The Question Box – an adaptable lesson plan for any subject!
I am not sure where it came from or where it went, to be honest, but we used to have a small, shoebox-sized hexagonal box. It had large red and green paisleys running around the outside and at one time probably held a yummy Christmas gift. We called it “The Question Box.” We study history chronologically and usually used it first thing in the morning as a fun, hands on way to kick off our history study, but it’s an adaptable idea that can be used for almost any subject!
Using it MADE EACH UNIT MORE FUN by:
- beginning our history study with a fun, hands on, challenging, “game-like” activity
- getting my kids excited about what they were going to be learning
- helping our kids actually see how much they were learning as the unit progressed
After morning devotions, our routine was to head to the schoolroom and start the academic day with the kids taking their turns excitedly pulling a question pertaining to our history study from the box. Here’s how it worked.
How to use the Question Box for Middle Ages history
Customarily, I would make up numbered history and science fill-in-the blank and short answer questions on the computer and print them out, making them different colors.
I also made myself a key on a separate sheet of paper. Don’t forget that!
I cut the questions apart and into the box they went. I coded them so we knew which were the ‘younger student’ questions and which were the ‘older.’
We would have a new boxful at the beginning of every history unit, and a big box full of new questions was always something my kids looked forward to!
Typically, at the start of a new unit they wouldn’t know many of the answers. (If they didn’t know the answer, the question went back into the box.)
But they had fun guessing and, at the same time, became more interested in what they would be learning. As we progressed through the unit, they were jazzed about how they were getting more and more of the questions right, and how I had to throw in some harder questions just to keep things interesting.
By the end of the unit period they usually had all of the questions, even the hard ones, answered correctly. We also had contests and sometimes received prizes (like a piece of gum or an M&M) for answering, for example, three questions in a row correctly.
Some of the ways this could be expanded and adapted to other subjects:
- The kids could create and decorate the box
- Older students could make up questions for the younger ones
- Kids could pull a ‘seat work’ assignment out of the box, such as a verse to copy or memorize, a sentence with errors to edit, a short word problem to figure out, etc.
- An older elementary, middle or high school student could pull out a person, place or event to research, write about, and present to the group (or to you)
- Geography – use it to study countries, capitals and/or continents (they pick a country out of the box and have to say the capital and/or continent where it’s located)
- Geography- use it to learn different landforms, bodies of water, mountain ranges (they choose a term they have to define or identify where it is located)
- Science – use for definition of terms or systems (“Explain the water cycle,” or “Name 5 characteristics of mammals/living things/insects”)
- Literature study – definition/ example of literary terms (“Explain the term ‘setting’ and how it was used in Wuthering Heights”)
Even household chores for that day could be chosen from a box!
As I have been slowly cleaning my way through the school room recently, I came across some of our Middle Ages questions that would be appropriate for late Primary, Intermediate or early Preparatory students. The last five or so would be suitable for Preparatory and/or Secondary students.
Sample Middle Ages Questions and Answers
The answers are in bold type and in parentheses after the questions:
- What is the name of the part of a castle that is a tower, often round, with many stories? There, nobles slept, ate and planned. Soldiers lived on lower stories with the dungeon below. (keep)
- Between 1100 and 1300 AD, large groups of knights, nobles and even some peasants (and children!) traveled from Europe to the Middle East to try and take possession of the Holy Lands from the Turks. These trips were called the ___________. (Crusades)
- What are two popular games played today that originated during the Middle Ages? (chess and checkers)
- During the Middle Ages, craft _________ were set up to make sure their members were properly trained as apprentices and produced high quality goods. (guilds)
- From what disease in the 1300’s did about a third of all the people in Europe die? (the Black Death or Bubonic Plague)
- What was the name of a legendary king who ruled a Kingdom where people were peaceful and content? He came to represent the ideals of justice, peace and honor. (King Arthur)
- Large, rural estates were called _________. (manors)
- A craftsman who made tools, weapons and cooking utensils from iron was called a _______. (blacksmith)
- Books were copied by hand, one by one, usually by ___________. (monks)
- In manor houses, people used ___________ to cover walls, to keep out drafts, and/or to divide rooms. (carpets and tapestries)
- What were musicians called who traveled around the country, played, sang and told stories at special feasts and other events? (minstrels)
- ________ traveled great distances to buy and sell goods. (Traders or merchants)
- A special design each knight carried on a shield or his clothing that helped knights tell each other apart in battle was called a _____ __ ____. (coat of arms)
- What were pictures called that were painted directly onto wet plaster? (frescoes)
- What was a mechanical device called that hurled heavy objects into the air, at or over castle walls during an attack? (a catapult)
- The ________ ________ was a survey completed in 1086 of nearly all the lands in England and was conducted by officials of King William the First (also known as William the Conqueror). (the Domesday Book)
- Dried plant seeds, roots and/or leaves that were used to flavor foods or make not-so-fresh meat taste better (and were quiet expensive) were called ________. (spices)
- The _________ was one of the most highly skilled craftsman of the middle ages, combining the jobs of architect, builder, engineer, and sculptor today, working on all stages of a building project. (mason)
- Many ________ and _________ were used as medieval remedies for sickness and disease. (plants and herbs)
- What was depicted by the famous Bayeux Tapestry? (The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066, when the Norman invader William, Duke of Normandy, challenged Saxon King Harold.William’s forces won the battle; henceforth, he was called William the Conqueror.)
- Briefly describe the feudal system. (Vassals gave loyalty and service to lords in exchange for land and military protection)
- Describe the concept of chivalry. (Chivalry is a group of character qualities thought to be exhibited by the perfect knight, including loyalty, honesty, courage, and courteousness—especially towards women.)
- Describe the Magna Carta and its significance, as well as the circumstances under which it was signed. (The “Great Charter” was the first document in English history that forced a monarch to be subject to the law and provided for the creation of a strong parliament.King John, a wicked and greedy king who had levied incredibly high taxes, was forced to sign it by his rebellious barons in 1215 in Runnymede, England.Once it was signed, the barons again swore fealty to King John, not realizing the king had no intention of keeping the agreement.)
- Name at least one key character from the Middle Ages and describe why he or she was historically significant. This has many possible answers! Among them:
- Alfred the Great: a noble and wise ruler who bought about an educational revival in England;
- King John: [see above];
- Joan of Arc:a young French girl who rallied the French against the English and who victoriously led the French army in battle.She was eventually captured and burned at the stake as a witch;
- Charlemagne: French ruler, Charles the Great, who controlled most of west and central Europe and presided over what was called the Carolingian Renaissance;
- Genghis and Kublai Khan:Grandfather and Grandson, these Mongolian leaders ruled over much of Asia and almost to Europe.Although Buddhist, they were tolerant of most religions other than Islam.Kublai did much to encourage literature and the arts.)
- Who were the Moors? (A nomadic people from Northern Africa, the Moors descended from Arabs and Berbers who had moved into the Holy Lands and spent many years fighting the English during the Crusades.They are known for their goal to spread Islam across the world and for their magnificent, unusual architecture.)
Please feel free to use these questions in your school, and have fun making up some of your own!
Would your children enjoy using this idea?