The Canterbury Tales Unit Plan

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

There are a few good reasons Geoffrey Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales' has been read for more than 600 years. In this lesson, teachers are provided with a weekly unit plan that can be used to teach 'The Canterbury Tales' to students.

Chaucer's Tales

One of the great advantages of studying The Canterbury Tales is the wide variety of stories that are told throughout. The epic work, which is composed of 24 individual stories, has something to offer every reader. This unit plan is broken down into a reading plan, a review plan, activities, and an assessment plan.

Each student should have a dedicated notebook or folder in which to take notes, keep track of group discussions, and write review questions.

Reading Plan

At just under 164,000 words, it would take a capable reader approximately 11 hours (250 WPM) to read The Canterbury Tales. If you assign students 30 minutes of reading per school day and one hour over the weekend, they should be able to complete the book in less than two school weeks.

Alternatively, because The Canterbury Tales is divided into 24 stories, if you choose to have students read all the stories, you can assign one or two stories per day. Of course, you can always accelerate or slow this reading pace based on your needs and the abilities of your students.

As students read they should:

  • Underline or highlight character names
  • Summarize key events in note form
  • Take notes of other relevant elements of the text (e.g., symbolism, literary devices, etc.)

At the end of each reading assignment, students should write three to five review questions. The review questions can be a mix of multiple choice, true or false, and short answer. Students will use these questions in their small discussion groups.

Review Plan

Each reading assignment can be followed by a ten- to fifteen-minute small group discussion. Discussion group members should be changed each time so that students can hear different viewpoints and opinions.

During discussions students should:

  • Review the list of characters
  • Summarize the plot
  • Discuss deeper meanings and symbolism in the text
  • Talk about personal views and opinions

To conclude each group discussion, students should share the questions they wrote with each other, and then turn the questions and answers into you.

Another effective review technique is to assign individuals to give oral summaries of the tales. If you have 24 students or less you can assign one tale to each student. If you have more than 24 students, have students pair up to summarize some of the longer tales, with one student taking the first half of the tale and the second student taking the other half.

Oral reviews should include:

  • A list of the main characters
  • A synopsis of the tale
  • Student opinions about the tale


Activities can be incorporated after students complete a reading assignment. You can use the following activities in class:

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