English Literature A Level lesson on The Merchant’s Tale and the fabliau genre

Shared by Jenny Stevens

The main aim of the lesson was for students to find out about the generic characteristics of the fabliau form and to evaluate how far they were reflected in The Merchant’s Tale.

Students were asked to google the term ‘fabliau’ and we then discussed how to recognise academically sound sites from the URL (e.g. looking for ‘ac.uk’ or ‘edu’). Once they’d tracked down and agreed upon a reliable definition, they were asked to break it down into distinct characteristics and to present these in table form (each column headed by a single characteristic). They were then asked to put a tick, cross or question mark to indicate how far The Merchant’s Tale demonstrated each element.

Having circulated and looked over individuals’ tables, I selected one and asked the producer to project it on screen and to act as typist for the rest of the class. Through whole-class discussion, we selected textual evidence for each of the fabliau characteristics and completed the table. It was then shared with all members of the group.

This exercise could have been completed without using iPads, though this would have meant either supplying a ready-made table or asking individuals to draw tables free hand. Finalising the table (and thereby providing a useful learning/revision resource) would have been much less efficient and less collaborative without the iPad.