A Unit Study on the Renaissance
and Reformation Era

This can be a very interesting unit to study with any age child/student. You can easily adjust topics and activities to fit your child’s interests or learning style. I found this to be a high-interest, very hands-on unit that was perfect with my own high-energy kids.


I haven’t mentioned this in any of my other units, but if your library has a CD collection, look through their offerings for music to fit your study. During the Renaissance and Reformation, music was one of the arts that greatly expanded. Women came to be recognized as composers during this period. New instruments were experimented with. Music became more varied and more acceptable, with many more combinations of voice and instrument tried out. Hearing samples of popular music from that era will add a dynamic facet to your study.

Teacher Created Materials thematic unit series: Renaissance (ISBN 1-55734-580-5). This activity book uses “The Renaissance” by Time Woods, “The High Voyage: The Final Crossing of Christopher Columbus” by Olga Litowinsky, and “Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare” by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema as its frame. There are many across the curriculum activities listed. There are also directions for a Renaissance Faire as a culminating activity.

The Hands-On-History series by Edupress has a new selection available. It is called the “Renaissance Era Activity Book.” While I don’t own it (another for my wish list), I have taken a look at it and it is a wonderful resource to use with the younger student when you are teaching this subject. The activities are scaleable for any age and grade level.

Dover Coloring Books are inexpensive and have over 200 selections on different topics. There are several that are useful for a study of the Renaissance Era including: Cathedrals of the World, Columbus Discovers America, Herbs, and Renaissance Fashions.

Jackdaw Publications has “Picture the Renaissance” which is a good, stand-alone unit study for this time period. Primarily designed for the older student, but with some activities that are scaleable for the younger one.

Several of Tim Tierny’s paper doll series are good additions to this study: Italian Renaissance Costumes, Elizabethan Costumes, and Henry VIII and His Wives paper dolls. This can be used for re-enactments and simulations. You can also use paper dolls, either these or those you’ve created yourself, to put on Shakespearean plays with.

Check the offerings of Usborne Books. They have several including one on what life was like in a Renaissance town.




This is a wonderful site. Almost every topic in the outline has a clickable link for further information. There is information on people, places, events, and art and artists.

A Virtual Renaissance

Renaissance Daily Life

The Protestant Reformation

The Reformation

Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling?


A Renaissance Faire – You’re your own family Renaissance Faire. You don’t have to do all of these activtivies, you could pick and choose which ones you find most interesting or entertaining.

Take a virtual fieldtrip to the Tower of London.

Participate in a webquest:

Cast a Faux Marble Sculpture.

Cast a Faux Alabaster Figure. This is a more difficult craft and one that requires adult supervision as it involves melted paraffin wax.

Create a Fresco. Here’s another art project to include in your study. A fresco is a painting that was originally painted on damp plaster. As the plaster dries, the color pigments become imbedded in the plaster itself.

The Renaissance is regarded as a time with the study of science become more important. It is also a time when a great deal of psuedo-science took place. Alchemists believed that they could take ordinary materials and convert them into gold. Why not enhance your Renaissance study by re-enacting the experiments of scientists such as Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci.

Germs were not discovered until 1590 when the microscope was invented. Many illnesses and deaths could have been prevented if people would have simply washed their hands. Doctors were called “surgeons” or “barbers” and were just as likely to be veterinarians (animal doctors). Pharmicists were called apothecaries and prescribed such things as ground glass and poisonous hemlock to treat illnesses. Use petri dishes to grow bacteria and look at them through a microscope, or review the various illnesses that were prevalent during the Renaissance era by studying the history of medicine.

The study of astronomy was very popular during the Renaissance era. Try and locate the major constellations and the histories of how they were given their names. What planets or stars were discovered during this era?

Investigate the inventions of the Renaissance and Reformation era: pendulum clocks, printing, eyeglasses, lenses, musket, rudder, wallpaper, the flush toilet (aka a water closet), adding machine, air pump, barometer, thermometer, and portable timepiece.

Re-enact a Shakespearean play. This is a great activity for older students in co-ops. If you aren’t using this in a group setting, why not let your student design props or costumes as if they were going to produce a play from this era. Study the Globe Theatre.

Sewing: There are costume patterns available through Simplicity patterns. These can be viewed at a fabric store such as JoAnne Fabrics or Mae’s in the pattern books under the heading costumes.

Fieldtrip: See if there is a regularly scheduled Renaissance Faire put on in your area. Often these Faires are family events with live demonstrations of the various craft from that era….making chain mail and armor, juggling, plays, life-size chess matches. Authentic food is another attraction as well as costumed participants.

Geography: Study the maps of the Renaissance Era and how they differed from those available in earlier times, such as the Middle Ages. What lands were being discovered and how were maps being filled out? What inventions were making it easier for long distance explorations to occur?


Check your library and video stores for any Shakespearean plays turned into movie format. Such examples could include “The Taming of the Shrew,” “A Midsummer Night Dream,” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

A&E Biography Series has several tapes that would be pertinent to a study of this era. Two of note of the ones on Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. However, a note of warning….the A&E Biographies often discuss the private lives of their subject in explicitly. The sexual orientation of both of these two artists is discussed in detail. Please preview any video you choose for age appropriateness.

David McCaulay’s book Cathedral was also turned into video. He is the same author that wrote “Pyramid” and narrated the video by the same name.


Don Quixote
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
The works of Shakespeare
Renaissance and the New World by Govanni Caselli
Everyday Life in Renaissance Time by E.R. Chamberlain
The World in 1492 by Jean Fritz
Cathedral by David MacCaulay
Josephus: The Essential Writings
Elizabeth I in the Royal Diaries series (the same people who publish the “Dear America” series)

The following are works of fiction for the Reformation Era. The primary character for each book is in parenthesis:
The Beggar’s Bible (John Wycliffe)
The Bible Smuggler (William Tyndale)
The Man Who Laid the Egg (Erasmus)
Night Preacher (Menro Simmons)
Thunderstorm in the Church (Martin Luther)

Copyright 2002-2011 EasyFunSchool.com - All Rights Reserved.   |   About  |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |   Privacy   |   Terms of Use