Attend a Renaissance Festival and watch your students. Many areas of interest are divided along gender lines. While one group tends to love the fairies and castles, the other is drawn like a moth to a flame to the ancient tools of war.
Do you want to catch your boys' interest when you study the Renaissance period? Throw in information about the weapons of the day and their ears may just perk up! The best part is that the students can make their own weapons with very little cost and no danger.
The Renaissance included weapons like knives, the mace, long sword and axes. Your students will make replicas using heavy cardboard, aluminum foil, faux gems, tubes, tape, rubber bands and glue.Let each student choose his or her own weapon. Have them sketch it out on a piece of cardboard. If the students are old enough and responsible enough, they can be cut out with Exacto knives. If they are not, have each student put their name on their art work and cut it out after class.
Place a thin layer of glue on the sword or knife cardboard and cover it with aluminum foil. On fancy pieces, like the sword, add glue and place faux gems along the handle.
The mace takes the longest to create. Make a short chain from rubber bands. Poke holes in a thin cardboard tube and attach the rubber bands. Cover with with gray duct tape. Wrap the bands around a Styrofoam ball. Add aluminum foil, but bunch out little 'spikes as you add it. Put a thin line of glue along the last edge.
All of my students, male or female, introvert or extrovert, history buff or history hater-all of them enjoyed making the weapons. Two years later, a group of us were together and I noticed the kids discussing their weapons, calling them by name. Hands-on projects do make good connections!