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Using Characterization with The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

Written by Ted Baechtold
January 23, 2012

Using my previous work with the novels The Secret Life of Bees and The Kite Runner, I adapted the characterization essay to a shorted and a little less intimidating extended paragraph using The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.  Our senior curriculum is based on British literature, so this was a fairly easy adaptation to make.


This unit differed from the previously mentioned in that it was quite a bit more structured and sequential in development.  We started out discussing extensively how characters are developed in text and other media.  I showed several film clips from A Knight’s Tale that use Geoffrey Chaucer as a character.  I applied the concepts of Karen Kay and her three classes of character traits: physical, identity, and social/moral, to the character in the film. 

Once we had watched and discussed these clips, we moved to Chaucer’s Prologue and discussed ihe idea of a pilgimmage and his recording of these stories.  We also spent some time discussing how text and other media can go way beyond just telling a story or reporting an event and can actually represent society ideals and mores, as well as concerns.  Before beginning, we reviewed the concepts of direct and indirect characterization and how author’s may use them to develop characters.

This unit was used with four different classes of mainstream seniors.  Within these classes, these existed a wide variety of reading levels, so the reading schedule varied from class to class.  We did choose to read and discuss the piece as a class, so the reading took from 10 class periods to nearly 15 for one class. 

As we were reading, I asked students to record characterizations they saw for each of the characters.  This promoted a little more engagement with the text, but also helped as they prepared to write about a character of their choice and the ideas of characterization.  When we began the writing, I demonstrated the prewriting I did for the attached example on the Cook, the only character I did not let them choose.

We spent most of a week working our way through the drafting of this paragraph, including how to integrate the quotes/paraphrases for the characters.  We did a highlighting exercise to help students idenitfy the various parts of the pargraph.  Additionally, students did a peer edit and answered the reflection questions before submitting the piece.

Open Chaucer_Paragraph_Example_1011 2-revised.doc Open Reflection Questions for The Prologue Chaucer.doc

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