How to

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Chaucer & His World
The Aristocratic World
The Churl's World
The Clerk's World
The Townsperson's World
A Woman's World
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How to Guide


How to - Learning & Teaching Guide

This page contains hints and tips on how to do the following:

There are also some ideas about using images in teaching. This is intended to complement the other pages of this resource, in particular the 'Canterbury Tales' section, but may be used on its own.

How to prepare an effective handout

What is your handout for?
To give information?

In this category are handouts which give quotations, references, the main points to aid memory etc.

To stimulate/aid discussion?

In this category are included the handouts which ask questions, or provide tasks for the audience to complete during the course of the presentation/seminar.

First, it is important that you think about how your handout will look. It should be clear and easy to read. Instructions and the progression of the reader/user through each element should be clear and understandable. You may like to think about using bullet points, separation of text blocks, bolding and italicising of type, etc. Look through the options available on your machine for fonts, font-sizing, bullets, columns etc., and choose what you think is the best for the job. Remember also that single spacing looks cramped on a handout, and try to use something bigger - 11/2 or double spacing. Use spacing creatively to make the handout attractive and to make text easier to follow.

Remember that you can use pictures or diagrams. Diagrams should be as clear as possible, and large enough to see and follow. You can also draw your own pictures. The object is clarity, not artistic talent! Label everything well.

Good handouts include the main points of the presentation, so that the audience can follow, and ask questions afterwards. You might also add pictorial material, as described above, or questions (these may be associated with text, diagrammatic or pictorial material). You could also include small taks for the audience, eg true or false questions, statements to complete. References to books and articles are also good - they enable audiences to do further reading, and show that you have researched your material well. Quotations are also good illustrations, and they may stimulate discussion afterwards. You can also use the whiteboard to create visual aids. Everything on your handout should have a purpose, so make sure that you know what your aims are.

Finally, after giving out your handouts, always explain what is on them and why. This helps your audience to follow, and creates interest in what you are about to say.

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How to make a self-assessment

Get some feedback, as well as writing observations and opinions of your own.

Was the work well received? Was it understood in the way you had hoped? Were there any unexpected reactions, and if so, what? Can you understand why this happened? In the light of the feedback, and your own observations, would you change anything another time, and how?
If you used images, were they effective, and could they be improved?

Was your material easy to gather, to order and to use? Could this have been done any better?
Did you make the right choices, and why did you choose to make some points rather than others? How did you order and present your material, and why did you do it in this way? Would you change anything with hindsight? Were there any problems, and how were these overcome? What were the possible solutions, and why did you choose the ones you did? Did the solutions you chose work, or would you do anything differently next time?

If your work was undertaken as part of a group, make observations about how this was organised and how well (or not) the group worked together. Were there any obstacles, and how were they overcome (or not)? Do you think this could have been improved? What skills and qualities (personal and professional) did you bring to this exercise, which were helpful to you? Do you think you were able to be of benefit to the rest of the group and what was your part in the success (or otherwise) of the exercise? What was your contribution to the project as a whole?

What have you learned from this exercise? What new skills have you gained? Think carefully about this – list and describe them fully.
In the light of how you have progressed, is there anything else you now need/would like to learn or to attempt? What steps will you make to do this?

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How to write an effective essay

Think about the Greek pattern - antithesis, thesis, synthesis.


Tell the reader what you hope to discover or examine (in general terms) and how you intend to go about it. Tell the reader which texts/authors you intend to use, and, if necessary, why. (This part of the essay can be just a general idea at first, then added or modified later when you see the shape of what you have written.


This forms the bulk of your essay, containing your arguments and evidence. Whatever you say here:
be concise (say what you mean and don't waffle)
be specific (make clear exactly what you are talking about, and use textual examples. Your argument must be grounded in a study of the text/texts you are using - always quote the original text.
be clear (make sure your argument can be clearly understood. You don't need to retell the stories, but you do need to give a sufficient explanation of the parts of the text you are using as evidence. You must make sure that you tell the reader everything you want him/her to know).


Read your essay, and pick out the main conclusions you have made. See is there are any overriding observations to be made. Make sure that you refer back to the question/s you originally asked - set out in the introduction. (If you have trouble with this, try reading the concluding paragraphs of one or two of the essays in the books or periodicals you have read, and see how the authors bring out themes and state conclusions in these. Try writing a conclusion more than once - write one, then go back some time later and write another, and compare them. Your may see different things each time.) The conclusion should be a valuable part of your essay, not just something 'tacked on' at the end.

Remember the Bibliography is also VERY important - do it properly, or you will be penalised. Remember also to give line numbers for the poetry you quote.
English style (as you will see with reference to the course aims and objectives) IS important. Use computer spelling and grammar checking facilities. Remember correct spelling doesn't always mean you have the right word, so read through carefully.

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Using Images/using the resource

It is very difficult to ‘picture’ the medieval world of The Canterbury Tales. Images can be used both to explain content, where possible, and to enliven what may seem a dry, even frightening, subject such as medieval English literature. Although it is impossible to recapture a world which has passed, it is possible, by using image-based teaching, to stimulate the imagination to accept the ‘word-pictures’ offered by medieval writers. It then becomes possible to visualize the stories and characters, as a medieval audience (attuned to turning words into images) would have done.

This site offers some ways of using images. It is intended primarily as a foundation on which others may build their own ideas. It is, however, also possible to use the site and its contents as they are. The images have been presented in a similar way to that employed in the author’s Virtual Learning Environment.. There are, however, many different ways of ‘arranging’ Chaucer’s pilgrims, and of ‘ordering’ his stories.

The module on which this is based also made use of the BBC’s excellent Animated Canterbury Tales.

The English Subject Centre is about to launch a copyright free Image database.

A case study detailing the conception and execution of this site is available here..

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The Aristocratic World
The Churl's World
The Clerk's World
The Townspeople's world
A Woman's World
Chaucer and his world