Jeff Schober teaches at the Baker Road Alternative School in a suburb of Buffalo, New York. The school has approximately 80 at-risk students, grades 9-12, and few go on to higher education. Mr. Schober teaches American history and Shakespeare and co-authored a book about the Buffalo Sabres.
This activity is an introduction and overview of the action in Much Ado About Nothing.
What's On for Today and Why
Today students will improvise a few scenarios which relate to the plot of Much Ado About Nothing. They should have no previous knowledge of the play; they have not read any scenes or learned character names. This activity will force them to think about broad happenings they will read about, so when they begin the play they will have a base of expectations. This activity should be completed in one 40-minute period.
What You Need
Folger edition of Much Ado About Nothing
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
A big open area—move desks against the walls so students can get on their feet and improvise
What To Do
1. Divide students into groups of four or five. Each group will be called to the front of the room and asked to improvise one of the following scenarios written on the board:
A) Two people of the opposite sex, A and B, dislike one another and are constantly bickering. Show them taunting one another, then have B leave. Some friends enter. Have the friends convince A that B is really attracted to A. Deal with the matter of whether A believes them and why he (or she) would.
B) A different couple, X and Y, are very much in love. Create a scenario showing their affection for one another. Have X leave and friends enter. The friends have to do something to cause Y to want to break up with X.
2. Play this improvisation game as many times as necessary, depending on the number of groups you have.
3. When everyone has had a chance to act, write the names of two students who played A and B on the board. Have students copy this into their notebooks, then cross out the students' names and write Beatrice and Benedick. Do the same thing for X and Y, crossing out the students' names and inserting Hero and Claudio.
4. In the remaining class time have the students copy the scenarios into their notebooks. Their homework is to write a one-page fictional story which addresses one of the scenarios.
5. Collect the homework at the start of the next class period, distribute copies of the character map for Much Ado About Nothing included in the handout section below, and hand out copies of the play.
How Did It Go?
Did students understand the scenarios they were asked to improvise? If they asked pointed questions which went beyond the material you covered, this is a good indication that the activity has triggered their brain. A true measure of how the lesson went should be reflected in their written assignment. Ideally they will be creative while still following the plot discussed in class.
If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.