Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Across the Centuries

Daily Life in Feudal Europe

Objective: Students research one aspect of medieval life and create artwork to describe it.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
4 hours over 3 days

Building Background:
We learn a lot from written sources, but we also learn from things we see. Paintings, tapestries, carvings, and sculptures tell us a lot about medieval society. As a class or in informal groups, have students look at the pictures on pages 256, 264, 266, and 267. What kind of people do they show? What are they doing? What impressions do these pictures give of medieval society? What purpose might the artists have had when they were creating these pieces? Discuss the different media used here and what other media medieval artists could use (such as wood carving, stone carving, tapestries, stained glass, painting, illumination). As a class, imagine producing a visual portrait of your community. What places, buildings, people, and activities would you show? What media could you use?

What To Do:

1. Divide the class into groups. Assign each group a component of medieval society: castle, manor, monastery, convent, or town (you can assign each item to more than one group).

2. Have each group research their community, starting with the textbook and branching out to sources in the library. During the course of their research, each group should fill out the Analyzing Feudal Society worksheet. If you have Internet access, students may find the following sites helpful:

Mr. Dowling's Virtual Classroom: The Middle Ages

This site for seventh graders gives information on feudal life and historical events during Europe's Middle Ages.

Life in the Middle Ages

Fourth and fifth graders provide their research on the Middle Ages, including daily life.

3. Once the group members have analyzed and researched their community, have them produce a piece of artwork to present it. (If they choose wood carving, tapestry, or sculpture, they should draw a picture of what the finished product would look like.) At the most basic, these pieces of artwork can consist of crayon on butcher paper.

Hang the different pieces of artwork around the room. Have students take turns visiting other groups' work and presenting their own. Lead a discussion of what the pieces suggested about the communities and the choices the groups made.


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