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Taking a Pilgrimage to Canterbury Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-LIT0200
Submitted by: Glenna Buttrey
Email: mtnrefuge@AOL.com
School/University/Affiliation: Orange High School, Orange, Ca. Date: December 16, 1999

Grade Level: 9, 10, 11, 12


  • Language Arts/Literature
  • Language Arts/Writing (composition)

Duration: Two 45-minute sessions Description: An enhancement exercise used to teach the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales .

Goals: To bring to life the ideas expressed in the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, including the pilgrimage experience and the poetics of the writing style.

1. To complete a pilgrimage similar to the one taken to Canterbury.
2. To learn ways of analyzing the poetic style of the day and write a poem within this style.


  • the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales
  • paper and pencil

Class 1:
This class period will focus on analyzing the descriptive information given about the guests on the road to Canterbury. Questions like: What do we learn about each of these people? What is the writer trying to tell us? Perhaps make a listing on the board. The class should have already read the Prologue by this time, so answers like physical description, attitudes towards others, job descriptions, etc. should come up easily. Then ask the class to write about their own pilgrim who decides to join the others on this pilgrimage.
This poem should:

  • consist of 15-20 lines
  • have a specific occupation alluded to
  • be descriptive of the exact features/character of the person

This should take the rest of the class period. I suggest having the students make a listing for themselves of the features/character of the person that they wish to write about (possibly even working in pairs to bounce ideas off of each other). Class 2:
All students should have a completed tale to present along the way as we travel to Canterbury.

[I usually have the students tour the school. We pretend we are pilgrims traveling along, fascinated by what we see around us and fascinated by those we are traveling with. I allow some talk as this would be normal on a pilgrimage. We then stop from time to time and read a few tales to find out about the people who we are traveling with. The students loved this. At first they were apprehensive, but it didn’t take long for them to truly develop an interest in Chaucer!]

Assessment: The poem was worth a significant grade, as was the presentation of the poem. I also had the students come back to class and write about the most likeable pilgrims and least likeable pilgrims.