Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Across the Centuries


The Renaissance

Objective: Students examine some of the changes that occurred in European society during the Renaissance by studying some accomplished people of the era.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
3-4 hours over 4 days

Building Background:
Review the definition of the word Renaissance. Tell the class that the word means rebirth or revival and can be used to describe western European society from 1300 to 1600. Discuss the decline of feudalism in Europe. Explain how chronic famine and the bubonic plague, which struck Europe in 1347, fueled social, political, and economic changes that began in the late Middle Ages. The combination of famine and plague caused the death of at least one-fourth of Europe's entire population. The result was a smaller work force that demanded better wages. This also led to peasant revolts and the weakening of landlords. Europe was no longer in the Dark Ages as increasing trade linked cities and towns with the non-European world. The exchange of goods and ideas pushed people to leave the feudal manor and flock to cities. A new sense of individualism changed the nature of European society as people pursued their own goals. In addition, European culture flourished as people renewed their interests in the arts and sciences. Tell students that they will learn about some accomplished Europeans from the Renaissance period and use this information to play an identification game.

What To Do:

1. Ask students to review Unit 6 of their textbooks and pay careful attention to the various people mentioned in the chapters. Then print and distribute The Renaissance worksheet. Have students complete the table, answer the questions, and discuss their answers.

2. Divide students into small groups and assign each team one of the people on the worksheet. Ask each team not to tell other teams its assigned person. Tell students they will research their figures in preparation for a game.

3. Have teams visit their local library or use the Internet to begin their research. Teams should look for details about their assigned person's life, education, interests, accomplishments, and impact on society. Encourage teams to take good notes on the information they find. This Internet site can help students with their research:

Exhibits Collection — Renaissance

This site takes visitors on a virtual journey through the Renaissance, exploring everything from trade to thoughts and ideas during the period.

4. When the groups have completed their research, ask them to write a short list of clues or a riddle about their subject. These clues or riddles should highlight the person's accomplishments, but may also include details about the person's early life and education. The clues may also include pictures or samples of the subject's work.

5. Review the following game rules with the class and have them play the game:

Discuss the people whose names appear on the board. Have volunteers describe the accomplishments of each person.


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