Topic: The Black Plague
  • How does a plague, like the Black Death, change a society?
  • Are human beings destined to plagues and pandemics or can they be avoided?
  • How did the Bubonic Plague change Europe forever?
  • Was the Bubonic Plague a necessary evil?

Common Core Standards:
WHST.9-10.7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
WHST.9-10.9. Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
RH.9-10.9. Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

Suggested Student Objectives
  • Identify Black Death, Bubonic Plague
  • Examine the events leading up to the Plague
  • Discuss reasons and results the Black death occurred

I.THE BLACK PLAGUE. What would you do if.....
  • You are a peasant living in an isolated part of Russia. The year is 1349 and you hear about a great sickness that is killing people in Western Europe. What is crossing your mind?
  • You are a Jewish person living in France. You are at a well getting water for your family. As you are doing this you notice a group of people approaching you and yelling with anger. What are they saying and how do you feel?
  • You are a priest who has devoted his life to granting sacraments to local parishioners in order that they attain salvation. Recently, the great plague has reached your town. What will you do?
  • You are a poor illiterate peasant living in England in the year 1350. For all of your life you have struggled to get by. At the same time, however, you have remained a devout and loyal servant to the Church, always living by and following Church rules. While away, you you view life now?
II. Write a diary entry, by assuming the roles of one of the peole in the first activity, then describe the effects of the bubonic plague on your family, town and country. Forthis assignments students would need to do research

III. Why diseases spread:

1. Initiate a discussion with your class about illness, medical treatment, and medication. Encourage students to discuss times when they've been ill enough to need medical care. What sorts of treatment did they receive? What kinds of medication were they given?
Continue the discussion by asking if any students have taken antibiotic medication. If so, for what illnesses? What were the instructions for taking the antibiotics? (Students should note that antibiotics are prescribed as a course, so that patients take them a given number of times per day for a typical period of 10 days or more.)
Go on to talk about what happened before antibiotics were available. Lead students to realize that before antibiotics, many people died or were disabled by diseases that are now curable, or no longer exist.
Divide your class into small research groups, assigning each group one of the following topics to research in the library, on the Internet, or using the materials you have provided: Bubonic plague Antibiotics Pneumococcus Pneumonia Meningitis Penicillin Virus
When individuals in a group have completed their research, have them work together as a group to prepare written reports on their findings.
Invite students to share their reports with the class as a whole.
If none of the reports have touched on bacteria that have developed antibiotic-resistant strains, raise the topic with the class now. If the subject has come up in one or more reports, direct students' attention to that subject. Talk about why bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. Students should understand that when a person takes an antibiotic, the bacteria in her or his body mutate, or change, so that they can survive the antibiotic. Then the mutated bacteria are passed on to others.
Lead students to understand further that although it is important that researchers develop new antibiotics to fight resistant bacteria, we can also control the trend toward antibiotic resistance in the following ways:
  1. Do not insist on receiving antibiotic treatment for illnesses that your doctor feels your own immune system can combat.
  2. Take antibiotics properly when they are prescribed. The proper way to take antibiotics is to take the entire course, rather than stopping when symptoms are alleviated. Taking only a few doses of the medication and not completing the course encourages the development of resistant bacteria.
  3. Since viruses are not affected by antibiotics, no one should take antibiotic medication until it is established that he or she has a bacterial infection rather than a viral infection.
  4. No one should stockpile unused antibiotics and then self-prescribe the medication later on without the advice of a doctor.
IV. Analyze a series of hotos of the bubonic plague and discuss as a class. At the conclusion have students write down adjectives to describe what they felt or thought of the pictures. Students should then write a one to two paragraph summary detailing how plagues affect the lives of people, a society, and the environment.

Resource Links

Brain Pop (log in required) search video: The Black Death: a pandemic of massive proportions
GALE Student Resources in Context (login required) search: The Black Death
The Black Death from BBC News
Teacher Lessons:

Suggested Additional Readings:

In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made
In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made

Evolution of Infectious Disease
Evolution of Infectious Disease

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Assessments: Document Based Questions and Essay

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