Provide students with some pure fun as they explore life in the Middle Ages. Send them on a castle tour or a medieval adventure! Included: Five great interactive sites about the Middle Ages.
As they explore the Middle Ages in texts and other more serious research materials, offer your students the chance to play while they learn. The sites below provide fun activities that will help students of all ages gain a better understanding of medieval life.
One of the best places to find a virtual medieval tour is at National Geographic's Ghosts in the Castle. This is a site all your students can enjoy because, although the three castle-related activities here appear to be of similar difficulty, they actually provide for a range of abilities and reading levels.
The first activity, found on the Ghosts in the Castles home page, invites visitors to tour an English castle built in the 1300s. Students enter a first name and a name for the castle and then click a drawbridge to explore with Marcus the Mouse.
Between the gatehouse and the dungeon, visitors meet sentries, archers, jesters, noble girls, pages, and knights. They learn about the foods castle residents ate, the games they played, and the weapons they fought with.
The text is personalized with the student's name, making this virtual tour seem almost real! The reading level is accessible to students in grades 3 and above. However, even younger students or poor readers can learn a great deal by simply clicking the hot spots in the pictures.
When they complete the castle tour, students in middle school and above can click More About Castles to read The Case of the King Who Was Crazy for Castles. In this activity, students learn about King Ludwig II of Bavaria, a shy and possibly insane king who was fascinated by castles. King Ludwig built several castles during his lifetime -- then died under mysterious circumstances.
After reading "Mystery of the Lake," the story of Ludwig's last night, students can cast a vote about what they think happened to cause his death.
Kids' Castle is another site that offers a castle tour. Almost any reader can use the site, which includes a number of different activities and provides options for students with a range of abilities.
Students enter the castle walls through the drawbridge and see an aerial view of the entire castle. Then they click a room to learn a little more about it. Each section includes an icon that leads to additional information. Many also provide an icon leading to an extension activity.
This site is fun to look at, easy to navigate, and full of valuable information. It's a great beginning for elementary school students, and although it might look too easy for middle school students -- it isn't.
Journey Through the Middle Ages with James, the Jingling Jester. At this ThinkQuest Junior site, created by students from Pennsylvania's Salford Hills Elementary School, visitors strive for knighthood as they tour the inside and outside of a medieval castle. To become a knight, a student must read the information describing the inside and outside of the castle of Ibral and then answer the jester's questions correctly.
The instructions provided for "new squires" can be confusing; however, the icons help clear things up. Players click the castle icon to see the outside of the castle and the map icon to tour inside the castle. The scroll icon leads to critical thinking questions, and the "T" scroll leads to additional information about a variety of medieval topics. If a student clicks the jester icon and answers the jester's question correctly, he or she is rewarded with a clue leading to the end of the quest.
Elementary school students will enjoy navigating the castle and acquiring letters for the final word scramble test. The game is fun, and the informational text, written by students for students, is simple and readable.
Not all the medieval game sites include castle tours. Despite its name, Castle Quest has virtually nothing to do with castles.
In this interactive fantasy game, visitors must save the world from eternal doom by finding and destroying the cause of the growing darkness that threatens the world. But is it to the north, south, east, or west? Click a direction and follow wherever it leads! The game is simple and fun, but the text is very difficult, and the graphics require a great deal of memory.
Finally, students who enjoy logic puzzles will relish the challenges presented at Gothic Windows. At this site, students are presented with a puzzle made up of colorful triangular panes. Some of the panes are dimmed, however, and the challenge is to re-light them. Ah, but there's a catch! Try it and see.
Solvers here can choose small, medium, or large puzzles, but they cannot choose hard or easy puzzles. The degree of difficulty is random. Although students of any age can work on the puzzles, most elementary students won't be able to solve them.
Life in a medieval castle probably wasn't a lot of fun for the people who lived them, but your students can have a ball learning about the Dark Ages with these interactive activities.
Article by Linda Starr
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