Medieval Wrap Up

We finally wrapped up our unit on the Middle Ages! The students did a phenomenal job on their unit test. I find that this is always the best test of the year and I truly believe it is because of the lap books that we create. It is constant reinforcement of the material that we learn – we discover information through a PowerPoint, we create a mini book based on that information, and we review the information again when we put our lap book together. They love it and it creates a wonderful keepsake for this fun unit.

Last week a parent came in to help me spray paint the castles the students built. We opened up all of the windows, put tarps under the castles, and draped sheets over the computers to keep them spray paint free. They turned out GREAT! It took us 10 cans – way more than we originally thought – but they look awesome and the class was so excited about them. The next day the students brought in Lego and Playmobile figures to “decorate” their castles with – we have lots of knights, dragons, and kings and queens.

Check them out!

Another exciting activity we did was one that a classroom parent came up with – banana jousting! The class was split into two teams and the current “jouster” on each team was given a poncho as armor, a shield made out of thick foam core, and a banana. The students would take turns making a pass at the other knight, trying to touch their poncho with the banana. One point was awarded for banana being smeared on the poncho and one point was awarded to whichever knight had the longer banana after the round was over. It was an enjoyable activity that the kids had a blast with!!

To close out our unit, we enjoyed a fun medieval party. I set up three stations throughout the room – coloring, computers, and Wii. For the Wii station, I brought in my Wii and borrowed Medieval Games ( for the Wii from a parent. This is a fun game, especially with four players, that allows the students to joust, sword fight, compete in archery tournaments, and much more. The kids of course loved it and did really well! For the computer station, I created an internet scavenger hunt based on a website I found with interesting facts about medieval times. The students had to answer questions based on what they found on the website. Finally I copied pictures of religious stained glass windows from a coloring book I have. The students used marker to color the stained glass and we rubbed vegetable oil on the other side to make it transparent – they looked awesome! I also had parents send in some yummy food to enjoy, such as cheese and pepperoni, grapes and watermelons on sword-shaped toothpicks, and pretzels. One parent even made some mead for the kids to try!

Overall, our medieval unit was tons of fun and it’s always sad to see it draw to a close. My goal was for the class to come away with a deeper understanding of this time period, including the role religion played, the importance of feudalism, and how our world has changed since then. I am already looking forward to next year!!

The Middle Ages

Based on this picture, and knowing that we are studying the Middle Ages, can you guess what our latest classroom endeavor is??


If you guessed building cardboard castles, you were RIGHT!!

About the middle of March, I began collecting cardboard boxes of all sizes, as well as egg cartons, pop bottles, applesauce cups, and other good “building” supplies. The above picture is the pile as of the middle of April! Good thing I can handle clutter – if I was a neat freak, this would be a major problem ūüôā The closet to the right of this picture was completely full of boxes too! Needless to say, we have more than enough boxes.

Last week I split the kids into 4 groups. Each group was given 2 rolls of duck tape, a large cardboard box flattened out to use as the base, and a few guidelines of parts of a castle that must be included (ex: wall, drawbridge, keep, towers). We went around group by group picking boxes from the pile until they had a good amount to start with. Once they began working, they were allowed to send one person from their group at a time back to the pile of boxes to get any more that they needed. Our pile has been about cut in half, but we still have quite a few left!

Here are a few castles at the beginning stages:

Once they are completely done, I will spray paint them gray/silver to look more polished and more castle-like, and then they will be permitted to bring in “medieval-type” characters, such as Lego people or Playmobile figures, to finish it off.

They always turn out great and I am excited to see this year’s finished products!

Just so you have an idea, here are a few castles from previous years:

Don’t they look awesome?!

Do you study the Middle Ages? I’d love to hear about some of the fun things you do with your class!!

I have a few more posts about our medieval unit planned, so check back soon ūüôā

Lapbook Fun

(This is actually I post I wrote back in the spring on my personal blog, but it only made sense to post it here too!)

Last year, I was searching for an exciting way to teach my April unit on the Middle Ages. ¬†When I was in elementary school, I would have considered this an extremely boring topic, and I didn’t want my students to feel the same way. After much research, I came across the site¬†¬†where I discovered lapbooking.

Lapbooks are often used in homeschooling.  They focus on one  broad topic (such as the Civil War), and all of the information learned while studying that topic is made into mini books (such as generals of the war, a map of the battles, a timeline, etc.). Lapbooks are made by putting all of the mini books into two (or more) file folders taped together.

I decided that this would be the perfect time for incorporating lapbooking into my classroom. ¬†I was able to find a few templates for premade “medieval” mini books, but the rest I came up with on my own. ¬†Each day, I taught my students about a different aspect of the Middle Ages by showing a self-made PowerPoint. ¬†The students then went back to their seats and I introduced the mini book of the day. ¬†We worked on creating the book and then filling it out with the information learned during the PowerPoint.

I was curious to see how the students would do on their unit test at the end of the month, as some students had struggled with unit tests in the past.  They used their lapbook to study for the test, and I was so incredibly pleased by the results Рthe lowest score was a 93%! They were the best grades I had seen all year! This really proved to me what a useful tool lapbooking can be in the classroom.

This is the cover of our lapbook. I found a picture of a castle on the internet which we printed off, colored, and glued on the front of our lapbook.

This is our lapbooks opened up most of the way…

…and all the way!

The pocket book is for the steps to become a knight. The one on the right is the self-explanatory – parts of the armor.

The book in the top left is an accordion book which opens out to reveal a timeline of the Middle Ages. The top right book is an acrostic about the life of Charlemagne – each of the flaps opens up to reveal a different fact about Charlemagne that starts with that letter in his name. It also has a map of his empire on the front and how his empire changed when his sons took over. The wheel book in the bottom left is all about architecture – Gothic vs. Romanesque cathedrals. The cover of the wheel is made to look like a stained glass window. The last book in the bottom right is all about the Medieval Manor. The four flaps open up to reveal different facts about the manor, as well as a map of what a manor might have looked like.

Here you can see those four books opened up.

The next two books were about castles and guilds. The top book opens up to reveal three smaller books about castles – why they were built, defenses used in castles, and people in castles. For the bottom book, the kids each designed their own guild sign and wrote facts about guilds underneath.

Here you can see the castle book and guilds book opened up.

The last flap that opens up has the Feudal Pyramid flap book underneath. This topic was pretty much made to be a mini book, being that it’s called a pyramid!

Here you can see the first level,  the King, opened up.

This is the flap that covers the castle and guild books.  The kids each designed their own coats of arms using meaningful colors and symbols we had discussed. They wrote some facts about coats of arms underneath.

This is the flap that covers the “Becoming a Knight” and labeling the armor books. ¬†We talked about a knight’s code of chivalry and the different aspects that were included.

So that’s about it! I pretty much created the mini books as I went, so I wasn’t sure what it would look like when they were finished. However, the final product turned out better than I expected! I did give the kids a grade for their lapbook, based on how well they followed directions and neatness. They were so proud of their hard work and I still have some of my students from previous years telling me how much they loved this unit!

This type of activity proves to me that, while sometimes it takes quite a bit of extra work in teaching to make a difference and help the kids have fun while learning, it is 100% worth every minute!