Common Core Exemplars – Informational Text

Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction by David Macualay


Macaulay, D. (1973). Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Nonfiction, Informational Text, appropriate for ages 5+


Cathedral provides understanding about important construction facts, including terms related to architecture, tools, and building techniques. Of greater importance is the fact that Macaulay is able to create social history through his text and illustrations. With clear statements in a minimum of words, he conveys a clear understanding of the times, the people, and their feelings. The book works on many levels: as art and architecture, as history, as travelogue, as social commentary, and as a pleasant reading experience.


This book was organized as more of a timeline rather than a complete story.  It was very informative, and had great vocabulary for middle schoolers to get familiar with.  There are many subjects that this book can be integrated into, such as math, economy, literature, and social studies.  I think a major theme in this book is teamwork, as all of the craftsmen, apprentices, and laborers had to work together in order for the cathedral to be built.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.1 – Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.3 – Analyze the interactions of individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events of how individuals influence ideas or events).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.6 – Use technology, including the internet, to produce, publish and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

Lesson Objective: By the end of this lesson students will know and be able to identify and explain in a blog, or on paper, at least four techniques people used in medieval times to build cathedrals.  Students will use evidence from the video to support their answers.

Discussion Questions: How can I use various media to help me academically? What is the setting of the story? Why is this setting important? What ideas were important to the people? Provide at least two reasons – ideas or events – that influenced the people of Chutreaux to build a new Cathedral. What is the difference between a craftsman, an apprentice, and a laborer? Why was it important to have all three on the job?

Lesson Activity: This lesson builds background knowledge for students before they closely read Macaulay’s Cathedral.  It is meant to help motivate students and provide them with information that will make their reading more familiar and understandable. As you plan, consider the variability of learners in your class and make adaptations as necessary.

Lesson Opening:

  • Distribute student worksheet to individuals and seat them so they can easily see the screen.
  • Prepare the NOVA video for viewing, including moving the cursor through the brief advertisement at the beginning, if desired.
  • Give students the purpose for viewing, which is to answer the question: How did people build Gothic cathedrals without modern technology?

During the Lesson:

  • Start the video and be ready to stop it at the specified points listed on the worksheet. Give students a moment to answer the questions briefly in note or other form familiar to them.
  • Discuss whether it was difficult for students to access the information with one viewing. Ask what skills they might use to help themselves in a similar exercise in the future.
  • Continue showing the video, stopping at the specified points, and having students fill in worksheet until they are done. Discuss skills students used to help them understand information in one viewing.

Lesson Closing:

  • Introduce blogs to students, and ask for their experience with blogs they have read or responded to or written themselves.
  • Set up students at computers or other devices and have them open their blog site.
  • Students consolidate their notes from viewing the video into a blog that answers the question and includes any commentary about the achievement of cathedral builders.
  • Students post their blogs so that the teacher can read these entries.  Use your discretion about opening up the blogs to other students’ responses.





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