Knighthood and Chivalry
This project is designed to accompany the study of the Arthurian legends. Students learn that young men must complete certain steps in order to become knights. After successfully completing a series of academic requirements, students are dubbed "knights" in a classroom ceremony.
read and analyze the Arthurian legends;
use research skills to find information, write reports, and correctly document the sources used;
define and use symbolism in creating their own coat of arms.
knights, King Arthur, medieval, chivalry, Middle Ages
computers with Internet access
library and online resources about Arthurian legends; following are a few suggested sites:
student-selected art materials
MLA (Modern Language Association) Guide or another guide that lists styles for documenting sources
Explain to students that in the Middle Ages, a young man had to follow a series of steps in order to become a knight. In this activity, students will pursue their own initiation into knighthood. In order to become knights, they must complete the following activities.
Coat of Arms. Tell students that knights placed a coat of arms upon their shields in order to identify themselves in battle. Have the students use symbols that tell about themselves to create a coat of arms that will represent themselves. (For lower performing classes, I provide students with a blank shield. The shield is divided into sections for them to draw and color. More advanced and creative students can cut a shield shape from poster board and decorate the shield with appropriate symbols. Students can draw pictures or find clip art pictures online to color and glue onto their shields. (ClipArt.com is one of many sites that offers free clip art.) One really creative student in one of my classes used paper mâché to make 3-D images on his shield. Students will share their coats of arms with the class and explain the symbolism included on them.
Weapons and Warfare. Explain that knights had to prove themselves in battle. Have the students complete a report on some aspect of warfare from the Middle Ages. Some possible topics include tournaments, jousting, suits of armor, crossbows, and the Crusades. Have students use their library and research skills to find information; they must document their sources correctly according to MLA style or your requirements.
Biographical Sketch. Explain that in order to become a knight, a squire would have to be dubbed by another knight. Have the students select famous knights from the Arthurian legends or from history and write a report detailing the life (or legend) of that person; the report should include important events in the person's life. If possible, all students should select different knights or ladies. Some possible choices include Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad, Charlemagne, Percival, El Cid, Joan of Arc, and Tristan.
Chivalry. Explain that chivalry was the code of honor followed by all knights. Have students write an essay explaining some rules of chivalry; the essay should compare those rules to some aspect of modern society. Students might consider concepts such as fair play, integrity, or loyalty. Ask students to decide whether they think there is a modern-day equivalent of chivalry, or do they view chivalry as dead in today's society?
Quest. Explain that Medieval knights often participated in quests, or long journeys, in search of some goal. Have students write one or two paragraphs to explain their life's quest. For example, students might write about the quest for knowledge, love, a certain career, or excellence. The students should be prepared to read their quest to the class at the knighting ceremony.
Ceremony Preparation. On the assigned day, the students participate in a knighting or dubbing ceremony. Explain that in Medieval times, a squire had to be purified from his sins before he could become a knight; therefore, instruct the students ahead of time that they must all be sure to bathe the day of the ceremony. Before becoming a knight, a squire also held a prayer vigil in which he stayed up all night contemplating his duties as a knight. (Tell students to stay awake all day long at school on the day of the ceremony!) Explain that at the ceremony knights wore certain symbolic colors (white to represent purity of spirit, red and black to remind him of sin). Instruct students to wear their school colors to the ceremony.
Ceremony. Arrange all the desks into a semicircle so everyone can see. Write a short oath of knighthood, and have the students repeat it as a group. Have each student come forward to present his or her project and turn in a written report. Next, have each student display his or her coat of arms, read their quest, and tell the class about the person who is the subject of their biographical sketch. Then tap the student on each shoulder with a toy sword, proclaiming him or her "Sir" or "Lady." Celebrate the students' achievements with a "feast." (I allowed the students to bring food to class and buy drinks from the soft drink machine. We ate our snacks and had a party in class while watching the Disney movie The Sword and the Stone. This was a real treat for the kids. This ceremony can be done more elaborately; perhaps a lesson or two on etiquette and manners can be incorporated.)
Grade each of the five requirements individually. The writing assignments should focus on documenting sources appropriately (according to MLA format or your requirements) in addition to grammar and content. The five grades can be averaged and that number can be used as a test score. You might also give a test on the reading material covered in class.
Lesson Plan Source
Carla Kinnard, Greenville Christian School, Greenville, Texas
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Last updated 1/11/2012
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