Chris Adcock
English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Beauty Standards
  • Elizabethan Era
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Sonnets
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    William Shakespeare Reintroduction

    William Shakespeare Reintroduction


    In this lesson, students will be reintroduced to William Shakespeare and his world. To prepare to study his language more closely, they will analyze humor and see if they can identify just what it is that makes something funny.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Watch the videos and choose which you will use with your class. Decide whether you will pause for note taking, show them twice, or make other modifications.
    • Review the comedy routines or jokes and decide which ones you will use.

    Shakespeare Who?

    • Begin with having students write on their tablets, listing everything they know about William Shakespeare, his life, his theater, and his plays.
    • When students begin to share their responses, write them briefly on the board and elaborate on them if needed. Some things you need to make sure are listed, and therefore may have to add yourself, include the following:
      • ✓ His use of iambic pentameter
      • ✓ The three kinds of plays (comedy, tragedy, history)
      • ✓ The time period and place (London, late 1500s to early 1600s)
    • Focus on the elements of Shakespeare’s life and plays that you consider most important.
    • Be aware that some students may not have encountered Shakespeare’s work before and therefore may not have much to contribute. Encourage them to add things they’ve heard but aren’t sure about, or even guesses. As students share their responses, be sure to filter out facts, guesses, and questions to look up later.
    • If your class is very unfamiliar with Shakespeare, consider keeping a running list or chart of information about his life and works that students can easily access.
      • SWD: Keeping a running chart or list supports students who need visual supports. It will provide visual reference points for later teaching moments and will give students a concrete reference point for making connections over time.


    Ever heard of William Shakespeare?

    • Write down everything you can remember about William Shakespeare and his life, the Globe Theatre, his plays, and Elizabethan England.
    • Don’t worry if you don’t know anything for sure. Even things that you’ve only heard or aren’t sure about can go on this list.
    • Next, join in a class conversation about what you and your fellow students remember about Shakespeare.

    Open Notebook

    An Introduction to William Shakespeare

    • You have been given a few links to some overall information about Shakespeare, but there are many more available on the web.
    • The asset Shakespeare Information can provide a lot of the basic information for you and your students. Encourage students to ask questions about things that are confusing to them.
      • ELL: For students who are unfamiliar with Shakespeare and his significance in the English-speaking world, take time to review the historical context of Shakespeare’s time. You can also focus on giving students a bridge to other curriculum ideas that support a deeper understanding of the importance of Shakespeare's works. For example, his play The Tempest was written about a woman who is shipwrecked in the New World.
    • Discuss the differences between the three different kinds of plays that Shakespeare wrote: tragedies, comedies, and histories. Focus especially on the differences between his comedies and tragedies.

    Work Time

    As your teacher introduces William Shakespeare, his life, and his works, listen for confirmation of the information that the class has just discussed.

    • Write down any questions you have about new information.

    Open Notebook

    Unit Accomplishments

    • Present the Unit Accomplishments to students and address their questions and what may be unclear. It isn’t necessary that they have a full grasp of everything required for this unit at this point.
    • As you present the Unit Accomplishments, make sure students are aware that these accomplishments will be introduced separately and will follow in a clear and intentional manner.
    • Lead students in a discussion of the Guiding Questions and answer any questions that they have. Students will revisit the Guiding Questions at the end of the unit.

    Work Time

    Here are your Unit Accomplishments.

    • You will read Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing .
    • You will read two Shakespearean sonnets and excerpts from an Elizabethan morality handbook dealing with types of women, and you will respond to them from several different perspectives.
    • For each work of literature, you will do some writing. You will learn to write a sonnet; you will create a Prompt Book; you will complete a Dialectical Journal; you will write an analytical essay about a topic relating to a theme in the play.
    • You will see Shakespeare’s play as it was intended to be seen: in a performance. You will memorize 15 or more lines from the play and perform them for the class. In addition, you will take part in a short scene as either a director or an actor.

    Next, consider the Guiding Questions for this unit and discuss them with your class.

    • What are society's expecations with regard to gender roles?
    • Does humor transcend time?
    • Do we share the same sense of humor as our ancestors?
    • How do we judge people?
    • What makes a good leader? A good father? A good friend?
    • How important is reputation?

    You'll revisit these questions at the end of the unit.

    What Is Humor?

    • Have students pair up with their neighbors and try to assess what kinds of situations might be humorous. Have them identify things that might be similar or different over time that would indicate humor to a given culture.
    • Set clear and explicit expectations for what is appropriate classroom humor. Students might need help understanding what is and isn't OK in a classroom setting when talking about what they find funny.
      • SWD: Keep in mind that there can be a wide range of what students find funny. Encourage pairs not to negate contributions, even if they don't share them, but to create as broad a picture of appropriate humor as possible.

    Work Time

    What is funny?

    Turn to the student next to you and identify what kinds of things are humorous.

    • Do you think that we find the same things to be funny as people of Shakespeare’s time did?
    • What kinds of humor might be similar?
    • What kinds of humor might be very different?

    The Humor Top 10

    • Have students identify the top 10 things that denote humor, ranking them from the most important to the least important. Compile and save these to project or display during the next lesson.
    • The abstract concept of humor is complex and highly culturally defined. Help students discern what makes something humorous, and model thinking through the characteristics of humorous things using examples. "Makes me laugh,” “is funny,” “cheers me up,” and “surprising but also true” are characteristics; “jokes” and “stories with a funny ending” are examples.
      • ELL: Humor is highly culturally defined. Students who have or are growing up in more than one culture should be supported in expressing what they find humorous, even if it is outside the classroom cultural standard (as long as it is appropriate).


    Brainstorm the following as a class.

    • Identify the top 10 requirements for humor. Organize them from the most important to the least important.

    Open Notebook

    Humor Evaluation

    • If your students have easy access to the Internet, they can also complete this task by viewing actual clips. You can provide your students with three or four links to various comedy routines or jokes; some examples are listed in the Materials section. Tell them that because some of these examples are from an earlier time, they might not find them funny today. If that is the case, they need to figure out what has changed in our culture over the past 40 years that has changed our views on humor.


    Think about one of your favorite comedy moments. It might be a sketch, or it might be from a movie.

    • Describe the scene.
    • Identify which of the requirements for humor it has. Keep in mind that it might have more than one of the standards that the class came up with.

    Open Notebook