A unit in World Cultures, Art, and/or World History
Adaptable for Grades 6 - 10


Students will

  • be able to describe characteristics of the Renaissance
  • analyze Renaissance art
  • draw conclusions about the role of art in any society


Before beginning this unit, students should already have a basic understanding of the Classical Period and the Middle Ages. Also, teachers should have introduced basics of the Renaissance prior to this activity.

It has been said that art imitates life. Assuming this is true, we should be able to look at the art of any society, at any point in history, and see a representation of its people’s values. Just as the sounds and lyrics of American pop music in the ‘60s represented an attitude of protest and rebellion in its young listeners, so too the art of the Renaissance reflects European society’s attitudes during that time.

It is this “attitude” that largely defines the Renaissance, a time when people placed increased importance on the arts, the individual, and non-religious pursuits.

This unit will take students through a process in which they will not only experience masterpieces from the Renaissance, but will also learn to analyze art, draw conclusions, and, at the advanced level, apply lessons from the art to their own lives. In doing so, students will gain an understanding of the characteristics that define the Renaissance.

This lesson was developed to be used by a wide range of ages and abilities (grades 6-10). It can be altered for different ability levels. TeachersFirst editors have included options for more student-centered, project-based activities using technology throughout this mini-unit. You can adjust the time requirements depending on which activities you decide to do.

Things you need to decide in advance:

  • which activities you will do in traditional format and which in student-centered format
  • what electronic tools for sharing you will use, if any (wiki? other?)
  • what bibliography format you will require if doing student-centered research and projects
  • what you will use for assessment
  • how to assign student tasks so students without home Internat access have ample time to complete them

Choose the activity "path" for your students:
(Pick and choose from both columns as you progress down through the sequence or follow a single "path")

Path: Traditional, teacher-centered activities Path: Student-centered, project-based activities
Procedure for "Art imitates life" class discussion with student reflection at end Procedure for "Art imitates life" activity writing about their own selected images on a class wiki or poster/collage
Procedure for "Characteristics of Renaissance" lecture/discussion, creating class graphic organizer after viewing the interactive Characteristics web page. Procedure for "Characteristics of Renaissance" found by students via web or other resources. Shared in class discussion or online collaboration tool to create class graphic organizer
Procedure for class discussion/written response applying characteristics of Renaissance to a single work of art (School of Athens by Raphael) (Teacher-led discussion and modeling using Raphael's painting can phase them into independent work, if necessary).
Procedure for student application of Renaissance characteristics to Raphael's painting and other works of art their group selects, adding written explanations of the characteristics in these art works to class wiki or poster/collage
Online "Renaissance or not?" quiz to check student understanding. Assign to students, then revisit and discuss as a class. Online "Renaissance or not?" quiz for student self-check
  Reflection and Conclusion: Students revisit characteristics from the graphic organizer. Students reflect on areas of confusion, visit examples found by others, and add their own additional examples to the class wiki or poster/collages to eliminate confusion.
Assessment: Teacher-created assessment activity: quiz, test, other. Assessment: Teacher-created rubric
Student start point for this path:


Have them start from the link above, not this page. Otherwise, they'll read the answers in the teacher section!
Student start point for this path:


Have them start from the link above, not this page. Otherwise, they'll read the answers in the teacher section!