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Pre-reading Lesson for Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales
This lesson plan is the first of five in a mini-unit devoted to the Middle ages, Chaucer, and The “General Prologue" of The Canterbury Tales.
Before exposing students to The Canterbury Tales, it is essential to their understanding that students have a firm grasp of the middle ages and the feudal system, the historical context during which Chaucer wrote. With that said, I’ve created an interactive activity that utilizes technology, requires collaboration and communication, and demands attention.
Computers with internet access or research books relating to the middle ages
Students will break into teams of 3-5 (depending on class size). Every student will be given the following questions relating to the middle ages.
- The Middle Ages span what years?
- What event began the Norman Conquest?
- Who was William the Conqueror?
- What culture survived under the Normans? Why? What impact did this have on the culture?
- What is feudalism?
- When did the feudal structure break down?
- Describe the life and ideals, and morals of a knight.
- What was a woman’s place in the feudal system?
- What is chivalry?
- What is courtly love?
- What would eventually render the feudal system obsolete? Explain.
- What were the crusades?
- How did they impact medieval life?
- Who is Thomas a Becket? Why do you think he was important?
- Describe the state of the Church in Chaucer’s the Middle Ages.
- What is the Magna Carta? What historical impact did it have?
- When was the Hundred Years’ War? Who fought? Why is it important?
- How did the bubonic plague help bring about an end to feudalism?
Each team will then research and correctly answer all eighteen questions. I usually tell my students that they are free to divide the questions up amongst the team members; however, everyone is responsible for knowing every answer.
After the research period has concluded, it is time to assess what the students have learned. I usually assess this lesson orally; doing so tends to make students work harder as they don’t want to be embarrassed by not knowing the answer.
I ask students to take one last look over their answers before putting their sheets away. I pull their names out of a hat to see who will answer each question. I keep this “pop-quiz” light and fun, and of course, provide corrections and elaborations when appropriate.