ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Teaching Ballads: A Pre-reading Lesson Plan for Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

Updated on August 20, 2012

This lesson plan is the third of five in a mini-unit devoted to the Middle Ages, Chaucer, and The “General Prologue” of The Canterbury Tales. Appropriate for high school students, the first lesson introduced the history of the medieval period.

The second lesson plan expounds on this knowledge with a fun creative writing lesson plan aimed to cement their knowledge of the feudal system.

This is the last pre-reading lesson plan before embarking on Chaucer’s “General Prologue” of The Canterbury Tales. The objective is for students to familiarize themselves with some of Chaucer’s contemporaries and the popular writing style during the end of the 14th century.

Supplies Needed

Pencil and paper. 3 or 4 examples of 14th century ballads. If your English Literature textbook does not have these, then I would suggest consulting The Oxford Book of Ballads; it’s an excellent resource.

Background Information

I explain that ballads first appeared in England during the 12th century, and were originally passed down orally from generation to generation. As a result, they were subject to variation, in both tune and text.

Most (but certainly not all) ballads consist of the following features:

  • Four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth line rhyme (ABCB)
  • Repeated key phrases, or a regularly repeated section (called a refrain)
  • Dialogue

Folk ballads are narrative poems, intended to be sung. While some are humorous, many discuss the fate of tragic lovers, sensational crimes, the dangers of the working life, and of historical disasters. Folk ballads thrived amongst the “common people” and thus frequently utilized regional dialect that may be unfamiliar to or awkward for us.


As a whole group, we begin the lesson by reading the sample ballads. We then analyze which of the key features we’ve just discussed we observe.

Students are then tasked to write their own, original ballad using the following guidelines:

  • Write a four stanza (that’s 16 total lines) original ballad utilizing the form discussed.
  • Students should adhere to the key style features of a ballad (rhyme scheme, refrains, dialogue), and keep in mind the content of a typical ballad.
  • I assume that students will use modern language—but I encourage them not to be afraid to experiment with dialect.

Sharing these ballads aloud is a fun way to assess on the spot!

What's Next?

Students are now ready to begin Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Check out the lesson plan for day 4.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)