THE CANTERBURY TALES: Prologue Day 1 of 2

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SWBAT demonstrate understanding of the diversity of characters in the Prologue of THE CANTERBURY TALES through writing and discussion.

Big Idea

"If we don't accept ourselves for who we are and where we've come from, who will?"--Silvia Rojas

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

I explore the hero's journey with my students throughout the year by exploring works from Beowulf to Macbeth.  This lesson originally appears in a unit for The Canterbury Tales on CC.BetterLesson.

My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions. This activities in this lesson take the better part of two class periods to complete.  

The lesson plan below outlines day one on The Prologue of The Canterbury Tales. Instead of having students read the entire Prologue, I jigsaw the section, assigning a character to each student for analysis and introduction (Assignment: Prologue - Who are you?) to the class.  Character introductions (Student Work: Sample 1 - Prologue Assignment) take place during the day two activities outlined in a subsequent lesson plan.


Peer Warm-Up and Gallery Walk

32 minutes

Due to our schedule, I only see students for 100 minutes every other day; to account for this, I normally do writing activities to review at the beginning of each class.  To review from last class and engage students' background knowledge, I ask students to complete a warm-up (Warm-Up: CANTERBURY TALES Background) with a partner.  Students post two items from their written work (Student Work: Peer Warm-Up - CANTERBURY TALES BACKGROUND) on the board.

Next, the class does a gallery walk, viewing all of the input on the whiteboard (Gallery Walk: Whiteboard).  Then we identify and circle the similarities among the items.


Prologue: Premise of THE CANTERBURY TALES

18 minutes

I have students pre-read lines 1-41 and lines 767-856 from the Prologue of the modern English translation by Nevill Coghill in Language of Literature (McDougal Littell, 2003) so that they can read the marginal notes that explain allusions and unfamiliar vocabulary.  Next, I read aloud lines 1-41 and lines 767-856 to students so that we can process the complex language as a class. I ask students questions (Questions: Selected Lines from Prologue) to assess their understanding of the premise of The Canterbury Tales.

Prologue Assignment: Who Are You?

50 minutes

Our district curriculum only includes the following excerpts in the order as listed below from The Canterbury Tales in our textbook The Language of Literature (McDougal Littell, 2003):

  • Prologue
  • Excerpt from The Pardoner's Prologue
  • Excerpt from The Pardoner's Tale
  • Excerpt of 30 Lines from The Wife of Bath's Prologue, which includes the Pardoner's comments
  • The Wife of Bath's Tale.


Even though our curriculum does not allow for students to read all of The Canterbury Tales, I think it is important for students to understand the diversity of pilgrims in the text since they are adolescents, trying to figure out "Who am I? Who am I in relation to others?"

Instead of having students read the 23-page Prologue, I decide to jigsaw it and assign each student a character to analyze and introduce to the class (Assignment: Original Prologue Assignment). While explaining the assignment, I show students a sample of student work from a neighboring 12th grade honors class so that they can see what their product should look like.  

While explaining the assignment, I realize that item 2, "Write an introduction you will use to introduce YOURSELF as the character," should actually be completed after students analyze and interpret the character description Chaucer outlines.  As a result, I actually revise the instructions and tell the students to do item 2 after items 1, 3, and 4 so that they have time and opportunity to process who their assigned character is before synthesizing their knowledge by writing their introduction. I revise the instructions (Assignment: Revised Prologue Assignment) for subsequent classes. 

Students have the remainder of the class period to complete the assignment. They will practice then perform character introductions (Student Work: Sample 1 of Prologue Assignment) (Student Work: Sample 2 of Prologue Assignment) next class.