Chris Adcock
English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Leadership
  • Shakespeare
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Much Ado About Nothing

    Much Ado About Nothing


    In this lesson, students will begin reading Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing aloud in class and make predictions based on what they’ve learned so far. For homework, they will finish their sonnet’s final couplet.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.

    Three Quatrains Sonnet Share

    • Have students check their sonnets for iambic pentameter and the proper Shakespearean rhyme scheme ( abab ,cdcd ,efef ).
      • ELL: You can encourage students to read their work aloud so that they can get feedback from their partners about the meter of the lines. If possible, pair students with native speakers of English at least once during this lesson, to make sure they are getting feedback from native speakers on prosody (stress patterns).
    • Remind them that the poem’s rhyming couplet (the last two lines) is special. It clarifies, and can give new insight into, all that has gone before. Remind students of the two sonnets they have studied and how those last lines gave the sonnets new meaning.
      • SWD: For any student having difficulty figuring out what an ending might look like, you can project or display the two sonnets that they’ve read in class and the class example sonnet for reference. You can discuss with the class how the last two lines are different from the rest of the lines.
    • Tell them that they will be finishing up their sonnets for homework.


    Share the three quatrains of your sonnet with your partner.

    • Do these first 12 lines fit the proper syllable and rhyming patterns? If not, help each other fix them so they comply with the requirements.
    • Remember that the last two lines of a sonnet, the rhyming couplet, are special. Together, they can reinforce or totally change the way the reader thinks about the poem and its ideas.
    • As you work, think about the topic of your partner’s sonnet and the topic of your own. What are some ways you could end your own sonnet?

    Much Ado About Much Ado

    • Share the scene summary resource of your choice with the students, and make sure they understand how to access and navigate it.
    • Show students how to cite act, scene, and line numbers correctly (e.g., 2.2.1–5).
      • SWD: Provide direct instruction and modeling this first time using the resource so that students will later be able to focus their learning on the play and not on the resource.
    • If desired, share the text with line annotations with students.
    • 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 his plays.
    • Tell students that they will ultimately be responsible for memorizing at least 15 lines of this play, which they can perform either by themselves or with a partner. If they find a particular passage interesting and think they might want to perform that part, they should note it for future reference.
      • SWD: For students with memory challenges, plan an accommodation that is appropriate for the student: a shorter passage, a dramatic reading instead of memorized recitation, or a close passage, in which the student reads from a script that is missing words or phrases (“Sweet [prince], you [learn me] noble _ [thankfulness].” Claudio), so the student isn’t memorizing the whole passage.
    • They will also be creating a Prompt Book (a stage manager’s reference book) of the full scene in which their 15 lines occur.
    • At the end of the unit, in small casts that you will assign, they will perform some of these Prompt Book scenes.
    • Present and discuss the arc of Shakespeare’s five acts: introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement. These are important references throughout the study of the play.

    Work Time

    Preview Much Ado About Nothing . You’ll notice that the play is organized by acts and scenes. When you refer specifically to what one or another character says, you must identify the act, scene, and line where you found those words.

    Your Much Ado About Nothing Character Chart will help you keep the characters straight.

    • Fill in information each day as you read and find out more about the characters.
    • As you look at the names of the characters in this play, see if you can guess what some of the names might signify (e.g., Dogberry or George Seacoal).
    • As you run across vocabulary unfamiliar to you, note the word and where you found it.

    Act 1, Scene 1

    • Read the summary of act 1, scene 1 aloud to the class. Go over the characters they will be meeting and the situation that will exist as the play begins.
    • Take the part of Leonato for this scene yourself.
    • Ask for volunteers to read the other parts aloud, telling them that you will be stopping often to clarify what is happening. Act 1, scene 1 is a long scene and can be confusing, so be prepared to stop often. Also tell them that you will be reassigning parts often so that everybody can get a chance to participate.
      • ELL: Go through the scene yourself before class begins and identify words that you can preteach so that students are prepared during the reading. Words from the play that can be pretaught include “leagues,” “hath,” “bestowed,” “Florentine,” “subscribed,” “bird-bolt,” “musty,” “victual,” “valiant,” “trencherman,” “betwixt,” “skirmish,” “block” (meaning a hat block), “pestilence,” and “ere.”
    • Begin the play, having students read the roles of the different characters.
      • ELL: When students encounter difficult words, encourage them to attempt to pronounce them on their own. If the student is not able to read the word aloud correctly in one or two attempts, read the word yourself and have the student reread the phrase, copying your pronunciation.
    • Stop after line 91, after the messenger gives his last line and before Don Pedro and his entourage arrive.

    Work Time

    Read along while your teacher reads the summary of act 1, scene 1. Note the characters’ names and the situation that exists as the play begins. Ask any questions you have about this.

    • Now read act 1, scene 1 aloud as a class.
    • Your teacher will be asking for volunteers to read the various roles in the play for this scene.
    • Parts will be reassigned often so that everyone can participate.

    Character Chart Check-In

    • Have students write in their Character Charts about the characters they have met thus far.
    • Then check in with students about the characters thus far.
    • Remind students to refer back to the text for evidence to support their findings.

    Work Time

    Create a Much Ado About Nothing Character Chart in your Notebook, using the sample as a guide.

    • On your Character Chart, fill in what you can about the characters you have encountered so far.

    Next, check in with the class and share the notes that you’ve made.

    Act 1, Scene 1

    • Continue reading the play aloud, with various students reading the roles of the different characters, stopping along the way for questions and clarifications.
    • Point out how Shakespeare’s characters use irony and sarcasm in their communications with each other. They say one thing but mean the opposite. How is that related to their thoughts on humor?
    • Stop after line 203, just before Don Pedro returns.

    Work Time

    Continue reading the play aloud, with your classmates and teacher taking the various roles.

    • When you reach the stopping point, fill in whatever else you can in your Character Charts.

    Initial Predictions, Please

    • Give students time to talk within their groups.
    • Each group needs to write down its predictions to keep for future reference.
      • SWD: Provide clear direction on what is meant by “predictions” and the level of detail that you are looking for. Model making a prediction, using text from the play for supporting evidence. For example, “I think Benedick and Beatrice will get into a big argument at some point because they are already being mean to each other. When he tries to compliment her, she tells him no one is listening to what he has to say.”


    Discuss with your small group what you understand about the men and women in this play.

    • Predict the outcomes of the play on the basis of just what you have read so far.

    Open Notebook

    Your Sonnet?s Final Couplet

    • Remind students of the sonnet requirements.


    • Finish the last two lines of your sonnet. Bring it to class for a final peer editing during the next lesson.
    • If your class did not finish reading all of act 1, scene 1, read the rest of the act for homework. Annotate anything you find interesting, important, or confusing.

    Open Notebook