Adversities in Medieval Times | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G6:M2B:U1

Adversities in Medieval Times

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In this first unit of the module, students build their informational reading skills and background knowledge about medieval times through a guided research project. Through the close reading of a general information article about medieval times, teachers introduce the skills of determining the central idea of a text, determining the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, and analyzing how particular parts of the text contribute to its overall meaning. While reading these articles, students consider the different adversities faced by people in the Middle Ages. Students then work in small research groups to practice informational reading skills and learn more deeply about the adversities faced by a specific group of people in medieval times.

For their mid-unit assessment, students read new excerpts of informational text, determine the central idea, determine the meaning of words, and analyze how sections of the text contribute to its overall meaning. In the second half of the unit, students use their research materials and the knowledge they've gained to write an essay to inform about one aspect of medieval times. Using a model essay and a series of writing lessons, students choose their most relevant research materials, build paragraphs around quotes from their research texts, draft an introduction and conclusion, and participate in a peer critique. For their end of unit assessment, students submit their final revised essay to inform.


Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How do details of an informational text contribute to its overall meaning?
  • How does reading from different texts about the same topic build our understanding?
  • How does social and economic status affect the adversities faced by people in medieval times?
  • Informational texts help readers answer questions and build knowledge.
  • Informational reading is reading closely for word choice and detail as well as central ideas and themes.
  • People of medieval times faced diverse adversities based on their social and economic status. 

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational text about medieval times as well as modern poetry about the adversities people face today. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies Practices and Themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content. These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework:

Unifying Themes (pages 6-7)

  • Theme 1: Individual Development and Cultural Identity: The role of social, political, and cultural interactions supports the development of identity. Personal identity is a function of an individual's culture, time, place, geography, interaction with groups, influences from institutions, and lived experiences.
  • Theme 2: Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures: Role of diversity within and among cultures; aspects of culture such as belief systems, religious faith, or political ideals as influences on other parts of a culture, such as its institutions or literature, music, and art; cultural diffusion and change over time as facilitating different ideas and beliefs.
  • Theme 4: Geography, Humans, and the Environment: The relationship between human populations and the physical world (people, places, and environments).
  • Theme 5: Development and Transformation of Social Structures: Role of social class, systems of stratification, social groups, and institutions; role of gender, race, ethnicity, education, class, age, and religion in defining social structures within a culture; social and political inequalities. 

Social Studies Practices, The Role of the Individual in Social and Political Participation, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 4: Identify, describe, and contrast the role of the individual in opportunities for social and political participation in different societies.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Invite a local expert on medieval times from a college or university to discuss the various social groups and structures students are researching.


  • Visit a local public library to have a research librarian assist students in finding additional materials about their focus group.
  • See if there is a local art museum displaying medieval artifacts, such as tapestries or armor.


A study of medieval art and religious symbolism. 

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