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Two Introductory Activities for the Middle Ages

by Della Hutchison

Della teaches 7th grade English at the Mifflinburg Middle School and in her spare time enjoys learning as much as she can about medieval life. She became enthralled by the Middle Ages when she read the stories of King Arthur and Robin Hood as a middle school student. She can be reached electronically at

Looking for a way to introduce the Middle Ages to your students?


Here are two activities to try; they don't take a lot of time to prepare or present, but they might provide that "hook" you're looking for. They can be used with students of all ages.


Activity: What's My Hat?



        Match the "hat" with the title of the person who wore it.

        Identify the person's job and home.

        Identify the modern "equivalent" to the job.



        To illustrate the different levels of society (all)

        To introduce different jobs in the Middle Ages (Elem)

        To introduce the concept of the "Three Estates" (HS)


Resources needed:



Hat Who Did Home Modern

Crown King ruled castle President

Helmet Noble protected manor policeman

Cowl Clergy prayed monastery pastor

Straw hat Serf worked hut farmer

Coif Craftsman made town mason

        Books (e.g., Medieval Life -- Eyewitness Books)



        Pass out the "hats" and signs to students.

        Students with "hats" should spread out throughout the room.

        Students with signs should stand next to the person wearing their "hat."

        Have seated students guess/explain why each person belongs in the group where he/she has gone.


Follow-up Activities:

Have students research medieval "jobs." Since most occupations in the Middle Ages were determined by what one's parent did, topics could be assigned based on the students' parents' (or grandparents') occupation.


Students could write a "want ad" or a job description for the job they researched, or they could create a resume for an ideal applicant.


Subjects: Social Studies, English, Research Skills

Activity: New World vs. Old World



        Identify the various foods.

        Determine whether the foods were known in Europe during the Middle Ages ("old world") or whether they were brought to Europe after 1492 ("new world").



        To show how the discovery of the New World changed everyday life by using food as an example. (all)


Resources needed:


Old World New World

Rice Sweet corn

Green peas Chili pepper

Chickpeas Tomato

Ground cinnamon Cocoa powder

Whole-grain mustard Potato

        Map of the world or globe

        Books (e.g., The Gourmet Atlas: The History, Origin, and Migration of Foods of the World; available from Amazon for $31.96.)



        Have students list their favorite foods.

        On a table, display the various foods.

        Discuss which foods are "old world" and which are "new world."

        Try to determine whether their favorite foods were available in the Middle Ages.


Follow-up Activities:

Have students locate the foods' origin on a map. Students could then research how a particular food got to Europe and create a poster showing this information.


Students could find out about other "old world" or "new world" foods. They could then research how a specific food was used. Using medieval cookbooks, they could find recipes using their ingredient and perhaps even make samples to share with the class.


Subjects: Family and Consumer Sciences, Social Studies, English, Research Skills



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