Humanities/Modern World History

Layered Curriculum Unit II: Decline of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
Kathleen Moylan
Worcester Technical HS, MA

C level DUE DATE: ______________________

B/A level due date:______________________________

Core Question Due Date:____________________ 

Unit Overview:

This unit introduces the excitement of Europe during the Renaissance—a time when humanists began to believe that “man is the measure of all things.”

After completing this unit, you will be able to:


Core Question (must be answered in order to pass the C level): How is the Renaissance modern?

“C” Level: maximum 70 points

Please choose from the assignments below for a maximum of 70 points. No more than 2 assignments will be evaluated on the unit due date. Please refer to the Layered Curriculum criteria sheet to determine how to fulfill the requirements for each assignment


Mandatory Assignment #1:

Complete a reflection on an exemplary work of art; use the model and the rubric if you need help    15 points 

Mandatory Assignment #2: Read one or more of the following historical documents, fill out the historical documents worksheet, and be prepared to answer questions about the document   10-15 points

Machiavelli  The Prince excerpts

Castiglione, The Courtier excerpts

Vasari, Lives of Artists: Leonardo da Vinci

Vasari Lives of Artists, Michel Angelo

Christine de Pizan, The City of Ladies, excerpts

Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man, excerpts

Others in the manila folder! 

Mandatory Assignment: #3

Read and answer questions for Boccaccio’s The Decameron     10 points 

Take notes on class lectures: 5 points per lecture (except art lecture)

Bring Out Your Dead! The Black Plague strikes Europe___________

What was so special about Italy? ________

Men in the library, women on a pedestal: Humanism and Neo-Platonism________

Be cruel, or be loved: Machiavelli’s The Prince _________

The glory and splendor of Renaissance Art (15 point lecture!) ________ 

Participate in the Art Seminar, in which you choose a favorite and least favorite work of art. Be prepared to defend your choices in class, or in conference       10 points 

Create a visual timeline highlighting TEN important moments in Renaissance history. Choose your beginning and ending dates for the Renaissance, and be prepared to defend each of your ten choices. Make sure that your choices correspond to the unit objectives. Present your timeline to the class.*review visual art criteria to complete this assignment to standard         10 points 

Create a map that illustrates the major political boundaries in Europe during the Renaissance. Label each of the Italian city states, as well as all major countries and cities      10 points

      Be prepared to answer the following questions about your map:

      How did the geography of Italy lend itself to the development of city-states, rather than a single nation?

      How did Italy’s geography encourage trade?

      Explain the importance of the Papal States to the political structure of Italy. 

Read the sonnets of Petrarch handout, and be ready to answer the following questions:   10 points

      Describe some emotions expressed by Petrarch in these poems.

      How does he describe the object of his affection?

      In what ways are these sonnets neo-Platonic? 

Complete the Renaissance word search, and fill in the sentences      10 points 

“B” Level: 15 points

Please choose ONE of the following assignments to complete. You must have 70 points to proceed to the B level. 

Go to the Museum of Science website on Leonardo da Vinci:

Read the information about Leonardo’s gadgets on Museum of Science Website, THEN

  1. Take the Gadget Anatomy quiz
  2. Click on the link—Sketching Gadget Anatomy
  3. Sketch a gadget, following the directions on the website
  4. Present your sketch to the class, with an explanation of how this assignment fits with our discussion of the Renaissance

PAIR UP: Prepare a list of questions that a newspaper reporter might ask one of the following people mentioned in the chapter:

*Julius II  *Michelangelo  *Machiavelli  Raphael

*Christine de Pizan Dante’s Beatrice Petrarch’s Laura  

*Pico della Mirandola

Be sure to prepare the answers ahead of time, and make sure the questions are related to the objectives of the unit. Present the interview to the class. *for persons with an asterisk, you should quote the person directly using primary sources; see me with questions, or if you’re having trouble locating sources 

Participate in a Socratic Seminar on Machiavelli’s The Prince (1st 12 students to request this only). You must have a least 50 C level points signed off before you reserve your space. Students must read and annotate their Machiavelli excerpt in order to participate.  

Choose one of Petrarch’s sonnets, and translate it into modern words. Recite both versions to the class, and be ready to explain the neo-Platonic images in both versions. 

Compare and contrast one of Petrarch’s sonnets with Shakespeare’s sonnet #130: “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.” How does Shakespeare’s work reject neo-Platonism? Present your interpretation to the class in a 2-3 minute presentation. 

You are an apprentice in the studio of one of the most famous artists from the Renaissance (your pick). In at least three detailed letters, write home to tell your family about life in the studio. In what city are you working? What duties would you have? What techniques would you learn? What famous art would you have seen, and what would your impressions of the art be? 

Read the excerpt from the book The Day Laid on the Altar by Adria Bernardi (see me for a copy). How does this excerpt’s description differ from other works we have read about the Renaissance? Choose three passages to relate to the objectives of the unit, and write a one-page description of how the passages reflect or reject other information about the Renaissance that we have studied. 

“A” Level: 15 points

Please choose ONE of the following assignments or questions to complete. You must fulfill one B level requirement before moving to the A level. 

As a pair or individually, research the political debate over government funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Read arguments for and against funding, and explain how the role of patronage and art has changed since the Renaissance. Do governments have a responsibility to fund art? Why or why not? This may be presented as a class point/ counterpoint debate in a pair, or as a persuasive essay if done individually. See me for the rubric for each assignment. 

As a pair or individually, take a position on the Renaissance argument over the best way to portray ideal beauty. Is it best exemplified through literature, or visual art? In a 3-5 minute presentation, show the class your favorite examples (no more than 3) of ideal beauty as portrayed in art or literature, and defend your choices. You should also explain why you think the other position is incorrect. 


Read excerpts from The Courtier, and present to the class a role play in which one student plays a Renaissance gentleman who practices the advice of Castiglione, and the other portrays a modern male responding to that advice. Your presentation should demonstrate the ways in which manners and morals have changed, and how those changes reflect the values of each time period. You must quote The Courtier directly in your presentation. 

PAIR UP: (1st 2 teams only; must be on the B level to reserve your space)

Explore the theme of neo-Platonism in American culture today. Do our movies, advertisements, and other images reflect the neo-Platonic ideal established for women during the Renaissance? If so, how? If not, what values or aesthetics have replaced the neo-Platonic ideal? Create a visual display using pictures and words to portray the popular culture’s depiction of women. Present your findings to the class. 

Humanism is dead. Write a persuasive essay in which you take a position on this statement, using modern resources to support your position. See me for the rubric.