The kids learned so much from our hands-on activities about feudalism. We did a simulation of feudalism that helped the kids understand the roles and responsibilities of the various members of society. And we also studied of some well-known medieval paintings from that period. So first, a bit about our feudalism worksheets.
For this unit, we are using Early Times: The Story of the Middle Ages, (affiliate link) by Suzanne Strauss Art as our spine. (We used the Early Times: The Story of Ancient China andNative America on the Eve of Discovery: The Story of the First Americans, Book II (affiliate links) history books she wrote as well. These history books are working well for our family. Generally, I read this aloud and we discuss things together.)
Feudalism was based on an exchange of rights and duties between nobles.
A lord provided his vassal with a fief or estate. This could range in size from a few acres to hundreds of square miles. The fief included peasants who worked the land as well as their houses or villages.
A vassal, meanwhile, gave his lord military service (about 40 days per year).
He agreed to serve his lord on certain holidays and special occassions.
Nobles could be powerful lords or simply knights.
I made a different feudalism worksheet for my younger daughter (with just a few fill in the blank) than for the older kids (which had quite a bit of space for them to take notes).
The first page is a review of some of the kings of England. The material on the about Henry II, Richard I, and King John went along with some of our other activities (that I talked about in some of our earlier Middle Ages posts). For example, we watched The Lion in Winter (affiliate link) with Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole about Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. And, we also read the entire novel, The Adventures of Robin Hood (affiliate link), which we all loved. We talked a lot about King John (Robin Hood’s nemesis)… and the fact that he was Henry II’s son (as was Richard the Lion-heart, who was off fighting in the Crusades when this novel took place.)
The link to download is at the bottom of the post.
Next we evaluated some medieval art:
We started by looking at some medieval paintings and comparing peasant life and the life of the nobility expressed in these paintings. I chose 10 paintings/illustrations for the kids to examine. (They are all in the packet, though I only show a few below.) Some questions we discussed:
Look over all of the paintings. In most of the paintings, what is in the background?
List the jobs you see being carried out by serfs.
Describe the serfs’ clothing. What colors are used in the paintings for their clothing? Does this surprise you? Explain.
I wanted the kids to understand the disparity between those peasants who worked the land and the nobility, so I designed a simulation for them to see if they would survive as peasants. I created about 20 different cards with different scenarios. They had to work hard in their fields (running). For this hard work, they earned some tokens (or M&Ms). Then they had to see what fate had in store for them as they drew one of the cards. Would the get to celebrate up at the castle with a feast day? Would they have to pay taxes to the king? Would they have to provide service to the king? Or, would they catch the plague? After three rounds, they counted how many tokens they had left. Would they have enough to support their family and survive the Middle Ages?!
To Play: I made copies of the cards and put them in a paper bag. We randomly selected who would be the aristocrat/king. The aristocrat was brought to a chair that had nice goodies. They sat back and watched events unfold (and collected taxes). On a feast day, they supplied one piece of bread for everyone.
To start, the peasants had to work the fields (running back and forth 6 times.) Then the, peasants were given 6 M&Ms (or tokens… see the other set of cards).
Round 1: The peasants chose one card (at random) and paid the appropriate fees. After that round, the peasants had to go work the fields again (running down the field and back). They then chose their second card, followed the directions on the card. They worked the field one final time (running down the field and back) and chose their third and final card.
The kids counted up the M&Ms (or tokens) they had left and determined how well their lives went as peasants.
If you lose all of your M&Ms you lose your house and become a beggar. If the Church (adult) has any money they will feed you. If not, well, your future is bleak.
How well do you do after three rounds? Check the results page!
Start a new round, so everyone has a chance to be the aristocrat (just kicking back, collecting taxes and relaxing.)
There are three pages of cards to print out. I suggest you print those on card stock. You can print out the cards to use with M&Ms or if you prefer to use tokens, you’ll find cards with the word “tokens” on the last a little further on in the packet.
This activity was a HUGE hit with the kids! They were still talking about it months later!! 🙂 I love that kind of engagement!
This 20+ page packet is $2.50.
Remember that after you submit your payment details you will get a link in your browser. You will ALSO get an email in your inbox with the transaction link from SendOwl (the service I use); just click on the link to bring up the button to download the pdf. If you have any trouble, feel free to reply to the Sendowl email, or email me directly — liesl at homeschoolden dot com
You might be interested in these related posts:
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.
Very soon, I’ll share our Black Plague Simulation (now at the link to the left) with you as well. (Just need to find time to put the post together!) Plus, I have some notebook pages about medieval scholars (Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio). Then we’re moving into the Renaissance/Reformation in history. 🙂