ALEX Lesson Plan


Teaching the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Lindsay Ford
System: Calhoun County
School: Saks High School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 16946


Teaching the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales


In this self-directed study involving research, composition, and presentation, students analyze Chaucer's characters of The Canterbury Tales as presented in the Prologue. Each student casts a modern personality in the role of one of the characters and writes an essay defending the choice.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
TC2 (9-12) Computer Applications
9. Practice ethical and legal use of technology systems and digital content.
  • Explaining consequences of illegal and unethical use of technology systems and digital content
  • Examples: cyberbullying, plagiarism
  • Interpreting copyright laws and policies with regard to ownership and use of digital content
  • Citing sources of digital content using a style manual
  • Examples: Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA)
    ELA2015 (12)
    7. Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare.) [RL.11-12.7] (Alabama)
    ELA2015 (12)
    8. Demonstrate knowledge of foundational works of European literature with a concentration in British literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics. [RL.11-12.9] (Alabama)
    ELA2015 (12)
    15. Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text. [RI.11-12.6]
    ELA2015 (12)
    22. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 19-21 above.) [W.11-12.4]
    ELA2015 (12)
    25. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question, including a self-generated question, or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. [W.11-12.7]
    ELA2015 (12)
    26. Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation. [W.11-12.8]
    ELA2015 (12)
    27. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. [W.11-12.9]
    a. Apply Grade 12 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Demonstrate knowledge of foundational works of European literature with a concentration in British literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics"). [W.11-12.9a] (Alabama)
    b. Apply Grade 12 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., "Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal United States texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning [e.g., in United States Supreme Court Case majority opinions and dissents] and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy [e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses]"). [W.11-12.9b]

    Local/National Standards:


    Primary Learning Objective(s):

    Students will listen to the reading of Middle English and discuss its differences from Modern English. Students will analyze characters from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Students will conduct Internet research on an assigned character from the Prologue and write an analysis of the character. Students will cite sources correctly in written work and the presentation. Students will use technology for research and presentation.

    Additional Learning Objective(s):

     Preparation Information 

    Total Duration:

    Greater than 120 Minutes

    Materials and Resources:

    Copies of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, project guidelines (see attached), graphic organizer (sample attached)

    Technology Resources Needed:

    Computers with Internet access and RealPlayer for audio of lines 1-42 (or other recording), presentation software such as PowerPoint, LCD projector for project presentation


    Provide a brief background of medieval Europe including the social hierarchy as represented by the Church, the Court, and the Commoners. Also, discuss the methods of directly and indirectly characterizing main/minor characters in a work.

    1.)Assign or read together an introduction to the tales (all high school texts include this.) Be sure students understand that the Prologue to the tales only introduces the characters who will tell the tales. Explain that each character is described by Chaucer as if he were one of the pilgrims on the trip.
    (Virginia Military Institute Department of English)
    Audio of selected lines of the tales read in Middle English

    2.)Play a recording of the first 42 lines of the Prologue in Middle English. Discuss. Explain that students will read the characterizations in Modern English. Point out the rhyme and meter of the poem.
    (The Chaucer Metapage Audio Files)
    These are links to web pages with excerpts from Chaucer's works read by professors.

    3.)Hand out copies of a graphic organizer to aid notet aking (see sample attached). Review the methods of direct and indirect characterization of main/minor characters in a work. As a class, read and evaluate the knight. Guide students as they fill in their organizers for this character.

    4.)Hand out the assignment sheet (see attached). Assign each student a character. The student will read the lines describing his/her assigned character and complete the graphic organizer for that character.

    5.)As explained by the assignment sheet, each student will select a famous person who best fits the description of his/her character and provide a picture of that person either downloaded from the Internet or cut from a magazine or newspaper.

    6.)Assign a five-paragraph essay which explains/defends how the student's choice of actor or personality meets the criteria in his/her description (see step 5). Explain that this requires a thorough understanding of Chaucer's character. Websites listed on the assignment sheet can help students as they work. Remind students to cite all sources. (Easy Bib - MLA Citation Style)
    (Geoffrey Chaucer)
    Harvard Chaucer page, valuable resource, easy to use

    7.)Allow computer time for the slideshow aspect of the assignment (see assignment sheet) which requires students to prepare a presentation (3-5 minutes) of the Chaucer character they've studied and researched. If computers are not available, presentation can be made as part of a round table group discussion. Remind students to cite all sources.

    8.)Schedule time for students to make presentations. Remind other students to take notes on their graphic organizers as each student presents.

    9.)Be sure all students read the conclusion of the Prologue before the tales begin. Refer students to these presentations and their notes as the tales are studied.

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    Assessment Strategies

    Graphic organizers will be checked for completeness. Compositions will be assessed in accordance with general class expectations. A Presentation Rubric may be used to assess the presentations. A teacher-made or standarized unit test may also be used.


    Many students enjoy the traditional assignment of committing lines of the Prologue in Middle English to memory. Students can read the tales told by their pilgrims even if they are not included in the high school text.



    Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

    Presentation of Material Environment
    Time Demands Materials
    Attention Using Groups and Peers
    Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
    Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.
    Variations Submitted by ALEX Users: