In 2 1/2 weeks we will have read the bulk of the tales (10, I expect) and the kids will have written short stories and character sketches of their own.
I always assign the Miller's Tale early in the unit. This includes some hanky-panky, a man being tricked into kissing someone's butt, and a "thunderous fart" (from a different bottom). After that tale, kids who missed it are thinking, "I've got to keep up, there's some crazy stuff in here."
This year I divided up the boys and the girls and had them write "The Rules of Relationships" after each reading. What do you do when you and your friend like the same person (Knight)? Can you really trust a woman (Clerk and Franklin)? What do women want (Wife)? These are just a few of the quesions that are answered definitively by Chaucer in this work.
Today I was reading the Franklin's Tale with the kids and I came upon a great quote about love. I'm beyond the age where my friends are marrying, but if I knew of some that were, I would recommend this quote (from the Glaser translation).
Lo, here we see a wise accord.
She gained a servant and a lord,
A servant in love, a lord in marriage--
A lord who showed a servant's carriage.
Servant? Yes, but still a lord.
He gained the lady he adored
To be his lover and his wife,
To comfort and adorn his life.
What a great quote about the way a marriage should work. I'm just not sure if we've gotten wiser since the 14th Century about these things.