board with facts and pictures related to their topic, as well as “artifacts" they make, similar to those that might be found in a museum. Set up the displays and invite parents and other classes to tour the (Your school’s name) Medieval Museum.
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Because of the significant reduction in available workers, the bubonic plague epidemics of the Middle Ages forever changed the system of commerce and government in Europe, ultimately leading to exploration and colonization around the world. Give your students a sense of how the disease spread and what this was like with the excellent simulation designed by Cory M. Wisnia. Extend the lesson during your debriefing following the experience by discussing how it might apply to modern plagues and what lessons could be learned.
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As students work on their research, they can write journal entries as if they were living in Europe during medieval times. Make the writing more fun by using coffee or tea to “age" the paper to simulate an old, found book.
A simple t-chart or Venn diagram will allow students to quickly gather and sort information necessary to practice writing compare-and-contrast essays.
Your students will stay actively engaged in learning with these middle school lessons on Europe in the Middle Ages.
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Black Plague Simulation
The Black Plague, by Cory M. Wisnia http://www.bayarearenaissancefest.com/images/the_black_plague_classroom_simulation.pdf
Useful Information and References for Students
Life During the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages for Kids
The Feudal System
Medieval Life -- Feudalism