Education in the Middle Ages: the Birth of Modern Schooling (LS-IT-527)

My name is Emanuela Leto and I designed this activity for 11-year-old students. This multidisciplinary learning scenario is integrated into the national curriculum of Medieval History of 6 th grade classes in Italian schools. This has been planned to be realized in cooperation with the History Teacher. This learning scenario focuses on the birth of the present school education system which tracks back to the Middle Ages.

School Education and its Importance

This learning scenario focuses on the importance of the present school education system. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the relevance and importance of public and private school education are evident. Nowadays, education is not to be taken for granted. Interestingly, the inception of modern schooling happened during the Middle Ages.

The learning scenario provides students with the opportunity to reflect upon the importance of schooling in this particular moment, which for some aspects can be related to the historical period of the Middle Ages as an era of transition. Moreover, it is linked to the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) curriculum for the deepening of vocabulary competence.

In this scenario, most of the 21st-century skills are implemented. Not only digital skills, creativity, communication in the mother tongue and in the English language, but also: 

Civic Literacy as it fosters the importance of the school and its evolution within the centuries;

Critical thinking as the students have the chance to read and compare the past with the present, through real documents of the age, collaborative skills, and the creation of open-source resources. 


The teachers introduce the topic about the importance of schools. The teacher probes the students about the importance of schooling in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, we were deprived of attending school and we missed it – but why is schooling so important? The teacher asks students to debate the reasons why schooling is so important for their growth.

The History teacher introduces briefly the Middle ages in the mother tongue (Italian) followed by a focus on the main events in the English language by the English teacher. The teachers and the students read an extract from two essays on School in the Middle ages (in the Italian mother tongue) and Europe in the Middle Ages (in English ) focusing in particular on some images linked to the article on the organization of both Monastic and Civic schools. 

Deepening the topic in the English language, the English teacher invites the students to search the keywords in the Italian text and to translate them for building a short glossary with specific vocabulary.

Using Kahoot to learn about medieval manuscripts.

The students, guided by the teachers, make a research on the manuscripts of the age using the Europeana collection website. 

The History teacher explains that as print had not been invented at that time, books were handwritten with a work of decoration in particular for Paragraph in capital letters to give hints to the matter treated. The students’ tasks are to examine the manuscripts and for each of them to try to decipher the topic by reading words in such a font. They are invited to make comparison with their textbooks and to find out similarities and differences in the layout and in the size and font of the letters. 

Final Outcome 

At the end of this research, the students have to fill a chart comparing their textbooks to the manuscripts found in the Europeana collections and post the output of this activity on a Padlet. In this way they have the chance to learn about History through real documents, expressing comparisons and similarities on the way to attend school in the past. In this manner, a simple History lesson becomes a real “discovery” lesson.

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:

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CC BY 4.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Wellcome Collection.

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