Today is the first day students begin working w/ the tales Chaucer's Pilgrim's tell. Over the next three days, students will meet Chaucer's Pardoner and his prologue and tale, the Wife of Bath and her prologue and tale, and "The Nun's Priest's Tale."
While I will introduce students to three tales, they will each focus on one tale, and they will choose one tale on which they will base an interactive summary, complete a SOAPSTone, and write a critical comment. Student Choice The Canterbury Tales.
In this lesson, students
To create a modern, thematic connection to the Pardoner, I show students a clip from a 1980s parallel, Wall Street, featuring Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko. This clip features the famous "Greed is Good" speech Gekko delivers near the movie's end. Wall Street - Greed Is Good.
After students watch the clip, I ask them what theme they would give to the segment. They readily answer, "Greed is good."
I tell them to keep this in mind as they meet the pardoner via his prologue.
From the Faust legend to Rap music, we can find common ground when introducing students to themes in literature. By showing students the movie clip, I set them up immediately for understanding the Pardoner. Knowing the movie theme, they look forward to meeting the pardoner, and that made for a very successful lesson. This is particularly important when students have struggled w/ an earlier text, as my students have.
First, I ask students to take a few notes on the structure in "The Pardoner's Tale" and "The Pardoner's Prologue."
I pull up the Power Point with the notes from the previous lesson. The Canterbury Tales Structure and Techniques. (Slides 9, 10, 11, 15, 16) The notes students take are from the following slides:
Literary Confessional (9-10)
Students take time to compose the notes and the questions from the slides as I read them and rephrase so students can understand. I remind them that they don't need to write everything down. They won't have time to do this in college.
I tell them that there is a word for such confessionals in communication studies: apologia. I also tell them that they don't have to write that down and that apology in literature isn't a way for saying "I'm sorry. It's a way of explaining and rationalizing." I then tell them about Nixon's "Checker's Speech" as a form of apologia.
I distribute lines for the interactive summary. Then I read and call out numbers that correspond to the numbers for the lines I've given to volunteers. Interactive summary example.
Next, I ask students what they now know about the Pardoner. They answer,
"He is greedy."
"He doesn't care how he makes his money."
"He has the same message for every sermon."
We continue discussing until students run out of ideas. Then I ask, "What is a Pardoner?" This is a little tougher for students, so I await their answer while they search the text.
Finally, a student answers: "Someone who sells forgiveness."
I confirm the answer and explain that a Pardoner is a member of the Catholic Church who goes from town to town selling pardons for peoples' sins. He sells forgiveness. I also give students some very brief information about the Church in Chaucer's time, specifically that the Mass was delivered in Latin, and as they know, Latin was not the language of common people, so the congregation couldn't understand it.
Next, I distribute the full interactive summary document with the summary we just completed. This one has student directions: Pardoner's Prologue Interactive version. This, I tell students, is the model for the interactive summaries they will compose for the tale they choose. We then read through the directions and the sample summary. Students ask questions to clarify.
I point out features of the summary and tell students, "Your summary needs to look just like this one." I tell them the lines from the text will be at the end of the summary, that they will leave numbered spaces in their summary indicating where the lines will go.
Others want to know how long to make the summary. I tell them, "I don't know. Make it as long as it needs to be. Make it long enough for someone who hasn't read the tale to understand it." Then I tell them about the miniskirt test: "You don't want a miniskirt to be so short that it shows everything and makes passersby comment about how it needs to be longer so that it covers what your mama gave you, and you don't want it to be so long that you lose interest because it's no longer a miniskirt."
Next, I suggest a way for students to understand the tale: summary chunks. I tell students that a text is easier to understand if we don't simply read it completely through and then trust our memories. Chunking information makes difficult texts more manageable. To illustrate, I read the opening of the tale and ask students to write a brief summary of the section I read.
To help them, I suggest they try to write a 20 word sentence but that they not worry about length after they're satisfied with their summaries.
Since this strategy is just a suggestion, and since I leave it up to students to approach the text and their understanding of it in a way that works for them, I've included several student examples that illustrate their various summary techniques: Summary Chunks Pardoner's Tale illustrates how one student moves from summary chunks to writing the interactive summary. Student Summary The Pardoner's Tale and Summary Chunks Pardoner's Tale Student Notes (2) show two students' approaches. One summarizes based on lines and numbers them, while the other student creates a list of bullet points. Student Notes Pardoner's Tale (Summary Chunks and Interactive Summary) shows a more traditional approach to composing the summary.
Just before the bell, I ask students to add at least one more comment to their SOAPSTone for "The General Prologue." I suggest they return to Chaucer's description of the Pardoner now that they have heard some of his prologue and begun reading his tale.
I want to check their progress since the SOAPSTone has been a real sticking point for students. SOAPSTone Reading Strategy for Primary Docs. is the original document that explains the strategy and contains the template.