Renaissance Lesson Plans


“Renaissance” in French means “rebirth,” and the Renaissance was a time of rebirth for the arts and sciences. Signs of Renaissance began in Italy in the 14th century, and the time period is generally agreed to extend to the 17th century.

There is of course overlap between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Begin with your classroom timeline and map and have students decide where and in which places to mark the beginning of the Renaissance. Here are questions they can use:

  • Who were some important people of the Renaissance, and when did they live?
  • What were some important discoveries of the Renaissance, and when did they take place?
  • What were some important ideas of the Renaissance, who wrote about them, and when?

The Renaissance didn’t happen in only one place, but some parts of the world participated more than others in the rebirth of art and science. Have students explore the Renaissance in different places:

  • Compare the Italian Renaissance with the Northern Renaissance of the Netherlands and Flanders. Students might begin by looking at Rembrandt, born in the Netherlands in 1606, in comparison to Michelangelo,  born in Italy in 1475. Enjoy a virtual tour of Rembrandt’s house and of Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel (virtual tours are a a good way to work on panning and zooming).  The Michelangelo Gallery also has lots of pictures.
  • France was strongly influenced by the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century, and later by the Northern Renaissance as well. France in turn strongly influenced England, where the Renaissance was marked by Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare, and by enormous religious, political, and economic upheaval. In both France and England, the Renaissance centered more on literature and music than on painting and sculpture. Compare the French and English Renaissance experience with that of Italy and the Netherlands.
  • Art was a guiding force of the Renaissance, but science and technology were equally affected by the changes in the world, and may have had a greater effect on the lives of the people. Have students add to the class timeline as many inventions of the Renaissance as they can find, beginning with the printing press, the telescope, and the thermometer. Have students look at the life of a man of art and science, Leonardo da Vinci. Compare the scientists of the Renaissance with modern scientists.
  • The Pilgrims came to America during the Renaissance, but their culture wasn’t focused on art, science, or technology. Compare the Pilgrims and the Native Americans with whom they lived with the European Renaissance.
  • Center in on the year 1600 and compare Europe with the Americas, Asia, and Africa. While you can make a four way Venn diagram, the simplest way is to divide the class into three parts and have each group create a Venn diagram comparing one of the other continents with Europe. Once each group has reported to the class, consider putting together a hug four-way Venn diagram for your bulletin board, surrounding it with the small group diagrams.

Our lesson plans on the subject:

Other online resources:

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