Renaissance Unit Guide

 Title  Description PPT Video
 Renaissance 1: It BeginsThe Black Death, the failure of the Crusades and the fall of Constantinople were enough to finally shake the people of Europe out of the Dark Ages. See here how a renewed focus on learning and human creation brought light back.PPT
 Renaissance 2: The Artists The light of the Renaissance is best shown through its art. In this show we'll take a look at two specific artists, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo to see how art changed at this time.PPT

Lecture Notes


1. Renaissance Walkthru - Simple worksheet introducing the Renaissance based on the graphics in Holt's Medieval to Modern Times.

2. Renaissance DBQ - More complex introduction using the same graphics. Students must take a position on an essential question and defend their answer using the sources provided. (Common Core Ready - CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1)

3. CSI: Florence - A History Mystery investigation into the attempted assassination of Lorenzo de Medici. (Common Core Ready - CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1)

4. Machiavelli's "The Prince" Lab - A lab on what it means to be a good leader today and what Machiavelli thought of good leaders in The Prince. Students can use this summary of the book to help answer the questions. Here's an additional set of questions if you want to extend the lab.

5. Perspective - a short comparison of European art throughout history followed by students trying to draw using "modern" techniques like realism and perspective which were introduced in the Renaissance.

6. Da Vinci's Notebook - students create a "lost" page of Da Vinci's notebook for a modern invention.

7. Sistine Chapel Art - students create "art" while drawing upside-down under their desks.

8. Renaissance Christmas - For this lab we listen to a Medieval/Renaissance carol (usually this one) and compare it to modern carols. We then perform a  dance from I do the Washerwoman's Branle since it is by far the most ridiculous (and pretty easy for students to learn).

9. Weigh the Evidence: The Renaissance - Similar to the DBQ above but with (mostly) different evidence. Same question - was the Renaissance a very big change?

10. Dig: Renaissance (review game) - A short review game for the Renaissance. Ask students questions and "dig" the squares if they get them right until they guess the image.


Lesson Plan Guide

I. Intro and Marco Polo

a. Notes here introduce the concept of the Renaissance and briefly explore the effect of Polo's travels on the mindset of the Europeans. Once again I've had to cut the Storytime segment to fit my upload limits. That greatly reduces the effectiveness of the material on Polo and I hope to have the full version posted soon.

b. Renaissance Walkthru

II. The Medicis and Humanism

a. This section builds on the European desire to improve themselves with a focus on the Medici. Ultimately they are woven into every other figure I talk about (except Shakespeare...) so this is a good starting point before getting into the art.

b. CSI: Florence - This stations lab investigates the causes and people behind the assassination attempt on Lorenzo De Medici. Fun lab but could be skipped if time is an issue. It's not really a standards issue.

c. The Prince - A short PPT here but it is not for notes. I found a book last year called "A Child's Machiavelli" that adapted his ideas into a satirical children's book. Using those ideas I rewrote some of his more well known ideas into relevant versions. After going over that students take a Cosmo style quiz where they answer a series of questions about various situations. We then compare their answers to Machiavelli's to see how good of a ruler they would be.

III. Michelangelo and Shakespeare

a. This is a short section (only 11 slides) but is somewhat media heavy. The next section is long so it would be good to start it if you finish this one early.

b. Sistine Chapel Lab - This may be converted into a Culture Shock but for now it stands alone. For this lab I have students sit on the floor and complete their art. They must hold the paper up above them to simulate the painting of the Sistine Chapel.

IV. The Man (AKA: Leonardo Da Vinci)

a. This section is long but oh so satisfying. The whole thing is a game where I introduce an object and ask students to tell me if Leonardo thought of it or not.

b. Perspective in Art Lab - This can be combined with the lab above but I find it frustrating enough when done ABOVE the desks. Here I show the students a selection of paintings from the Medieval period showing no perspective and some from the Renaissance showing it clearly. Then, the students are to draw the classroom as THEY see it from their own desk. (There are lines across our ceiling and it is really fun to see them try to figure out why everyone in the room says a different line is straight.) My students, including honors, ALWAYS struggle to draw showing any proper perspective. This definitely, and quickly, teaches art appreciation.

c. Da Vinci's Notebook Lab - Students create a mock page of Da Vinci's notebook using a modern invention as their focus. They sketch it from multiple angles, write detailed sentences explaining how it works (backwards of course) and the write a paragraph to their patron explaining why this would be a good invention to fund.

Media Guide

Da Vinci and the Code He Lived By

DVDCompletely unrelated to the fictional book and movie except for the title trying to cash in on it. This is one of the best documentaries about an individual out there. It is essentially a history of the Renaissance with Da Vinci as the anchor point.

The Agony and the Ecstasy

DVDHistorical epic starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo. Fairly enjoyable movie but hard to follow at times if you don't know the history well. Typically I just show the scenes of painting the Sistine Chapel and the conflicts with the pope.
Empires: The MedicisDVDExcellent documentary from the PBS Empires series. By following the lives of the Medicis this documentary hits on all the essential elements of the Renaissance. This gives such disconnected topics as Machiavelli and Martin Luther a connection that I feel really strengthens any Renaissance unit. Very long film (over 3 hours) but with many usable smaller sections.
Animaniacs: Hooked on a CeilingDVDCartoon take of on The Agony and the Ecstasy. Not particularly insightful or educational but definitely motivational. Useful if you ever intend to discuss why there were so many nudes in Renaissance art.

Animaniacs: Hamlet/ Macbeth

DVDA short cartoon (about 2 minutes) where the Animaniacs act out a scene from Shakespeare's Hamlet (or Macbeth) and translate into understandable modern English. Either one works fine depending on which play you may talk about. The Macbeth clip is on Animaniacs Volume 3, not sure about Hamlet.
Simpsons: HamletDVDA Simpsonized and very short version of Hamlet from Season 13's "Tales from the Public Domain." It will require some light editing for language and content but overall it tells the story clearly in a very entertaining way.

Lion King

DVDThe story of Lion King is based on Hamlet (father killed by uncle, ghost calls for return, etc.) In the past when I've had time I've shown the whole thing while doing a "Shakespeare Week" but that has been squeezed out in the last couple years due to having so many other Renaissance things to do.