The Black Death is a popular subject of study with students. The following self-contained scheme of work contains a strong role-play element built around a diary that builds up over several lessons. There is also a fantastic cardgame exercise built into the unit and an interactive, self-marking end of unit assessment along with other opportunities to create a boardgame, have a keyword challenge or produce an individual written project.
This series of images is designed to get students thinking about what the next topic might be. Complete with explanatory teacher notes.
This online video clip [2m] provides a great flavour of the topic to get students interested!
Spread of the Black Death
Students use this animated map to draw their own conclusions about where the disease started and spread to, and which areas were most affected.
Video Clips: Arrival of the Black Death in  Italy and  France
These two video clips provide extra detail about the spread of disease across Europe.
Video Clip: Arrival of the Black Death in England
"Imagine a local tradesman has arrived in your village and has fallen ill: you realise with horror that he has brought the Black Death into your village!
(a) Number these symptoms from  (the first) to  (the last).
(b) Your teacher will tell you the answers to record in the “Correct Answer” column.
(c) Then, work out the difference between the two numbers in each row. Add up the total. The lower your score, the better you did!"
Video Clip: Symptoms of the Black Death
"Your teacher will be in role as the local magistrate who has called an emergency meeting to discuss the arrival of the Black Death in our village.
The magistrate will read out an account from one of his contacts about what they think has caused the Black Death. Decide where to include the information in Column  of the table below. The other slips might be handed out one at a time to different teams. In this case, the ‘reader’ in each team should read the account to the rest of the team and then lead a discussion about where to include it in the table, and what quote to use. Halfway through the sources, the magistrate will pause the teams and ask them to suggest some cures".
Video Clip: Medieval Medicine
"Historians think that almost half the population of Europe died in the Black Death.
The lowest scoring 50% of the class in this exercise will become ‘casualties’. The teacher will count upwards and you should sit down on the floor when your score is reached. The half of the class left standing are the ‘survivors’.
Main Task: What will be your survival rating?
Listed here are many ways in which people tried to stop the Black Death.
We now know that infected fleas on rats spread the Black Death.
The disease could be spread between people by physical contact.
Put a cross in the correct column for each cure listed here.
You will get a ‘survival point’ for each one you get correct."
Video Clip: Immediate impact and reactions in Italy
The objective of each player is to get as many cards for their 'role suit' as possible.
Peasants: should focus on collecting food (clubs) in order to establish a stable food supply.
Merchants: should focus on collecting money (diamonds).
Nobles: should focus on collecting prestige (spades).
In addition to clubs, diamonds and spades, students need to know that:
Hearts: represent the happiness and well-being derived from meeting with and talking with others. All players benefit from holding hearts.
The Joker: represents fleas infected with the Black Death.
Video Clip: Immediate impact and reactions in England
Video Clip: Consequences
This activity is approached through a 'Hexagons' approach which is outlined in detail here. Students cut up the hexagons and organise them in logical groups, with adjacent sides of hexagons indicating connections that are then explained around the diagram. The hexagons were created using the ClassTools.net Hexagons Generator.
"The English chronicler Henry Knighton wrote about the effects of the Black Death in England in 1348-50 as follows. Your task is to read through each slip and underline any key details. You might choose to use green to indicate positive results, and red to indicate negative ones. Next, cut each slip out and decide where to place it in your hexagon diagram from the previous activity. Make sure you explain why you have placed it in that spot with a few words. Finally, use your completed diagram to write a final Diary Entry outlining the impact of the Black Death".
Video extract for further detail: Consequences of the Black Death (18m)
Interactive End-of-Unit Assessments
The Black Death Simulation / End of Unit Assessment [Interactive]
A self-marking assessment testing both factual knowledge and sourcework skills. Students can play the game for as long as they wish, then at the end they are presented with two scores in the form of a certificate, both of which can be handed to the teacher to put into the markbook!
KeyWord Challenge: Black Death [Interactive]
If you are unfamiliar with the format of the game, click here for instructions.
End of Unit Projects
Option A: Group Task - Design a Boardgame
"In this unit, which starts with a whole-class miming competition, you will design your own board game about the Black Death.
Your game should try to show the spread, symptoms, cures and consequences of the Black Death.
You will play each other’s games and vote on the best ones.
Commendations and merits will be awarded for students who produce particularly creative, educational and effective board games"
This structured marksheet guides students towards providing a detailed written project marked out of 50.
Video Extract: "King Death" complete with structured note-taking worksheet
A running dictation exercise. Students should follow it up by producing a biased newspaper report from either a pro-revolt or an anti-revolt perspective.