Defending the castle

P3 and 4 are currently studying ‘The Middle Ages’ as their Discovery of the world topic. We decided to use problem based learning to explore the topic of castles.

problem based learning 1

Pupils were split into groups of 2 or 3 and were originally given the question ‘You live in a Medieval castle. How can you defend your castle from attack?’. They initially had 30 minutes to think the question. This session was child led and the groups were able to choose how they presented their thoughts. Most groups chose to draw and label castles or to make a mind map of their ideas.


In the next lesson, pupils were told that their castles would be ‘attacked’ and they would have to choose their best defenses in order to protect the building and people inside. In this lesson, pupils were given a template to list their four best castle defenses and two ways to care for the population inside. At this point there was some teacher led discussion about what was chronologically feasible.


In the final lesson, the teacher gave the pupils different scenarios about their castle being attacked. The groups had to choose one or two of their defenses to protect the castle against each specific attack e.g



This sequence of lessons tested the children’s abilities to work together, to organise their thinking and to cooperate. The lesson was based on the Discovery of the World topic about the Middle Ages and the children developed their historical knowledge and vocabulary.

The children were able to successfully work together to organise their solutions to the problem. This was not without difficulties. Some children still need to work on their listening skills and how to reach a consensus without it developing into conflict. Their confidence to approach a new problem – even when presented in a strange format – increased. Some teacherĀ  led discussion was required to clarify historical misconceptions. Overall, pupils were able to self direct their learning on this project.

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