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At the conference, "Teaching the Middle Ages," held at Emporia University, Emporia, KS on September 10-12, 1998, Becky Fleming of Sedgwick High School in Sedgwick, KS, presented these fifteen simple activities for teaching the Middle Ages and Arthurian Legend to K-12 classes. Thanks to Dan Kline of the Chaucer Pedagogy Page for finding these and to Ms. Fleming for giving me permission to reproduce them here.
Have students write their own tales in the form of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. It's fun to bind these into a book and give each student a copy. Students could also write their own journeys through Hell in a style that reflects Dante's Inferno.
Design a board game that in some way reflects the work you're studying or make a game based on a current game show. They can then use the game as a review before a test.
Make "baseball cards" of certain characters: illustrate Dante's sinners, Chaucer's pilgrims, King Arthur and his knights, etc. on the front of the card and include "statistics" on the back.
Make a calendar depicting twelve of Chaucer's pilgrims, twelve of Dante's sinners, twelve of Arthur's knights, etc.
Make a mobile of pilgrims, knights, Dante's circles of hell, etc. Students can use actual items or paper items to hang from the mobile.
Make a "moving picture" using a cardboard box (any size--shoe box, cereal box, or something larger) that depicts scenes from literature. Two pencils could scroll the pictures.
Design a newspaper or tabloid reflecting the events in the literature you're studying. In addition to events, include want ads, personal ads, advice columns, etc.
Find a connection to contemporary society: Whom might the Pardoner be compared to today? Whom would you place in circle two of Dante's hell? What leader is most like King Arthur? Students can display their choices in various ways: through a pamphlet, a mobile, cards, etc.
Make use of the art teacher if he/she is willing! Students can make clay games or masks, papier-maché masks, pencil sketches of scenes or characters, watercolors, etc.
Have students make visual plot outlines of a certain work. Display these in the classroom and use them to review the work.
Use audio-visual equipment. Have students create and act in a skit that reflects a particular work. I usually videotape these. If appropriate for younger audiences, the students perform their skits for elementary classes.
Have students make up lyrics about the literature that follow a well-known tune (like the tunes to The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan's Island). Sometimes students choose to write a rap song instead. Students make a tape of themselves singing the song. My younger students really like this.
Design a bulletin board that in some way reflects the literature you're studying and display it in the classroom.
Have students make hand puppets and write a script that covers what you're studying. I usually have my students perform the puppet show to elementary classes if appropriate.
Assign students the role of advertising executive and have them promote a new movie based on the work you're studying. To promote the movie students could make a movie poster, a bumper sticker, a button, a magazine or newspaper ad, and a brief television advertisement. They could also cast their movie.
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