To win justice from a cruel king, Tay, Lucy, and Archer must be brave enough to wield the Sword of the Spirit
Bullied for his brown skin and threatened with death in a kingdom torn apart by evil, Tay struggles to raise the banner of fair play over England.
ROUGH RIDE TO RUNNYMEDE SCHOOL LESSON PLANS
Teacher, you are the expert.
The same goes if you are at home, teaching your kids.
You can adapt these lesson plan to inspire and inform your students.
England is a kingdom
In the 13th century (1200 to 1299), England is a kingdom — it’s a place ruled by the king. England is part of the island of Britain, which lies north of Europe. Seas lie all around Britain and almost all around England.
England is covered in forest
In the 13th century, most of England is covered in forest. Forests can be a place of trees or wild, unfarmed land. The forest trees are beech and birch, oak, ash, lime, and holly. They are mostly tall trees (not the holly!) and deciduous. In Scotland, many of the trees are pines, which keep their leaves (needles) year-round.
Take a walk and find these trees or look up photos of these trees.
Map of England, Scotland, and Wales
Working from Places of Interest to Tay, mark every place on a map of Britain, which Tay, Lucy, and Archer visited or mentioned in the book.
The places include Swan Castle; the South Downs; the North Downs; Canterbury; the Thames River; Cambridge; Lincoln; Sherwood Forest; London — St Bartholomew’s, Moor Fields, London Bridge, Temple Church; Oxford; Brackley Castle; Scotland; Wales; Windsor Castle; and Runnymede.
England’s forests are full of wild animals — badgers, fox, boar, deer, hedgehogs, rabbits, hares, and red squirrels. There used to be wolves, bears, and lynx, but these were hunted almost to extinction before Tay rides to Canterbury from Swan Castle.
Tay calls England Riverland because it has so many rivers and streams. The streams are full of salmon, trout, swans, ducks, moorhens, kingfishers, and otters.
Look up photos and information about these animals. Take a walk and write down all the trees and animals you see where you live.
The animals who live in English homes
The animals who live in English homes are dogs, horses, cows, and sheep. Domestic dogs have been in England since 7500 BCE. Eddie, the dog that Tay rescues, was probably an Old English Terrier. He was black and red with whiskers and a very keen nose. He resembles the
Welsh Terrier of today. Wild horses lived in Britain thousands of years ago, too. When the Romans first arrived in England in the first century of the Common Era, the people of British tribes were driving thousands of horse-drawn chariots.
Look up photos and information about these animals. Take a walk and write down all the animals you see where you live.
The tons of England
The word town comes from the Old English word ton, which meant an enclosed or fortified homestead, group of houses or village. The Norman conquest occurred in 1066. (You remember the Normans were Norsemen who came from Normandy, invaded England, and ruled the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England.). After the Normans came the word town changed to mean a place larger than a village.
What place names ending in ton can you think of – Washington, Southampton, Brighton, Boston . . .
In the 13th century England had only a few towns. They were mainly cathedral towns — Canterbury, Lincoln, York, Chichester, Bath, and Herford. The cathedral is the church where a bishop or an archbishop has his chair — his cathedra. The focus at the cathedral was worshipping God, but town citizens didn’t hesitate to hold markets right next to the cathedral and sometimes inside – with all their food and animals.
Monastic communities often took care of cathedrals. The brother monks taught children, fed the poor, farmed land, bred and grazed sheep and copied books by hand. Scholarship could be found in these communities, but sometimes greed and selfishness could also be found.
The biggest town was London, which numbered about 50,000 people. London had its own government. With the agreement of the king, London ruled itself, but it was also subject to the king’s rules. Those rules could be harsh. Life in town was fascinating, but it could be dangerous (read on).
The homes English people lived in
Swan Castle, Tay’s home, was small for a castle. (Seven Swan Castles could fit inside Lincoln Castle.) Stone walls ran around the castle’s keep to keep its people safe. But even stone walls, a fortified keep, and gates couldn’t keep the king out. Tay owed him allegiance and a yearly fine (a tax). Tay couldn’t pay the tax when the king stole his harvest. (Chapter One)
Like almost all castles in England, including the Tower of London, Swan Castle was whitewashed. Castles on hills gleamed above green forests and meadows, but life inside the castle could be hard if the lord or lady were unkind.
Tay and Al and a number of other people lived in Swan Castle’s stone keep. Most people slept on pallets in the keep’s great hall, near the hearth, where a fire burned when it was cold. A kitchen and buttery led off from the great hall. (Chapter 21)
The keep was several stories tall. It probably had a garderobe up above the walls for its toilet. (Chapter 19) Sometimes Tay sat in his father’s chamber upstairs and looked across Swan River to the South Downs, where Swan Castle’s cattle and sheep grazed and where he rode his horse, Bertie.
Outside, in the bailey or yard stood the stable, byres (sheds) to protect cows and sheep at night, a well for water, a bakehouse, and a wash-house. In some castles there would be a smithy, an armourer, and a chapel, too. Underneath the keep and reachable from the bailey was the undercroft, where the harvest was stored.
In the village below the castle lived the people who farmed the castle land for themselves and for the lord. They usually lived in a long-house built of timber and wattle and daub (woven wooden strips called wattle are daubed over with sticky material—a combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung, and straw). Hovels would have had a hearth but no chimney so they were smoky. (Chapter 26) Families lived at one end of the dirt-floored long-house; animals lived at the other.
In the big towns people lived right next to each other in wood or stone houses of several stories with thatch roofs. They poured night earth and slops out of the upper windows into the road. (Chapter 23)
Merchants and artisans ran their businesses out of their houses (Chapter 30). They were not usually wide houses, but they went back some way. In the enclosed yard you would often find a workshop and materials. Water had to be brought up by bucket from a well.
A wealthy merchant would probably have had a stable for his horse and possibly a byre for farm animals. The thatch roofs often caught fire from stray chimney sparks, and before they could be put out — neighbours worked frantically to put out fires — the whole neighbourhood could burn down. (Chapter 30)
How do these houses compare to your house? What differences are there? Is there anything you would like about living in medieval English houses or castles?
Making a living
Most people made a living by grazing animals, planting and harvesting crops (Chapter 1), hunting (Chapter 3), working as a blacksmith (Chapter 14), making charcoal (Chapter 14), making tools (Chapter 23), fishing, buying and selling goods (Chapter ), brewing and selling beer, writing documents, teaching, keeping a cookhouse or inn (Chapter 12), serving or fighting for a lord or king Chapter 21). According to historical records, women did many of these jobs and many women ran their own businesses.
Lords own land, which other people farm for a price (they give the lord most of their crop). Knights serve and fight for their lord and are paid to do his business.
Powerful lords might own thousands of acres, but they were not as powerful as the king. Lords liked the king to stick to agreed-on rules and not hurt them. They owed the king service. If the king was very powerful, he could do what he liked, but often he had to buy the loyalty of his lords.
Would you have liked to make your living doing any of these things? Why?
Taking a journey
In Tay’s England, people walk, ride horses or mules, or drive carts pulled by horses. (Chapter 2) They row or sail boats on the rivers and on the seas around Britain. (People have been sailing the seas around Britain and crossing to Europe for five thousand years.) When they needed a safe place to eat and rest, they stopped at an inn or monastery. (Chapter 3) Inns weren’t always safe!
The food they ate
In 13th century England, there was plenty of farmland, grazing land, and forest — which provided all the food that people ate. They grew oats (for people and horses), wheat (for bread), and legumes — lentils and peas — for a dish called pottage, which poorer people ate all the time. The English raised sheep for wool and meat and cows for meat and milk. Depending on how rich people were, they ate venison (the meat of deer), beef, mutton (the meat of sheep), salmon and trout, cheese, apples, and honey (they didn’t have sugar).
The poor and the monks living in monasteries under the Rule of St Benedict ate pulse stews (pottages) made from lentils and peas. They almost never ate meat. Monks only ate a little meat if they were ill.
People drank wine, beer, and cider. They didn’t usually drink water because it might make them ill. (Water wasn’t treated to make it safe to drink as it is today.)
Does any of this food appeal to you? Is it like the food you eat today?
Where did the English get their idea for Magna Carta?
Partly they got their idea for Magna Carta from King John. He was so bad he reminded them of what was good, and what they, and what they liked King John loathed!
King John scorned the Ten Commandments, every teaching of Jesus, the ancient laws of England, and his Coronation Oath. England’s people made Robert de Boron’s poem/song The Quest for the Holy Grail a hit. It may have inspired knights to stand up for Magna Carta. Naturally, it wasn’t for John!
These exciting ideas led to Magna Carta:
1) The idea of individual dignity, which came straight from Genesis — God made men and women in His image (Genesis 1:26–28, Genesis 5:1-3). Naturally, the dignity of others didn’t thrill John!
What does fair play mean to you?
Tay and his friends Lucy and Archer believe in fair play for themselves and fair play for everyone else, too. Tay thinks the Golden Rule is a pretty good definition of fair play.
Have you experienced being treated unfairly or have you seen someone else being bullied?
For instance, maybe you or someone else was bullied like Tay because of your skin colour, or because you were foreign or new to the school, or because you weren’t athletic, or because you were poor or because you studied hard or weren’t cool.
What happened? Did anybody stand up for you or the other kids being bullied? Do kids who are bullied at school or online ever create a team like Tay, Lucy, and Archer did to fight bullying? Did it help? Is it easier for kids in the 13th century because they don’t have phones or social media? Is it harder because they could be hanged by a cruel king or a corrupt sheriff?
What could you do to stop bullies?
An exercise for younger kids:
Tell your students that at the end of the study session of fair play everyone will be given a treat. When the session ends, say only the boys or only the girls or only people wearing a
The command in the Book of Isaiah, a Jewish prophet
justice, correct oppression; . . . (Isaiah 1:17).
certain colour will receive treats. Let those who are excluded go to “court” to protest (make a parent or other adult the judge). Let them explain why this treatment is unfair. Let those who received treats say why they think it is fair. (Don’t worry, they will!) Write down each side’s arguments on paper. Let the ‘judge’ decide, and at the end give everyone a treat!
What unfairness was Magna Carta trying to correct? Look at Chapters 13 and 28.
Do you think it’s possible to have fair play even if people aren’t free? If you think yes, how? If you think no, why not?
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