Friday, February 10, 2017

Cranking up The Canterbury Tales: Fun, Real-World Driven Lessons for Chaucer's Canterbury Tales




I absolutely love teaching The Canterbury Tales, and when I do it right, I even make my students love it a little too. ;) I've tried many different activities to teach Chaucer's classic throughout the years, so I wanted to list the very best strategies for engaging students with this fun tale.

How to Crank Up The Canterbury Tales: 

1. Have fun teaching language change with emojis- 😆😎😍Since most British literature teachers begin with Beowulf and touch on Old English, it's a natural continuum to teach The Canterbury Tales next as a way to bridge the language changes that brought about Middle English. To liven up your language change lecture, have students practice translating The Canterbury Tale's prologue into Modern, Modern English by using text and emojis. 
As you can see from the picture, I used Remind to receive their translations, but I also gave the options of doing this on a digital lesson I designed that has a phone with emojis for those who either didn't want to use their data or didn't have a phone. You can see this in action here: 

2. Zig-Zag read the characters- The Canterbury Tales character descriptions lends itself well to differentiation. You can assign more complicated entries, such as the pardoner, to higher level students and easier entries, such as the plowman, to lower level students. An easy and inconspicuous way to do this is to have two different colored sticky notes with numbers. One set of numbers will correspond to the higher lever and one set will go with the lower level.  As students walk in, let them pick from the appropriate pile. 

As students are reading about their characters, have them do something with the text. Here are some ideas: 



*Have them read this for homework then design a costume wear in class the next day (I don't have any pictures of this, but neighbor English teacher did this recently, and it looked so fun!) 


3. Try doodle note taking to help students grasp the frame story concept- One thing that is very difficult to explain is the how the frame story of The Canterbury Tales sets up the tales themselves. I tried to give my students a visual of this as well as a notetaking strategy by using doodle notes for the first time. It was a huge success! Doodle notes provided a visual, activated a different part of their brains, and gave us a nice technology respite from our digital lessons



As I have found with many activities I do, high school students LOVE to color! I try to incorporate it every chance I get because I believe in its stress relief and brain activation. You can find these doodle notes in my Canterbury Tales unit pack here, The Canterbury Tales Unit 

4. Utilize tools students love like Snapchat - I did my entire Canterbury Tales unit around the theme of Snapchat because there are SO many educational things you can do with this program! As a way to display irony and other story elements from "The Pardoner's Tale," I had students get into groups and make snaps. The LOVED this...obviously. Within my unit, you can edit the tasks that you want them to snap. For example, if you have a group that needs to practice simple plot elements, they can showcase exposition, rising action, etc. Higher level groups can find irony and Chaucer's deeper level purpose. 

5. Hook them for "The Wife of Bath's Tale" with a poll- This one takes guts, but I love to do it because it really hooks them into the story and serves as a great comparison for the text's answers to the age-old question of what women want. You can see the answers rolling in here: 

video

If this video doesn't work, here is screen shot: 




Funny right!? Once we get to the part in the story where the knight is finding the answers, we pull this poll back up and compare 1392 answers to 2000's answers. :) 

6. Make the pilgrimage concept relevant to real life with Rick Steves- I love podcasts and try to incorporate them in my classroom any chance I get. Just as we were finishing The Canterbury Tales this semester, this episode popped into my queue. 
Perfect timing! We listened to the first 12 minutes of the podcast, picked out three lines in which the guest waxes poetic about taking a road-trip pilgrimage, and wrote our own pilgrimage dream using poetic descriptions. I learned so much about my students when I graded these! 

And because I was on a roll with the doodle notes, I whipped one up so that students could take notes while listening. I told them that they didn't have to make this one pretty if they didn't want to (just fill in the notes as they listened), but 100% of my students did some form of coloring and doodling while engaging with the podcast. :) This made me a happy. 

So there you have it! I hope that these ideas inspire you to crank up The Canterbury Tales in your classroom! 





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