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Overview
In keeping with the theme of understanding the transition from one type of society to the next as described in the state standards, this lesson shows how the bubonic plague helped bring about the close of one era and the beginning of another. Students will accomplish the following:

  • Label the number of sticks or cards designated below as indicated:

  • One lord

    One lady

    One lord’s sister

    Three lord’s children

    One priest

    One confessor

    One scribe

    One clerk

    One surgeon/barber

    One bailiff (to keep vassals in line)

    Six knights

    Six archers

    Six squires

    One falconer (to look after the hunting birds)

    One miller (to grind wheat)

    One tanner (to prepare hides)

    One blacksmith (for tools and weapons)

    One cook

    Two musicians

    One butcher

    One groomsman (to care for horses)

    One trainer (to look after the hunting dogs)

    10 vassals (to serve in the household) — mark five as adults and five as children

    50 vassals (to serve in the fields) — mark 25 as adults and 25 as children

     

  • As a class or in reporting groups, read the worksheet Background: The Plague and discuss the given questions.

  • Some answers that would appear in list form, such as reasons as to why it spread so easily and ways people thought to cure it can be put on large note sheets or on a classroom board to help solidify answers in students’ minds.

  • Mix the labeled sticks or cards together in a large bowl and have a designated “grim reaper” randomly pull out 50 of them. This may be done together as a class or in smaller groups representing individual land holdings. If index cards are used, the teacher can hold them and have each student serve as “the plague” by picking an unseen stick or card from the teacher’s hands. The drawn sticks or cards are to be set aside and represent those people who died from the bubonic plague.

  • Display the remaining sticks or cards, which represent those who lived. It might help to list the various professions or skills on the board or on a large piece of paper for group use. (View A Sample Chart)

  • Through discussion, make a list of problems and their consequences. For example, do you have enough skilled fighters to defend your land from anyone attacking? Do you have anyone to administer the sacraments that were as necessary as food to these Middle Ages people? Do you have anyone left alive who can read or teach the lord’s children? Do you have anyone who can prepare meats? Care for the animals? Work the fields to raise food for the landholders and vassals? Keep the vassals in line and doing their work?

  • As you list each problem, prompt the students to consider the consequences. What will happen to the fields? The buildings? The children as they grow up, if they do? Who of the survivors can make a profit if he or she dares? Who is likely to be taken advantage of? Who will lose power? Who will gain it? Who will lose trust of the masses? And finally, can the class predict what would happen if this same exercise were forced on every landholding in Europe at relatively the same time?

  • Read the What Actually Happened worksheet and discuss questions as they arise.

  • Have each student write an essay as indicated on the Plague Essay worksheet.

  • Evaluation
    Rubric for grading final essay.

    Category

    4

    3

    2

    1

    0

    General outlook, values, and religious changes are addressed.Changes are predicted and logical, and they are supported by historical examples.Changes are suggested with historical examples, but they are either illogical or not explained well.A logical change is suggested, but there is no historical example or reasoning written with it.An illogical change is suggested without historical support.The change in this category is not addressed at all.
    Shifting sources of power and income are addressed.Changes are predicted and logical, and they are supported by historical examples.Changes are suggested with historical examples, but they are either illogical or not explained well.A logical change is suggested, but there is no historical example or reasoning written with it.An illogical change is suggested without historical support.The change in this category is not addressed at all.
    Advances or changes in technology are addressed.Changes are predicted and logical, and they are supported by historical examples.Changes are suggested with historical examples, but they are either illogical or not explained well.A logical change is suggested, but there is no historical example or reasoning written with it.An illogical change is suggested without historical support.The change in this category is not addressed at all.
    Changes in literature and art are addressed.Changes are predicted and logical, and they are supported by historical examples.Changes are suggested with historical examples, but they are either illogical or not explained well.A logical change is suggested, but there is no historical example or reasoning written with it.An illogical change is suggested without historical support.The change in this category is not addressed at all.
    Essay is well organized and proofread for common errors.Essay is very neat with good sentences, good grammar, and good spelling.Essay is neat and has no more than five writing/spelling errors.Essay is readable and has no more than ten writing/spelling errors. Essay is difficult to read due to errors and/or presentation.Essay is almost not readable due to errors and/or presentation.

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