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Illuminated Manuscripts: Textual and Visual Storytelling 
Students will read and analyze an excerpt from The Canterbury Tales and look at and analyze the excerpt as it appears in an illuminated manuscript. Students will then create illuminated manuscripts for a piece of their creative writing.

Download Lesson Plan

Grade range: 7–10
Time to complete lesson: 2–3 hours
Resources needed: student materials, blank paper, drawing or painting supplies (for each student) 
Lesson includes: activities, vocabulary list, and student materials


  • Common Core State Standards– English Language Arts


  • California English Language Development Standards
      ELD.PI.7.1 Emerging-Bridging
      ELD.PI.8.1 Emerging-Bridging
      ELD.PI.9-10.1 Emerging-Bridging
      ELD.PI.7.6 Emerging-Bridging
      ELD.PI.8.6 Emerging-Bridging
      ELD.PI.9-10.8 Emerging-Bridging
      ELD.PI.7.10 Emerging-Bridging
      ELD.PI.8.10 Emerging-Bridging
      ELD.PI.9-10.10 Emerging-Bridging


Ellesmere Chaucer
The Ellesmere Manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, circa 1410. Shown is the introduction to "The Knight's Tale." The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

By the end of this lesson, students will KNOW

  • People can use both text and visuals to tell stories
  • People often incorporate multiple modalities to convey meaning and create experiences for the story’s recipient

  • Stories are dynamic, and their meaning can change over time


By the end of this lesson, students will BE ABLE TO:

  • Read and interpret a pre-modern story
  • Discuss the ways in which illumination changes their interpretation of the story’s meaning

  • Identify the differences between their experience reading a story on its own and seeing the story with its visual components


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