What our Vikings lesson plan includes
Lesson Objectives and Overview: Vikings introduces students to the history of the Vikings who lived in Northern Europe during the Middle Ages. The Viking ships, clothing, shields, and other objects will pique the students’ interest as well. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to define and identify the Vikings, the life of a Viking, Vikings influence and impact on Britain during the Middle Ages. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.
Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. The supplies you will need for this lesson are large pieces of cardboard, scissors, tape, and paint, colored pencils, or markers. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can prepare a message for the lesson opening, pair students for the activity, gather the supplies, and copy the handouts.
Options for Lesson
Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. One optional adjustment to the lesson activity is to display the students’ messages in the classroom, instead of having students swap and translate them. For the second part of the activity, you can have students vote on the most creative and most colorful shield designs. If you’d like an additional activity for this lesson, you can have students write a short letter to a family member using the Rune alphabet. If you have older students, they can create a 3D model of a Viking ship using craft sticks or other materials. Finally, you can invite a Viking history expert to speak to the class.
The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.
VIKINGS LESSON PLAN CONTENT PAGES
Raiders and Warriors
The Vikings lesson plan includes four pages of content. The lesson begins by stating that students have likely heard of pirates, who were groups of people who used ships or boats to rob and attack other ships or coastal towns. We consider pirates warriors or raiders, and pirates have existed for thousands of years. One of the most infamous groups of raiders were the Vikings, who are a groups of people who lived in Northern Europe during the Middle Ages (between 500 and 1500 AD). The name Viking means “a pirate raid” in the Old Norse language. If you were going to raid a ship in those times, you would say you were “going raiding.” They had a bad reputation, and often used violence or caused destruction. However, this group of people also played a huge role in Great Britain for nearly 300 years.
Who Were the Vikings?
The Viking were pagans, which means that they did not believe in god. They would raid monasteries, which are religious buildings or communities. Monasteries were easy targets for them because the monks did not have weapons and often would not fight back. The buildings at the monasteries often housed jewelry, gold, and books, and the grounds would often have food, drink, cattle, clothes, tools, and more that the Vikings would also take.
Most Vikings were from Scandinavia, the area where we find Norway, Denmark, and Sweden today. We sometimes refer to them as Norsemen. They wrote using their own Norse alphabet called runes. Over time, as the Viking raiding more ships and villages, they began to want their own land.
Not all Vikings were warriors or invaders, and many of them wanted to settle land peacefully, growing crops and keeping animals. These people had many skills, like metalworking and carving, that they would use for shields.
Vikings sailed in longships, which were long, narrow wooden ships that they could use in both deep and shallow water. These ships were famous for their unique design. They would use them to travel to trade and purchase goods, just like anyone else at this time. They would buy silver, spices, wine, and more. While they traveled, they tried to find better lands for their families.
The first recorded Viking invasion in England was in 787, though the Vikings didn’t start settling in Britain until the year 793. During their attack on a Monastery in England in 793, they decided that they should settle in the area, instead of just attacking it. In 865, Vikings took control of various kingdoms in Northern England after sailing across the North Sea. In 874, they invaded the Kingdom of Wessex. It was one of the last kingdoms that the Vikings did not control. A man named Alfred the Great ruled Wessex and beat the Vikings in a years-long battle. They eventually settled on a peace agreement and divided the land between them. In 994, Vikings from Denmark and Norway tried to conquer London but failed.
Canute the Great became the first Viking king of England after the Viking invasions in Britain. He ruled between 1016 and 1035. Vikings also settled in Scotland, Germany, and Iceland. They even founded the city of Dublin in Ireland and settled the town of Normandy in France (which means “northmen”). They also settled many towns in Great Britain. Leif Eriksson, a Viking warrior, even went to North America and started a settlement in Canada—hundreds of years before Columbus accidentally landed in the Americas.
The English, led by King Harold Godwinson, finally defeated the Vikings in 1066. This ended the Viking Age, which meant that they stopped invading and raided less often. The spread of Christianity throughout Scandinavia and Europe also contributed to their downfall. After their defeat, the countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark started to form.
The lives for Viking settlers was much like the lives of other settlers during this time period. They bathed once a week, on Saturdays. The rich members of society slept in beds, though most slept on benches. They worshiped Norse gods like Thor, and warriors believed that they would go to Valhalla when they died.
The Vikings didn’t write their laws down, but passed them from person to person. To make town-wide decisions, they met for meetings that they called Things to take a vote. If you broke the law, they would likely banish you and force you to live outside of the village. They could then hunt or kill you.
Vikings had kings as well as jarls, who were wealthy nobles. Below them were farmers and craft makers called karls. They called the poorest members of society thralls. They were slaves. Instead of going to school boys did work, learned how to hunt and fight, and learned history and religion. Girls weeded gardens and kept birds away.
Vikings raided, invaded, and conquered ships, communities, and lands. A lot of them preferred to live peaceful lives and farm, craft, and live with their families. They had a huge impact on Great Britain during the Middle Ages, though they only ruled for 300 years.
Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:
- Pirates: Groups of people who often use ships or boats to rob and attack other ships or coastal areas and towns
- Vikings: A group of people who lived in Northern Europe during the Middle Ages
- Pagans: People who did not believe in god
- Monasteries: A religious building or community
- Scandinavia: Located in the same area where Norway, Denmark, and Sweden are located today
- Norsemen: Another name used for Vikings
- Runes: The Norse alphabet used by the Vikings
- Longships: Long and narrow wooden sailboats that they used in both deep and shallow water
- Canute the Great: First Viking king of England between 1016 and 1035
- Leif Eriksson: Viking who traveled to North America as a settler
- Valhalla: The place a Viking warrior will go after he dies
- Thor: A Viking mythical god, the god of thunder
- Thing: A community meeting of Vikings where people gathered to make decisions
- Jarls: Wealthy nobles below the Viking king
- Karls: Everyday farmers and craft makers
- Thralls: Lowest members of Viking society who were slaves
VIKINGS LESSON PLAN WORKSHEETS
The Vikings lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.
VIKING RUNES AND SHIELDS ACTIVITY WORKSHEET
The activity for this lesson has two parts. For the first part, students will use the Viking’s Rune alphabet symbols to create a message for another student. They will also write it in English. They will swap messages with another student and will translate that student’s message into English.
For the second part of this activity, students will research Viking shields using the Internet. They will design their own Viking shield and will find a new fact about Vikings. Next, they will draw a draft of their shield design on the worksheet and will then create the final version of their shield using cardboard. They will write out their new fact about Vikings on the back of their shield.
Students can work alone for the second part of the activity.
TERMS PRACTICE WORKSHEET
For the practice worksheet, students will read descriptions and circle the correct corresponding term from the lesson.
VIKINGS HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
The homework assignment asks students to answer 11 questions about the lesson material, like “What is the same about a Viking and a pirate?”. Some of the questions are True or False questions.
Worksheet Answer Keys
This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.