Literature Unit Ideas for The Door In the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (31 Days of Literature Unit Study Ideas)

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This is the third post in the 31 Days of Literature Unit Ideas series. You can find the listing of all thirty-one books in the series here. Don't forget to download your printable suggested schedule for using today's book FREE below.

The book I'm sharing today is one that we happened upon unexpectedly, but it turned out to be a favorite of mine and one the kids enjoyed as well. The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli is a middle-grade reader and is set in the Middle Ages. It's a Newberry Medal winner as well.



About the book:

Ten-year-old Robin lives in a castle in London in the 14th century. His father is a nobleman who is off to fight for the king while his mother has been called to serve as a handmaiden to the queen. The city is in the midst of plague, and Robin has been struck with a crippling illness that is never named in the story. Lonely and bitter about his situation, he's very unkind to the servants.

Robin is supposed to be headed to serve as a page and train to be a knight for another nobleman, but plans are derailed now that he is a cripple. When the servants in the castle begin to succumb to the plague, Robin is left truly alone. Brother Luke, a friar, hears of Robin's problem and goes to him, taking him to St. Marks, his home, and letting Robin use his own bed.

Brother Luke cares for Robin, helping him to heal physically, even as Brother Luke's kind and gentle spirit helps Robin to heal emotionally and spiritually. While Robin has always been a proud and haughty upper-class boy, his illness has humbled him, and Brother Luke teaches the boy, shaping his attitude even as he helps Robin learn how to live contentedly in his new situation. Brother Luke's message to Robin is that when a wall of difficulty arises before us, God always has a door. He encourages Robin to always look for the door in the wall.

Things to discuss:

  • Discuss the symbolism of a door in a wall relating to God opening doors for us.
  • Why do you think Robin acted so unkindly at the beginning of the story? Did he have a good reason? Why or why not?
  • Why was Brother Luke kind to Robin?
  • Discuss ways in which Brother Luke's actions were healing to Robin- both physically and spiritually.
  • Do you think it was more difficult to be a crippled person in the 14th century than in our time? Why or why not?
  • Talk about specific ways that Robin changes over the course of the book.

History learning:
  • Take the time to read about and explore the Middle Ages with this website. There are some great links to read about daily life in the Middle Ages, the structure of society, and the Catholic Church.
  • Create a Middle Ages timeline with the information from this Ducksters site. There is a timeline at the bottom of the page. Choose a few of the dates to add to a timeline that students make.
  • Print this map and mark the places mentioned in the book.
  • Read about the "Black Death" that plagued people during the Middle Ages. This site has links for more exploration as well, including an interactive map that shows the spread of plague.
  • Watch this video for an overview of the middle ages.

Science learning:
  • Watch this video for more scientific information about the plague and its causes. (There are some graphic images. Preview this one!)
  • This video has an excellent, simple demonstration for how infectious disease spreads.
  • Complete these two science experiments to show how germs spread.

Language arts learning:
  • This book is an excellent one to use for character study because of the changes in Robin's character throughout the story. Draw a blank timeline. Label it, not with dates, but with each chapter number. As you read, have students write one or two things about Robin from the chapter- how he acts, how he feels. In the end, you'll be able to really tell the changes in character.
  • Keep a journal of vocabulary words that relate to the Middle Ages. As you read through each chapter record new words and their meanings.
  • Have your student write a letter to Robin telling him why he should have hope during his difficulty.
  • Read about how to write an autobiography. Have your student pretend he is Robin and write his autobiography.

The arts learning:
  • Use this website to design your own coat of arms and print it.
  • Create your own book cover for The Door in the Wall.
  • Create a collage poster. Find pictures from the Middle Ages online or in magazines. Cut them out and glue them to create a poster that features elements of the time period.
  • Read about the art of the Middle Ages, including famous artists and authors, here.
  • Read about Middle Ages music and listen to an example of Gregorian chant here.

Other resources:
  • This is an awesome free study guide that has comprehension questions, vocabulary study, and suggested activities for the book.
  • Love lapbooking? This site has a lapbook for The Door in the Wall. (It's $2.00 at the time of posting.)
  • This free printable has questions for every chapter and room to record answers.
  • Listen to the Audible version of the book.

Other books to read:





If you would like a FREE printable suggested schedule for using The Door In the Wall as a literature unit study, click here. (You'll also be able to access printable schedules for the other books in this series.)


Literature Unit Ideas for The Door In the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (31 Days of Literature Unit Study Ideas) Literature Unit Ideas for The Door In the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (31 Days of Literature Unit Study Ideas) Reviewed by Leah Courtney on 11:19:00 PM Rating: 5

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