Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Making Stained Glass Windows

Patricia Barry Holbert
Santa Rosa District Schools


After studying cathedrals and stained glass windows from the Middle Ages, students create a stained glass window using slides, textbook, or pictures from the Internet.


The student understands the development of the political, social, economic, and religious systems of European civilization during the Middle Ages.


-Any World History textbook
-Slides, transparencies, Internet sites, or books with pictures of Medieval cathedrals or stained glass windows
-Colored cellophane - red, blue, yellow, and green are the main colors (Obtain this from art supply catalogs, such as Nasco, Pyramid, or from an arts and craft store.)
-Black construction paper
-Black duct tape
-Utility knives (If you don't want your students to use them, they can use scissors.)
-Cutting mats or old poster board (to use as a backing for cutting the black construction paper, if you use utility knives)
-Double-stick tape or glue stick


1. Obtain the slides, transparencies, Internet sites, or books with pictures of Medieval Cathedrals or stained-glass windows ready to show.

2. Have the students either study the Middle Ages from the textbook, or the teacher could prepare a lecture with slides to get them ready for making stained-glass windows like those in the Gothic Cathedrals.

3. Get the black construction paper and the colored cellophane ready for the students.

4. To make sure I do not “lose” any utility knives, I have a check out system by numbering the knives and having check-out cards. All cards must be turned in and knives counted before any student leaves the class.


1. The teacher talks about and shows slides, transparencies, Internet sites, or books with pictures of Medieval Cathedrals or stained glass windows.

2. Examples of the cathedrals to show:
a. Chartres
b. Notre Dame
c. Reims
d. Laon
e. St. Chapelle
d. Cologne
e. Amiems
f. Salisbury
g. Milan

3. Websites for (links provided in Weblinks section below):
Gothic Cathedrals
Virtual tours of Gothic Cathedrals
Stained Glass Windows

4. Divide students into groups of 4 or 5. Assign each group a cathedral from the Middle Ages (see list in #2 above). Students explore the resources to find information about their assigned cathedral: location, length of time it took to build, year it was started and year it was finished, and any other interesting facts about that cathedral. Additionally, they should answer the question: What is the significance of the cathedrals in the Middle Ages society? Students will present this information orally to the class, so groups need to assign responsibilities to their members.

5. Have students choose a window in the school for which to design a stained glass window. Their window design should incorporate elements learned from the class discussion and mini-research. (Note: I pick several entry doors with glass around the school. I have several classes of Humanities, so I let each class choose a doorway. This could be done with a World History or an art class also.)

6. Have the students draw a design for their stained glass windows. Then they trace their designs onto the black construction paper with white or yellow chalk.

7. Let the students use scissors or utility knives (utility knives will have a more intricate design, but it will depend on how much you trust your students) to cut the design out on the black construction paper. If you want both sides to look neat, have two identical pieces of black construction paper. Cut both pieces out at the same time or copy the two exactly.

8. Instruct the students cut the cellophane and then place it between the two sheets of black construction paper. Use double-sided tape (works best if you want it to stay up a long time) or a glue stick to attach the colored cellophane to the black construction paper.

9. Have the students put the stained glass into the window they designed. They need to use black duct tape so that it will stay up.

10. Have the students give an oral presentation explaining the significance of the Cathedrals in the Middle Ages society. They include the location, the length of time it took to build, the year it was started and the year it was finished, and any other interesting facts about that Cathedral.

11. Have the class take a walking tour of the finished projects. Each group explains why they chose their particular design and how it reflects the society of the Middle Ages.


This lesson should add to student understanding of the development of religious and social systems of European civilization during the Middle Ages. Use the oral presentation of the assigned cathedral and the group's explanation of their window design to assess their understanding.

A checklist is included in the attached file that can be used to guide the assessment process. A suggested point system is given.


This activity can be use as an introduction, conclusion, or as a part of a larger unit on the Middle Ages. I have used it in my Humanities class for Juniors and Seniors. It can be used in a World History class or an art class.

Web Links

Gothic Cathedrals
A Digital Archive of Architecture

Web supplement for Making Stained Glass Windows
The Gothic Cathedral

Web supplement for Making Stained Glass Windows
Milan, Italy

Stain Glass Windows
A Digital Archive of Architecture

Attached Files

The Stained Glass Window Checklist     File Extension: pdf

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