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Winning Lesson Plan
The Printing Press

Subject: Arts and Humanities, Literature, Social Studies
Grade: 3-5

Brief Description

This lesson emphasizes the importance of Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press during the Renaissance.


Students learn about significant people and their contributions in the field of communication and technology. Students understand significant achievements in the humanities to the time of the Renaissance.


Renaissance, Johannes Gutenberg, printing press, inventions

Materials Needed

  • 2 or 3 sets of alphabet stamps, with adjustable holder, if possible
  • roll-on inkpad
  • stamp holder or sheet of wood
  • glue
  • paper
  • pens/pencils
  • site The Gutenberg Press

Lesson Plan


Set up the alphabet stamps on a holder or glue them to a sheet of wood. Set them up so that the words are exactly the same as the poem or the sentences you will have the children copy.

Review information you have covered about the Renaissance and/or inventions. It is important that the children connect the word Renaissance with "rebirth of learning." Discuss as needed.



  • Tell the children that today they are going to discover the benefits of an invention from the Renaissance period. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press.
  • Read the short biography about Gutenberg's childhood at The Gutenberg Press.
  • Emphasize that it took months for Gutenberg's father to receive a book he wanted because the process of making a book, whether hand-printed or produced by block rubbing, took a very long time.
  • Ask these questions:
    Do you think people in Gutenberg's time had many books? Why not?
    How did people get the news? (Answer: Messengers)
    Did they have printed newspapers?


  • Say "Let's do an activity to show how the printing press helped people."
  • Have the children copy a short poem or a few sentences from the board five times. Tell them you need many, many copies (five times the number of students) and that the copies must be very neat, without mistakes. (If you have a child who is physically challenged, let him or her be your helper.)
  • Give the students about 15 minutes to copy the passage on the board. You can stop at that point or add a few more minutes after a short break.
  • During center time or group time, have students use the alphabet stamps that are pre-arranged to make five copies of the poem or sentences.
    Teacher's note:You may want to ink the stamps for students.)

After the activity, discuss the benefits of a printing press. Responses to the following discussion starters should include concept that more copies of reading materials could be made in less time.
Do you think people had more books or fewer books after this invention?
How did the printing press affect the spread of news, laws, or special events?

Suggested References
Gutenberg's Invention
ORB: The Online Reference for Medieval Studies
Graphion's Online Type Museum

Take a field trip to a facility that houses a printing press. Caution: Do not let children near machinery.


  • Use slightly damp paper to print the stamps on. This is one way people printed during medieval times.
  • Go on a Web search to find more information about different printing presses. Use the sites above to help.


Children write a paragraph or an essay about how the invention of the printing press helped people in the Renaissance era.

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted by: Laurie Donnelly, ([email protected]) Suncoast Elementary School, Spring Hill, Florida

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