Paul E. Clark, Springdale High School, Springdale, Arkansas.
This lesson can be used with any of Shakespeare's plays.
What's On for Today and Why
Each student will focus closely on one character in the play and create a visual representation of that character's language, personality, motivation, and relationships. He or she will then use that visual piece as a jumping-off point for performance.
This activity will take between three and five 45-minute class periods. It may done individually, in pairs, or in groups of three students.
What You Need
large pieces of paper, drawing materials
What To Do
1. After the class has read the play, each student should identify a character to analyze and explore more fully. It's all right if more than one student choses the same character to work with—in fact, the lesson is more effective that way.
2. Ask students to brainstorm about their chosen character. They should identify personality traits, motivations, moods, actions, temperament, and any other significant aspects of the their characters.
3. Discuss the brainstorming results as a class; have each student explain his or her choices and the rationale behind them.
4. Give each student a large sheet of butcher paper or poster board. Ask the class to draw "Mind Maps" of their characters, using the material gathered from their brainstorming session to create a fuller conception of those characters. The maps should use non-linear connections; students are therefore encouraged to make up their own linking method—for example, a circle, a tree, a web, or some other visual symbol. The easiest way to do this map (which is therefore discouraged) is to draw a straight line, like a time-line, and have students note actions, important speeches, alterations in personality, key events, etc.
5. To keep the process centered on the text, ask your students to incorporate a minimum of three quotations either from or about their chosen characters.
6. It will probably take more than one class period to complete the Mind Maps. When they are done, ask students in turn to tape their maps to the wall, explaining as they do their choice of elements and quotes. As maps are posted, look for common threads, justifications for inclusion, and links among characters; an understanding of the whole play will emerge from these pieces. This process will take about one class period.
7. Finally, small groups will act out selections from the play. Groups should select and edit a portion of the text for performance. Their choices, about language, character, motivation, etc., should be informed by the Mind Maps. The students must use Shakespeare's original words (cuts are allowed); they are encouraged to insert blocking, stage directions, props, and external elements as needed. You may have students memorize selections, but they might also perform with scripts they make up for themselves.
8. Leave the Mind Maps on the wall for several days for reference.
How Did It Go?
You may assess this lesson in stages--for example, at the completion of the brainstorming, or at completion of the larger, more complex Mind Map. Evaluation questions for this part of the assignment might include:
Are the basic parameters of the assignment fulfilled?
Is the assignment clearly and effectively organized?
Are basic facts, events, and characterizations accurate?
Is there evidence of student interpretation that goes beyond facts and surface detail, or is the assignment content sketchy and shallow?
Is there solid support for analysis and assertions? Are there supporting quotes or key references from the play?
You might also want to ask the student audience to help evaluate the student performances. In any case, grades for effort and participation should weigh heavily in evaluation by the teacher.
Students should, in both their maps and performances, demonstrate a clear understanding of the text, relationships, plot, and staging elements.
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.