1. To develop an
understanding of life in Medieval times.
2. To use
the Internet to research the roles played by a
king, queen, rook, knight, bishop, and pawn.
with Internet capabilities
Teachers may introduce the
following words as they appear in the context of
the lesson or students may use Dictionary.com or Enchanted Learning to define the words below. Click here to see a glossary of words related to this chess unit.
Teachers may wish to use or have
students use Puzzlemaker.com to create a crossword puzzle or word search
using the above vocabulary words.
1. Students read the
information and try out interactive activities on the web sites below to learn about life in
Life a web site with information
about life in medieval times.
multisensory, interactive web site
related to medieval life Students can enter a village,
listen to music and learn about the life of medieval
- Medieval Life and Times is a comprehensive medieval life
and times research unit. Links on this site include: village
life, castles, knights and crusades, literature, women,
games, clothing, and music.
of Chess explains how the
game of chess tells about life in
complete this chart: Click here for a blank chart.
1. Why did most people
live on a
Manor life provided
protection and land grants.
2. What did the manor
|The manor consisted of
the castle, the church, the village, and
the surrounding farm land.
3. What was the life
of a peasant like?
|Peasants or surfs
worked the land, produced goods needed by
the lord of the manor, and paid heavy
taxes. Most medieval homes were cold,
damp. Their dark windows, were very
small openings with wooden shutters that
were closed at night or in bad weather.
The small size of the windows allowed
those inside to see out, but kept
outsiders from looking in. Many peasant
families ate, slept, and spent time
together in one or two rooms. The floors
were covered with rushes and herbs.
The houses had thatched roofs and were
easily destroyed. The kitchen had a stone
hearth in the center of the room for
cooking and warmth.
ate bread, vegetables from their own
gardens, dairy products from their own
sheep, goats, and cows, and pork from
their own livestock. The meat was salted
for keeping and herbs flavored leftover
breads, and vegetables. Some vegetables,
such as cabbages, leeks, and onions
became known as "pot-herbs."
This pottage was a staple of the peasant
Peasant men wore
stockings or tunics. Women wore long
gowns with sleeveless tunics and wimples
to cover their hair. Sheepskin cloaks,
woolen hats and mittens were worn in
winter. Leather boots were covered with
wooden patens to keep the feet dry.
The outer clothes
were almost never laundered, but the
linen underwear was
regularly washed. Peasant
women spun wool into the threads that
were woven into the cloth for clothing.
4. What was life for
|Women did household
tasks such as cooking, baking bread,
sewing, weaving, and spinning. Some women
hunted for food and fought in battles,
used weapons to defend their homes and
castles. Some medieval women were
blacksmiths, merchants, and apothecaries.
Others were nuns, midwives, worked in the
fields, were writers, played musical
instruments, or were dancers and
5. What was life life
for the baron and lord of the manor?
|Lords ruled over fiefs
or manors, renting out most of the land
to the peasants who worked for them.
They were also the warriors of medieval
society. As trained knights, they were
bound by oath to serve the great nobles
who granted them their fiefs, and could
be called to battle at any time. The
lords, with the help of the church, acted
as judges and carried out the laws of the
They lived in elaborate
homes. Their floors were paved, and
sometimes decorated with tiles.
Tapestries were hung on the walls,
providing not only decoration but also an
extra layer of warmth. Fenestral windows,
with lattice frames that were covered in
a fabric soaked in resin and tallow,
allowed in light, kept out drafts, and
could be removed in good weather. Only
the wealthy could afford panes of glass;
sometimes only churches and royal
residences had glass windows. The
kitchens of manor houses and castles had
big fireplaces where meat, even large
oxen, could be roasted on spits. These
kitchens were usually in separate
buildings, to minimize the threat of
fire. Pantries were stocked with swans,
blackbirds, ducks, pigeons, rabbits,
mutton, venison, and wild boar. Many of
these animals were caught on hunts.
The wealthy people wore brightly
colored, elaborate clothing made of
better materials. They wore long jackets
with pleating or skirting, hose, a or a
tunic with a surcoat. Wealthy women wore
flowing gowns and elaborate headwear,
shaped like hearts or butterflies to tall
steeple caps and Italian turbans. Fur was often used to line
the garments of the wealthy. Sometimes
clothes were decorated with silver. The
wealthy wore lavish jewelry. Ring brooches were the
most popular item.
|6. What was town
||Peddlers went from
village to village selling good such as
gems, silk, and other luxuries.
They traded coal, timber, wood,
iron, copper, and lead to the south and
came back with luxury items such as wine
and olive oil.
|7. What role did
the church play?
||Because the Catholic
Church was the only church in Europe
during the Middle Ages, the church was
very powerful and had its own laws.
Bishops and Archbishops were church
leaders. Parish Priests often had little
education. The village priest tended to
the sick and poor and, if he was able,
taught Latin and the Bible to the
children of the village. Monks and
nuns took vows of poverty, chastity, and
obedience to their leaders. They were
required to perform manual labor and were
forbidden to own property or leave the
monastery. Daily tasks were often carried
out in silence. Monks were often well
educated and devoted their lives to
writing and learning. Most of the holy
orders wore plain, long woolen habits.
The order could be recognized by the
color of the habit.
|8. What was the
health care like?
conditions existed so diseases spread.
Medieval Europe did not have an adequate
health care system. Antibiotics weren't
invented until the 1800s and it was
almost impossible to cure diseases
without them. Many thought that diseases
resulted from sins of the soul. Many
people looked for relief from their ills
through meditation, prayer, pilgrimages,
and other nonmedical methods.
Bloodletting was a popular method of
curing disease. Barbers performed early
surgery without anesthesia. Medical treatment was
available mainly to the wealthy.
Herbal remedies were often used.
2. After completing the above chart,
students may follow up with activities such as painting a mural
depicting a rural landscape with shops that would have dotted
medieval towns. Students may dress paper dolls with cut out
clothing worn by medieval men and women. Houses and castles may
be constructed out of shoe boxes, cereal boxes, milk cartons,
oatmeal boxes, etc. These activities might also serve as tools
Students, in six cooperative groups, (one group for each chess
piece) use the web sites listed above to complete the table.
will have a researcher who
will gather the information by taking notes from
the web sites below, a recorder who will write the information in report form and
place on the chart, an illustrator who will draw a picture each person listed on the
chart, an information processor who will use a word processing application to
enter the report, and a presenter who
will share the information with the class.
||Real Life Role
|The king ruled by divine
right, with absolute power given by God.
The king awarded land grants or
"fiefs" to his most important
nobles, his barons, and his bishops, in
return for their contribution of
knights and soldiers for the king's
armies. The surrender of the king would mean the
loss of the kingdom to invading armies so
it was to everyones advantage, from
the lowest serf to the highest-ranking
official, to keep the king safe from
| The queen sat as a sovereign at the
king's side. Often the queen brought land
and power upon marriage to the King. Many people do
not realize that queens in medieval times
often held a powerful, but precarious,
position. The king was often guided by
her advice. But kings could set wives
aside or even imprison them in nunneries
with the approval of the church (and
without the queens approval). The
plots of queens working either for or
against their kings are recorded in
history throughout medieval times, and
often she held more power than the king
piece on a chess board is the home, or
the refuge. Castles
were the protective strongholds during
medieval times. Kings, queens, and nobles
were protected from invading armies in
the fortress-like castles. Many castles
were protected by a moat, bank or ditch.
The living quarters included the hall, a
large one room structure with a loft
ceiling. The hall was sometimes on the
ground floor but often was raised to the
second story for greater security. Early
halls had aisles like a church, with rows
of wooden posts or stone pillars
supporting the timber roof. Windows had
wooden shutters secured by an iron
bar, but in the 11th and 12th centuries
were rarely glazed. By the 13th century a
king or great baron might have
"white (greenish) glass" in
some of his windows, and by the 14th
century glazed windows were common.
a ground-floor hall the floor was beaten
earth, stone or plaster. An upper story
hall had timber floors. The Entrance to
the hall was usually in a side wall near
the lower end. When the hall was on an
upper story, this entrance reached by an
outside staircase next to the wall of the
keep. The castle family sat on a raised
platform of stone or wood at the upper
end of the hall, opposite to the
entrance, away from drafts and intrusion.
The lord (and perhaps the lady) occupied
a massive chair. Everyone else sat on
benches. Most dining tables were set on
temporary trestles that were dismantled
between meals; a permanent, or
"dormant," table was another
sign of wealth. All tables were covered
with white cloths. Lighting was by
rushlights or candles, of wax or tallow
(melted animal fat), impaled on vertical
spikes or an iron candlestick with a
tripod base, or held in a loop, or
supported on wall brackets or iron
candelabra. Oil lamps in bowl form on a
stand, or suspended in a ring, provided
better illumination, and flares sometimes
hung from iron rings in the wall.
In the 13th century the castle
kitchen was made of timber with a central
hearth or several fireplaces where meat
was cooked on a spit or stewed in a
cauldron. There was a castle garden where
fruit trees, vines, roses, lilies,
heliotropes, violets, poppies, daffodils,
irises, gladiolas, and herbs were
planted. There might have been a fish
pond stocked with trout and pike.
Each castle of a great lord had a
chapel for morning mass.
represents the professional soldier who pledged
himself to be the king's servant or
vassal, at a special ceremony. He swore
an oath of loyalty with the words, "Sire
I have become your man." The
great nobles often divided their lands
among lower lords, or knights, who in
turn became their vassals. Knights
participated in jousts in which opponents
were killed by a lance my a mounted
knight. Jousts were public contests of
bravery and skill. Some of the
knights went on Crusades (holy wars
between Christians and Muslims for
possession of Jerusalem) to get rich or
to steal a new home from the people they
were fighting, but most of the knights
went to get healed of their sins.
were protected by armor. In the 12th
century, the knights used an armor called
mail, very little chains linked together.
Mail armor weighed about twenty to thirty
pounds and that was only the chest, arms,
and back. When they were in battle the
mail guarded arrows but not good strong
blows with a mace. In the 15th century
full plate armor was worn. Some helmets
covered the face and some did not. Some
had decorations on them such as eagles
beaks. Horses had to wear armor too. They
wore it around their neck and head.
Knights had to wear padded doublet and
tied with satin and strips around their
knees to keep it from rubbing. It took a
squire an hour to put on a suit of armor.
Knights followed laws of chivalry.
They had to be well behaved near women. A
knight had to always keep his word. If a
knight were captured, he could not try to
escape. Another rule knights had to
follow was that they had to be generous
to defeated enemies and could not leave
the other knight to die in the field.
| Bishops were members of the
king's council and played important roles
in government. Bishops could wield as
much power as the barons. Bishops, who
were often wealthy and came from noble
families, ruled over groups of parishes
| The pawns on
the chess board represent serfs, or
laborers. There are more of them than any
other piece on the board, and often they
are sacrificed to save the more valuable
pieces. In medieval times, serfs were
considered no more than property of
landowners. They were often left
unprotected or sacrificed to allow
landowners to escape harm during wars.
from each group share their illustrated written
reports to the class. The students in the class
take notes on the role of each person listed in
the chart above using a graphic organizer. The
written reports may be bound into a class book.
will be evaluated. on their ability to work
cooperatively, use research skills, writing
skills, word processing skills, drawing and
painting tools, do an oral presentation. See rubric.
4 each cooperative group will
write, produce, and perform a skit set in
A class trip to Medieval Times (P.
O. Box 327, Lyndhurst, NJ 07071, (201)
933-2220 ) should be planned. Here students
will see knights in action in a real live joust. On the Medieval Times web page,
students can listen to medieval music, learn how a knight is
trained, view costumes of the times, and read about chivalry. Trips to
see a Renaissance Faire might also be included as a culminating
activity. Listings on local Renaissance Fairs might be found at:
Click on a state shown on the United States map to find a
This is the web site
for the New York Renaissance Faire at Tuxedo, New York.
Find out about the
Renaissance Faire at Santa Clara, California.
Learn about the Renaissance Faires at
Visit the Shrewsbury Faire in Kings Valley, Oregon.
Travel to the Annapolis, Maryland Faire.
The Maine Renaissance Faire is held in Lebanon, Maine.
Get information about the Texas Renaissance Faire which is
held near Plantersville, Texas.
Other links to faires world wide may be found by doing a
search on google.com with
the keywords "Renaissance Faire."
Students might play other games played
during medieval times such as Mancala, darts, wrestling, blind
man's bluff, tug-of-war, archery, Backgammon, or Nine Mens Morris.
Students may choose to create a coat of
arms to represent their families. A template may be found here.
1. Castle Builder
web site puts students in the role of a castle
builder. Knowledge of medieval life is need in
order to design a castle. Tips for teachers are
2. Medieval Life And Times
This site provides
information about the role of castles and
priesthood during the English middle ages.
3. Gander Academy's Medieval
You can find information
about clothing in the middle ages as well as how
to make fantasy medieval clothing.
4. Life In The Middle Ages
This is a web site created
by fifth graders with much information about life
in the middle ages.