For students of today, the English that Geoffrey Chaucer and other Medieval authors used in their own time is a foreign language. The Canterbury Tales (1387-1400), perhaps Geoffrey Chaucer’s most known work, is a multifaceted way to encounter the lives of characters in his time. There are characters that range from valiant Knights to grimy summoners, all being carefully crafted by an ingenious poet. Chaucer’s work also discusses political and historical power through these characters. These multi-dimensional characters emphasize the diversity of people within a group and how each individual can fit within a group. With the aid of Chaucer’s work, students can begin to understand how literature, particularly within the past, integrates multiple jobs into one: historian, politician, artist… the list can go on and on!

Typically students read The Canterbury Tales without an aid that allows the real life of Chaucer and his characters to blossom. With the use of hand puppets, made by students, each character can come to life and present their story to the class. This means that the students will need to find things from home and within the class craft box that assist in representing their characters. Their literacy level will be basic or above average 9th-10th grade level and a level of creativity and effort must also be used. Through student creativity, each member of a “character group” begins to know and understand a life in Middle Ages. They also begin to learn the complexity of Chaucer’s poetic form, the language of Chaucer’s time, and the way in which literature was used to present a web of interesting people.


Below you will find the unit plan and examples of specific lessons for this unit; however, this is not a complete unit for conducting an in depth read of The Canterbury Tales. This is a unit to develop the characters of the text in a portfolio method.

Unit Plan

Lesson One: Character Introduction

Lesson Two: Character Sketches

Lesson Three: Character Research

Portfolio Grading Sheet