The Middle Ages
Curriculum Developer: Jennifer Hadlock

The Castle in the Attic
by: Elizabeth Winthrop
Holiday House, 1985

Summary: William, a ten year old boy, is given a model of a castle by his nanny, Mrs. Phillips because she is leaving him to return to her home in England. A Silver Knight comes with the castle which William brings to life one day--only to discover that the knight is under a spell, and needs to return to his kingdom to save it from the evil wizard Alastor. With the help of a magic coin, which shrinks living objects, William travels with Sir Simon to help save the kingdom. William finds himself alone in a strange new land and learns a great lesson in courage.

Social Studies Relevance: This book can be used effectively to teach a unit on the Middle Ages. It is a great book for teaching about the architecture of the time period with its descriptions of castles and the surrounding territory. The issue of how an effective ruler should govern the country, as well as the rules which govern society, can be taught. The book also has an underlying theme of overcoming fears so this would also be good to address.

Grade Level Focus: Grade 5-6

Relationship to Social Studies State Core:

Knights in Shining Armor

by: Gail Gibbons
Little, Brown and Company, 1995

Summary: This picture book describes the knights of the Middle Ages. Illustrations depict armor, weapons, defense systems, chivalry, and the process of becoming a knight. The book recognizes several famous knights such as Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain. It also stresses the fact that knights were a part of the Middle Ages, but tales of dragons and many rescues of damsels in distress are only legends.

Social Studies Relevance: This informational picture book compliments the Middle Ages theme by describing and illustrating some of the terms a knight would use. A large portion of the book deals with the code of chilvary which can be applied to teaching students the value of being a person of integrity in society.

Grade Level Focus: Grade 5-6

Relationship to Social Studies State Core:

Lesson Plans
  • The Middle Ages--What do I know?
  • Constructing Castles
  • Mapping Skills
  • Government Officials
  • Point of View using an Anticipation Guide

The Middle Ages--What do I know?

Objective: Students will be able to recall information they already know about the Middle Ages and identify further areas of study in this area.

Materials: three large pieces of chart paper and three different colored markers or a chalkboard with colored chalk, Knights in Shining Armor, and Castle in the Attic book


1. Brainstorm what students know about the Middle Ages and write these ideas on the first piece of chart paper entitled "What I Know."

2. Brainstorm ideas of what students would like to know more about and record these on the "What I want to Know" paper.

3. Introduce the book, The Castle in the Attic by telling students that we will be reading this book together and learning about the Middle Ages.

4. Read the picture book, Knights in Shining Armor to the class and discuss the information learned. Ask students to look specifically for the duties of a squire and a knight.

5. Ask for input of what the class has learned throughout the brief introduction of the Middle Ages and put this on the third chart paper entitled "What I Learned."

Evaluation: Observe students responses to the KWL activity. Students will be called on throughout the brainstorming and asked for input. I will also watch for students who are listening intently during the reading of Knights in Shining Armor. A cross section of students will be called upon for a response on the book.

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Constructing Castles

Objectives: Using accurate vocabulary (list provided), students will construct a model map, or diorama of a castle using the pictures in both books as examples.

Materials Needed: vocabulary list, The Castle in the Attic and Knights in Shining Armor books for castle examples, castle building materials


1. Divide class into groups of three or four and ask them to look through the two different books and any others that you may have available for models of castle designs.

2. Give each student a copy of the vocabulary list and have them come up with definitions for each word (this can also be done in groups).

3. Instruct the class to brainstorm with their other group members and decide upon a medium upon which to construct their castle and what they would like to include.

4. Students will accurately label each person, item of clothing, and castle design they use in their construction. They must have evidence of having used at least seven of the vocabulary words in their castles construction.

5. Instruct the class to build their castle.

Evaluation: Group members will evaluate each other based on individuals ideas presented, group participation, and cooperation. Teacher will evaluate the project based on the group having met the vocabulary requirement and if they understand how each word is used by the appropriate labels.


Middle Ages Vocabulary

drawbridge, gatehouse, portcullis, tower, courtyard, armory, buttery, scullery, tapestries, minstrel, troubadour, jester, gallery, allure, knight, battlements, lookout, moat, squire, trestle, table, balcony, chain-mail, coat-of-arms, pennant, ramparts, windlass, corridor, page, baronial hall, archway
Castle Materials
cardboard, poster paint, markers, colored pencils, glue gun, sugar cubes, boxes, string, tape, playdough, colored paper, rulers, crayons, stapler/staples, glue, clay, other. . .
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Mapping Skills

Objectives: *Students will work with a partner to determine accurate distances between locations using the scale found on each map.

*Students will be able to draw an accurate map of Sir Simon's kingdom specifically the pathway from William's castle to Alastor's castle.

Materials Needed: sheets of paper for each student, variety of drawing materials such as pencil, markers, colored chalk, paint and rulers, world map and US map.


1. Guided Discussion. Discuss the importance of a compass rose which is located on each map to help with directions. Explain that maps have symbols that stand for physical features such as mountain ranges, rivers, cities, and pictures which describe locations. Explain that each map includes a scale to indicate how far (number of miles) it is from one point to the next. Have students practice explaining the mapping concepts of key, scale, cardinal directions, and the symbols for physical features to a partner.

2. Mapping. Locate England on a world map and explain that this is the place where most of the castles were built during the Middle Ages. Find Southbrook, New York on the same world map and discuss that this is where the story of William is taking place. Find the distance from Southbrook, New York to England. Find the distance from your state and city to Southbrook, New York and also to England.

3. Story-Mapping Activity. Read the first thirteen chapters, map the route that William took through the forest to reach the castle. Include a key and directions as well as any important features and landmarks. Important features which should be included are William's castle, the forest, the wall including the boy on top of it, apple tree and old man, village path, river, dragon and Alastor's castle.

Evaluation: Observe to make sure that students are correctly identifying physical features and using the scale to locate directions. On their own maps, ensure that students have included a key, the four directions, and various landmarks to identify William's journey to confront Alastor.

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Government Officials

Objective: Students will be able to complete a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the rulers of the Middle Ages with those leaders of today.

Materials Needed: paper, pencils, Venn diagram, groups with five students per group


1. Guided discussion. Explain to the students that different countries rule their people differently. Review how the United States runs the country through a president who is elected by the people. The country is governed by the Constitution which is upheld by the court system. Continue reviewing the United States government until all students feel comfortable that they understand the basic processes. Explain that during the Middle Ages, the government was ruled by knights who would conquer a kingdom and then pledge to keep the area safe.

2. Venn diagram. In groups have students evaluate one of the following topics:

A) Knight vs. President
B) Knight vs. King

For example a group evaluating a Knight vs. the President may have a diagram which is similar to the following:



3. Group discussion. Class will come together with their completed diagrams and explain to the class which topic they chose and discuss what items they included in their diagram.

Evaluation: Each group will have a completed Venn diagram with at least four topics in each circle. Individual students are required to give their group at least one suggestion to put on the group diagram.

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Point of View

Objective: Given chapters 13, 14, and 15 from Castle in the Attic, students will be able use an anticipation guide to foster higher order thinking skills and come to a consensus within their groups about the guides' statements.

Materials Needed: Castle in the Attic chapters 13, 14, and 15, Anticipation Guide worksheet, chart paper


1. Group the students into groups of five before explaining the assignment and have the children move to designated areas.

2. A discussion on what consensus means will be conducted. Students will be asked to form a definition in their minds and then share their definition with their group. As a group, they will decide what a consensus means to them.

3. Consensus definitions will be shared with the whole class. A good definition would include a statement which explains that a consensus is where all members can agree to each content area and abide by the definition. Each participant must agree with their entire group. If a person does not agree then stipulations may be added to the statement until the entire group can come to a workable consensus.

4. Students will be given approximately 9 minutes to individually answer all the questions on the anticipation guide with a Yes or a No under the "My Opinion" category.

5. After answering each question as best as possible, students will discuss the questions with their group and come to a consensus on what they believe in as a group.

6. Students will read chapters 13, 14, and 15 within their group and answer the anticipation guide questions as to what the author believes as they read along.

Evaluation: The anticipation guide will be filled out in each of the three categories and an observation of students' contribution to their group.

Anticipation Guide
"Castle in the Attic"

M=My Opinion
G=Group Opinion
A=Author's Point of View


___ ___ ___ 1. It's okay to fake your identity in order to spy on someone who may be

using unsafe procedures.

___ ___ ___ 2. It is better to leave your home than continue living under a destructive

force of government.

___ ___ ___ 3. Watching other people suffer is easier than suffering yourself.

___ ___ ___ 4. Hate cannot defeat evil.

___ ___ ___ 5. Knowledge and courage are more powerful than experience, money and

military command.

___ ___ ___ 6. Good always overcomes evil.

___ ___ ___ 7. When the situation appears to be hopeless, it is better to voice you

opinion from a distance or not at all.

___ ___ ___ 8. It is okay to lie if telling the truth would hurt other people.

___ ___ ___ 9. Fear is a sign of weakness.

___ ___ ___ 10. Governments make only laws to protect people not to be selfish or


___ ___ ___ 11. It is easy to live up to other's expectations.