THE CANTERBURY TALES: The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale

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SWBAT demonstrate applied comprehension through reader response, collaborative learning, and discussion.

Big Idea

"The love of money is the root of all evil." (1 Timothy 6:10; Pardoner's Prologue, THE CANTERBURY TALES)

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My class periods are held in 100-minute block sessions. The activities in this lesson take one class period to complete.  

In the last class period, students worked in groups to share their responses to the modern translation (Ecker and Crooke, 1993) of the Pardoner's Prologue and Tale from They discussed the text in light of their interpretations and explored observations and questions about the text, including uncertainties.

Next, students came to a consensus on (1) three observations and/or questions about the text and (2) the theme of the text.  Each group created a two-slide PowerPoint/Keynote presentation for the Assignment - Pardoner's Prologue and Tale.

The lesson below outlines day four of activities on the Pardoner's Prologue and Tale, where students make presentations; vote on their chosen themes using polleverywhere; and distinguish differences between clip vs. text interpretations of the Pardoner's Prologue and Tale.

Warm-Up: What Do You Remember?

5 minutes

To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Student Ownership

I provide students five minutes to write down what they remember about the Pardoner's Prologue and Tale.  Since students are making presentations  today, I want to activate background knowledge from previous lessons.  I encourage students to write down a bulleted list of what they remember if that is a better strategy for them to note what they remember.

Group Debriefing

10 minutes

To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Student Led Inquiry

I remind students that they will have time in their groups to share their warm-ups; review their presentations; and revisit the text for clarification.  I remind students that they need to be prepared to answer questions I or their classmates may have about the text during their presentations.  

I have students get into their groups.  Since I have printed out a copy of each group's presentation, I ask a representative to pick up the printout.  

Students review their warm-ups and presentations (Student Work: Group 1 Presentation), and revisit the text for clarification as necessary.  

Presentations and Reflections

35 minutes

To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Performance Task

A spokesperson from each group presents its findings in two-slide PowerPoint/Keynote presentations (Student Work: Group 1 Presentation)(Student Work: Group 2 Presentation)(Student Work: Group 3 Presentation)(Student Work: Group 4 Presentation)(Student Work: Group 5 Presentation). During presentations, we revisit the text for clarification and discuss further insights on the text in light of each group's interpretations.  

We discuss some trends among presentations:

  • The old man personifies Death.
  • Does the Church know the Pardoner is a fraud? If so, what action could they take to stop him?
  • Why does the Pardoner tell the other pilgrims he is a fraud and then try to swindle them into buying pardons?


In between presentations, I give students a few minutes to write their reflections on what they learned from each presentation, even if the presentation is their own.  Students state that the presentations broadened their interpretations.

Wrap-Up and Poll

20 minutes

To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch:  

Classroom Video: Coherence

Next, students vote on themes presented by the groups, using polleverywhere.  Students can text or tweet the code for their chosen theme, and the class gets real-time feedback (Screenshot: Poll on Themes). The theme for group four: "Money can overrule the mind" wins the day with the most votes. What is interesting is that no students vote for group three's theme, not even the students in group three!  

We wrap-up with volunteer students explaining why they selected particular themes:

  • Greed is strong enough to tear apart any friendship: The three rioters pledge themselves to be brothers to one another until gold comes into the picture. Their greed for the gold tears apart their allegiance.
  • Intelligence can lead to corruption: The Pardoner is highly intelligent and gifted as an orator, but instead of using it for good to help people, he uses it to make money for himself.
  • Money can overrule the mind: The Pardoner and the three rioters in his tale let their lust for money overrule good judgement.
  • People go through extreme measures to get what they desire: The Pardoner passes off items as relics, and the three rioters scheme to kill one another.

Multiple Interpretations: Text vs. Clip

20 minutes

To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Complex Tasks

Since we have been distinguishing between multiple interpretations of literature this year, I show students a clip of a modern interpretation of the Pardoner's Tale and ask them to note differences between the text and the clip.

After the clip ends, I provide time for students to confer with a partner on their findings.

We discuss the differences in the all-class setting and reasons why the screenwriter designed the clip to have these differences.

Ticket Out: Reflection on Activities

10 minutes

To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Student Feedback

I ask students to revisit their presentation reflections and their writing on multiple interpretations of the text.  Since we are short on time, I have each student complete a paper towel ticket out (Student Work: Paper Towel Ticket Out - Sample One)(Student Work: Paper Towel Ticket Out Sample Two) to answer the questions: (1) What did you learn from the activities? (2) What did you think of the activities?

I invite students to continue the conversation about the Pardoner with me on Twitter by replying to my tweet, which asks for their opinions on the Pardoner (Student Work: Tweets on Pardoner Sample One)(Student Work: Tweets on the Pardoner Sample Two).