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The Great Schism in the Medieval Church Lesson Plan

Updated on February 24, 2012

The Great Schism


· The students will be able identify and contrast the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic) Christen Church as they existed in the Medieval Ages.

· The students will be able to explain the circumstances that lead to the Great Schism and how it impacted Western Europe.

· Student will be able to explain basic Medieval Church theology as it relates to neo-platonic thought concerning the idea of perfect and imperfect


· H&SS9-12:8 - Students connect the past with the present byexplaining historical origins of key ideas and concepts (e.g., Enlightenment, Manifest Destiny, religious and governmental philosophies) and how they are reinterpreted over time.

· H&SS9-12:10 Students show understanding of past, present, and future timebycreating a historical narrative.

· 6.1 6.4.dd. - Students identify major historical eras and analyze periods of transition in various times in their local community, in Vermont, in the United States, and in various locations worldwide, to interpret the influence of the past on the present. This is evident when students Sequence historical eras; identify the characteristics of transitions between eras, being sure to make connections to the present; and research, examine, and analyze historical data from each era.


1. When the students enter the classroom the lights will be dim, the smell of incense will be in the room and Gregorian chants will be playing in the background.

2. The teacher will allow the students to sit down and get quit, let the class just sit in this atmosphere for a few minutes. The idea is to let them hear the music and smell the incenses, to calm down, do your best to give the class a church like feel.

3. After the students have quieted down turn on the power point. The power point will start off with a picture of a simple house that might have been used by a peasant during the Middle Ages and slowly work up to a massive Medieval Church. The idea is to provide the students with an idea of what it was like to be a normal person at this time and how impressive the church must have been during this time period.

4. When the last picture is shown the teacher will talk about what it must have been like to walk into one of these churches with the chants on in the background. You should ask some prompt questions that will allow students to talk about what they think it would have been like. Talk about how this might have influenced people to believe in the power of the church

5. Bring the discussion to an end and introduce the subject; the Great Schism. Talk about what will be covered; the split in the Church, theology, Eastern and Western Christianity, and how and why the Western Church became so powerful in Medieval Europe.

6. Have the students pull out their timeline

7. While they are taking out the timeline ask them for a quick refresher on Justinian, why was he important? What did he do? This will help remind them about what we are studying.

8. Have the students find the Great Schism on the timeline and talk about why we are jumping ahead on the timeline to do this subject (express that the church is in the background the whole time and it is good to have an understanding of it if we are to have an understanding of Medieval History).

9. Pass out the vocabulary sheets and go through each of the words with the power point vocabulary presentation.

10. Open the class to a discussion about what they know about the medieval church or about what they have heard stereotypes, etc.

11. During this discussion pass out the graphic organizer and work through the front page. However, this graphic organizer is designed for the students to help find the answers with the teacher’s guidance. There is also a power point presentation that goes along with it.

12. Once the class gets to the bottom of the front page and there is a little discussion around ‘Filioque’ pass out the two versions of the Nicene Creed and have the students read it to themselves.

13. Once everyone has read it see if the students can find the differences between them. Give them a couple minutes, if they find it great, if they don’t no problem, point it out to them. Have them notice how little of a difference it is but what a big deal it became.

14. Talk about whether they really think this was one of the main reasons for the split in the church. There is no right answer but you differently what them to start thinking critically these events in both a social and political manner. Talk about what kind of social and political ideas the church might be involved in.

Next Day:

15. Start the lesson on Neo-platonic theology, get them to start think about the definition of perfect and imperfect, not examples but definitions.

16. Pass out the Theology hand out and ask the students to define ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’. Talk them through neo-platonic thought as it relates to the Church (Be ready for massive questions and go really slow).

17. Once you are at the reflection part of the discussion, play telephone. The further the message gets from the beginning the less it resembles it.

18. Start the next class with the story of Pope Jane and myths behind the female Popes; this should grab the attention of most of the students.

19. Have them pull out their graphic organizers and finish the back of it with up to the last question. Remember, this is designed to be an interactive graphic organizer and power point.

20. Get them into their groups and pass out ‘What Did the Bishops Do?’ Have them finish the story about the Schism in their groups.

21. When they are done have each group share their stories and then you will share the real story and have them complete the graphic organizer.

22. At this point try to answer any lingering questions and explain that the class will follow the Western Church now and the class is leaving the Eastern World. Talk about how they will be jumping back two hundred years; make sure they understand thet the class is moving backwards before it moves forward, back to the world of Charlemagne.

23. Introduce Charlemagne so the class is exposed to him and has a quick overview of him.

Adaptations for Diverse Learners

· Pre-filled graphic organizers

· Writing will be done in groups so that everyone will be able to participate equally

· Theological notes will be passed out

· Equal amount lecture, discussion, and group work

· Vocabulary list passed out and filled out as a class

· Phone game to make learning more interactive

Materials and Resources

· Copies of Handouts

· PowerPoint

· Computer

· Projector

· Willing and Loving classroom full of great students


· Beginning of class discussion of both the previous class and about the Church

· Class room discussion on Medieval theology after Neo-platonic lesson

· ‘What did the Bishops Do’ handout

Analysis and Refection

Most of the lesson went pretty smoothly and I would not want to change much because this lesson presented a complex set of ideas so the more the lesson itself becomes complex the less chance for success with it. ‘What did the Bishops do’ did not do that well because the students did not really understand what was being asked of them. This could have been because of my presentation of the directions or the openness of the assignment. I do not think students are use to being given the chance to be really creative and have the opportunity to do things the way they see fit, they are consistently being told what to do and how to do it. I would also bring more assessment to this lesson. I think this is an area that I really could improve on.

One of the learning outcomes that were not anticipated was just how well the students were going to connect the church with the stability of Western Europe coming out of the dark ages and into the Middle Ages. This was a great connection because it tied right in with the rest of the curriculum and with the overarching theme of the unit; ‘Out of Chaos comes Order.’ I also think the students connected on a deeper level with the theology I than expected and this allowed them to have a more in-depth understanding of the medieval mind set.


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    • Lenzy profile image


      8 years ago from Arlington, Texas

      Oh, I added an n on the a before super teacher. We all do it sometimes.

    • Lenzy profile image


      8 years ago from Arlington, Texas

      Excellent. Again, it is obvious that you are an super teacher. Very few would put in the type of time and effort that you demonstrated in your lesson plan. I yearned for that kind of involvement from a history teacher as a student. I remember that my greatest desire was to finish my work early so that I could go and help sort books in the back room and not have to listen to them drone on about facts and dates. Great job.

    • Brendon Floyd profile imageAUTHOR

      Brendon Floyd 

      8 years ago from Oklahoma City, OK

      Thanks! I am no longer a student teacher but I need to have random lessons approved by the administration because I am a new teacher. As far as spelling goes I have a learning disability that effects my spelling, not that it is an excuse just a fact. It is something I am working on but it is a really big challenge for me. However,I do tell my students about it and seems to allow me/them to relate better because of that honesty I think they have more respect for me.

    • Lenzy profile image


      8 years ago from Arlington, Texas

      Wow. Your students have a terrific teacher. You shared a tremendous amount of content and ideas and asked for a lot of interaction from the class. I would just watch your spelling and occasional blending of words in this article. Are you the regular teacher or a student teacher? I am guessing a student, only because they tend to put in such a great effort. This was well done and interesting.


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