The Middle Ages, Lesson Plan (Donn)
Pleasant Peasant Poems
First: Read the Manorial System - Serfs and Peasants. You can read it. They can read it. Or you can use it as a handout.
Say: To us today, it sounds like peasants lived a pretty tough life. Even though their work was very hard and their lives were harsh, most peasants and serfs were at least content. They counted on the lord to take care of them in times of trouble, and he did. The lords understood that without the peasants and serfs, their comfortable life would soon be gone. They might tell a peasant man in a harsh voice, "You must plow an acre of field today." They might tell a peasant child, "You must bake 14 loaves of bread today for my guests tonight." But what he could not say was, "Go away. Leave my land now."
Serfs stayed with the land, and that gave them a lot of comfort. The lord could not tell them to go away. Peasants could leave if they wanted, but the lord could not tell the peasants to go away. Most peasants chose to stay. People stayed on the manor their whole life. They were afraid to travel past the people who lived on the other side of the hill. By comparison to that terror, most peasants believed their life on the manor was a good one.
Activity: Working in groups or individually, whichever you as the teacher choose, tell your kids that they must write a Pleasant Peasant Poem.
They may assume the role of any peasant they choose - a young girl, a young boy, a bailiff, a craftman, a mother, a father, or a grandparent. The poem they write must show us something their peasant considers as a good thing about their life.
Give them some time. Then ask for volunteers to share what they have written.
Activity: Using the white board or the overhead or whatever you use, brainstorm with your class a list of things that common people in the Middle Ages might have listed as the good things in their lives.
Say: We are going to have to write the good things down for them because they could not read or write.
Create a list. Ask your class: Do you believe that these are still good things today?