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English Language History

A Journey with the Bards

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." --William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night II.5.

Table of Contents



Alternative Energy Persuasive Essay


Ancient Civilizations Thematic Essay Unit


Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman



"Charles" by Shirley Jackson Short Story




Mysteries of Harris Burdic



History of the English Language


NYS English Language Arts Exams Review


Painting Pictures with Poetry


SHEroes Memorable Women in History


Teacher Resources


Writer's Workshop








Table of Contents

Overview / Old English--Beowulf / Middle English--The Canterbury Tales / Modern English--Works of Shakespeare / Student Handouts / Teacher Resources






Although the adult tales in this unit were originally told in verse by bards, English poets, we are going to read prose versions for young audiences.  Studying the prose versions of classical literature is a means of introducing children to the history of the English language.  Our goal is to study the elements of fiction through historical English literature beginning with one of the first great epics, Beowulf.  After, we will travel into the middle ages with a few of the Chaucer's humorous pilgrims as they journey to Thomas Becket's shrine, a religious temple, in The Canterbury Tales.  Last, we will be entertained by the father of English literature, Shakespeare, whose plays and poetry continues to influence writers today. 

(Adobe Reader or MSWord are required to open many of these documents)





Old English

(500 - 1100 A.D.)

Beowulf (8th Century) --unknown author

Student Handout (Tara McCarthy, The Middle Ages , 14-21)

  • "Beowulf"

On-Line Text

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Middle English

(1100 to 1485 A.D.)

The Canterbury Tales (1387) --by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales (Tara McCarthy, The Middle Ages Stories,  88-103)

  • Introduction to The Canterbury Tales

  • "The Nun's Priest's Tale"

  • "The Pardoner's Tale"

  • "The Wife of Bath's Tale"

On-Line Text



The Wife of Bath




Modern English

(1845 to 1603)

The Historic, Comic, and Tragic Works of Shakespeare

Student Tales

On-Line Text Original Version


William Shakespeare




Student Handouts


Canterbury Tales

  • Coming Soon!



  • Coming Soon!


The Pardoner




Teacher Resources

Old English

Middle English

Modern English

On-line Text Libraries

Writing Resources




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Thanks to Educational Technology Clearing House, USF for the use of the Chaucer Clip Art.

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