OER Administrator
English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Human Rights
  • Shakespeare
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Character Charting The Tempest

    Character Charting The Tempest


    In this lesson, after being introduced to the unit, students will begin reading act 1 of The Tempest with the goal of understanding who the characters are and what happens. They’ll begin to chart the characters and find useful vocabulary.


    • Read the lesson and student content (act 1 of The Tempest and other materials).
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Help students locate copies of the Independent Reading texts.

    Guiding Questions

    • Facilitate a discussion of the Guiding Questions.
    • Note that students will be returning to these questions periodically throughout the unit and they will see how or if their ideas evolve.
      • SWD: Consider talking about these questions to help students further understand the topic. These are quite abstract topics, and SWDs might need additional time to fully absorb them.
      • ELL: Be sure that at all times, all cultures and civilizations are spoken about with a high degree of respect, whether that country or culture is represented in the classroom or not. It is important that all students witness respect for all cultures at all times.


    Respond to the unit’s Guiding Questions.

    • What role do national identity, custom, religion, and other locally held beliefs play in a world increasingly characterized by globalization?
    • How does Shakespeare’s view of human rights compare with that in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
    • Who is civilized? Who decides what civilization is or how it’s defined?
    • How do we behave toward and acknowledge those whose culture is different from our own?

    Open Notebook

    Discuss your responses with your classmates.

    Unit Accomplishments

    • Display the Unit Accomplishments for students, answer their questions, and clarify as needed. It isn't necessary that they have a full grasp of everything required for this unit at this point.
      • ELL: To be sensitive to all students, be sure to check that your ELLs and their family members are not refugees themselves. Ask questions to find this out. If you find out that a student or somebody in his or her family is a refugee, have a conversation with the student to be sure he or she will be able to handle the activity emotionally.

    Work Time

    Review the Unit Accomplishments and ask your teacher any questions you have about them.

    • Read William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest and write a short argument about who in the play is truly civilized.
    • Participate in a mock trial in which you argue for or against granting asylum to a teenage refugee, and then write arguments in favor of and against granting asylum to teenage refugees.
    • Read an Independent Reading text and write an informational essay about a global issue and how that relates to your book.

    Independent Reading Text

    • Encourage students to find a book that interests them and is on a comfortable reading level.
    • Help students locate copies of the Independent Reading texts.
    • Encourage students to reach for challenging texts, but check in with them to make sure they are able to comprehend their selections.

    Work Time

    As noted in the Unit Accomplishments, you will read an Independent Reading text and write an informational essay about a global issue and how that relates to your book.

    Read the descriptions of the Independent Reading texts.

    • By Lesson 12, choose and locate a copy of the text you want to read.

    You will have from Lesson 12 to Lesson 22 to read the book.

    Characters and Vocabulary

    • Remind students that Shakespeare's plays were meant to be performed and seen, not read. However, Shakespeare's place in Western civilization is so honored and revered that we have a tradition of studying the plays.
    • Work with your class to create a Characters in The Tempest chart on which students can record information that will help them keep the characters straight.
    • Some of the words students will encounter while reading the play are particular to Shakespeare's time. Students need to understand the meaning but not learn the words for academic use. Other, more useful, words will be listed in each lesson as they are encountered. Consider using those words in a Vocabulary in The Tempest class chart.

    Work Time

    Look at the list of characters in Shakespeare’s The Tempest at the start of the play. Note that in Shakespeare’s day, the characters were listed according to rank, with kings and nobles first, followed by gentlemen, followed by workers and slaves, followed by women and then “spirits.”

    • To help you keep the characters straight, use the list of characters at the beginning of the play (the “dramatis personae”) and work with your teacher to create a Characters in The Tempest chart. Maintain a list of characters and information about them in your Notebook. Fill in information each day as you read and find out more about the characters.
    • As you run across vocabulary unfamiliar to you, note the word and where you found it in a Vocabulary in The Tempest list. Then figure out its definition. For example, the wordusurping to describe Antonio in the dramatis personae means that he has seized the position of Duke without having a legal right to do so.

    Open Notebook

    Act 1, Scene 1

    • Your reading in class can be oral, as many students would enjoy that, but reading Shakespeare aloud in a cold reading could inhibit understanding if the reader stumbled with meaning and pronunciation. For that reason, you should assign parts for reading aloud only after students have had an opportunity to read over the lines first, and you should choose only the most able readers. For some or all scenes, you can give them an overview or summary of the action before they read.
    • Ask students to read act 1, scene 1, silently.
    • In act 1, scene 1, we meet some of the characters on board a ship that is being tossed violently in a storm, a tempest. The sailors are impatient with the interfering noblemen, who are keeping them from their work to save the ship. Explain that the chaos the storm has created on board the ship makes for a lot of order giving, yelling, cursing, and criticism.
    • Circulate through the room, assisting students in defining words.
    • Organize your students into equal-sized discussion groups with no more than four students in each group.
    • After students have had a chance to discuss the conflicts (in act 1, scene 1) and respond to the questions, ask for volunteers to share what their group discussed.
    • In addition to usurping, words to study are bawling, line 39; insolent, line 42; and glut, line 59.

    Work Time

    Silently read and annotate act 1, scene 1. Mark any words or lines you don’t understand. Find the conflict between the characters as the ship is foundering.

    In your group, discuss the following questions.

    • Who’s in charge on the ship?
    • When the Boatswain tells Gonzalo, “You are a / counsellor; if you can command these elements to / silence, and work the peace of the present, we will / not hand a rope more; use your authority. If you / cannot, give thanks you have liv’d so long, and make / yourself ready in your cabin for the mischance of / the hour, if it so hap. . . . Out / of our way, I say” (1.1.19–26). Explain the Boatswain’s frustration and Gonzalo’s response. How do the other noblemen respond to the Boatswain later in the scene?
    • At the end of the scene, what seems to have happened to the ship and its passengers and sailors?

    Choose one member to report to the whole class if the teacher calls on your group.

    Act 1, Scene 2

    • Before students start reading, let them know that Miranda, daughter of Prospero, knows her father has the “art” or magic to cause a storm. She has seen the foundering ship and asks him to stop the storm and save the passengers. Prospero uses the opportunity to explain his life to his daughter.
    • Assign two able readers to read aloud act 1, scene 2. Stop after each long section to make sure everyone understands what has been said. The first stop should be at line 203.
    • Words to study are allay, line 2; perdition, line 35; perfidious, line 82; sans, line 113; prerogative, line 121; inveterate, line 142; and extirpate, line 145.

    Work Time

    Continue with act 1, scene 2.

    • Read along silently while student readers take the parts of Miranda and Prospero.

    Your teacher will interrupt the reading several times to provide explanations or to ask for responses.

    Miranda and Prospero

    • Impose a time limit for the Quick Write response. Three minutes is plenty of time.

    Work Time

    Complete a Quick Write in response to the following question.

    • How did Prospero and Miranda get marooned on this island?

    Open Notebook

    Miranda and Prospero

    • Before releasing students to read the play independently, allow them 3–5 minutes to clarify for themselves what happened to Miranda and Prospero at the hand of Prospero's brother Antonio.
      • SWD: Be sure that SWDs are engaging in the activity successfully. If you find that some students need support in clarifying for themselves what happened, consider grouping those who need extra help and working with them.
    • Also before releasing students, let them know that in the next part of the scene, Prospero puts Miranda to sleep and gives orders to his servant-slave Ariel to provide for the safety of the people on the ship. Ask them to notice how Prospero treats his two servant-slaves, Ariel and Caliban. Ariel fetches Ferdinand, who has been separated from the rest of his shipmates, and Ferdinand meets and falls instantly in love with Miranda.


    So, how did Prospero and Miranda get marooned on this island?

    • Confer with your small group and share your ideas in answering the Quick Write prompt.

    Act 1, Scene 2

    • Additional words to study are prescience, line 210; and precursors, line 232.


    Read and annotate the remainder of act 1, scene 2.

    Write two paragraphs.

    • Briefly summarize the action of the rest of scene 2.
    • Describe what one character who is not in the scene might think of the action were she or he able to observe the action.

    Open Notebook

    Submit your writing to your teacher.

    Study the vocabulary from act 1 of The Tempest.