Chris Adcock
English Language Arts, Composition and Rhetoric
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Informational Texts
  • Shakespeare
  • Writing
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Shakespeare Performed

    Shakespeare Performed


    In this lesson, students will see some of Shakespeare’s genius as performed. They may find that even if they do not know every word, they can certainly understand a lot of what is happening.


    • 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. Choose and prepare the clips that you will use from the beginning of each version. Decide whether you will pause for note taking, show the clips twice, or make other modifications.

    Sonnet Quick Write

    • Facilitate a group share in which students discuss their appreciation of Shakespeare’s abilities.
      • SWD: For students who have difficulties expressing themselves in writing, you can offer them the option of elaborating on their responses verbally.


    Submit your Much Ado About Nothing Dialectical Journal entries as well as the final draft of your sonnet. Next, answer the following questions.

    • Now that you’ve written your own sonnet, what have you learned about writing in iambic pentameter?
    • Does it change your opinion or appreciation of Shakespeare’s work?

    Open Notebook

    When your teacher calls time, share your thoughts with the class.

    Scene Memorization Assignment

    • Explain to students that they will be reciting their own passages from the play.
    • Carefully explain how they are expected to recite the lines (with energy and feeling).
    • Tell them that choosing a scene is first come, first served. Once a student or pair of students (if two are performing together) has claimed a scene, no one else can do that scene.
    • Clarify that 2 people means 30 lines from the play, 15 each, if that is your expectation.
    • Explain that these presentations will not begin until after the class has finished the entire play, and more information will be forthcoming.
    • Tell students that the scenes will be presented in the order in which they appear in the play.

    Work Time

    Your teacher will explain your scene memorization assignment. In a few minutes, you will get to see examples of different actors bringing Shakespeare’s words to life.

    • You are not expected to put on a polished dramatic presentation as they do, but you are expected to go beyond simply speaking the lines without inflection or meaning. Each student will present at least 15 lines.
    • You’ll be able to choose your scene and whether you want to present alone or with a partner. Since the presentations won’t happen until you’ve finished reading the play, the most important thing to do now is to keep your eye out for a passage that you like.

    The First Opening

    • Show the first opening of the play. If you choose to use the Branagh version, you’ll see that this interpretation is very different from the original play, as it brings in information that isn’t seen in the play for some time, including the song and music.
      • SWD: For students who may have a hard time following the quick dialogue in the film version, consider making a chart of events and information revealed in the opening of the play. Students can then use it as a checklist to determine if the listed event or information was also in the opening of the film.
      • ELL: For ELLs, it can be helpful, if possible, to display the closed captioning subtitles when screening films. You may also choose to pause, either during the scene or just after it, to allow students to pay attention and then take notes.
    • If you are unable to show video clips in the classroom, possible modifications to allow students to get a similar sense of the play can include the following:
      • ✓ Audio-only versions. One possible choice is the Shakespeare Recording Company’s 1963 version (reissued 1989).
      • ✓ Storyboards. Students can create visual representations of acts and scenes, or you can generate them in class on the board.
      • ✓ Staged mini-versions of scenes. Student readers can use the classroom as a stage.
    • Since this exercise relies on comparing two interpretations, you may choose to have two groups of students create storyboards, or to compare one teacher-created storyboard with a student-created storyboard, to facilitate their exposure to the importance of stage interpretation.

    Work Time

    You will view the opening of the play as interpreted by one director. You’ll probably notice some differences between the opening of the play as it’s written and as it appears in the film.

    As you watch, take notes and be sure to think about the following.

    • Did the movie help you understand the play?
    • Discuss the casting of roles. What worked for you, and what didn’t?
    • What differences do you see from the text of the play?

    Open Notebook

    The Second Opening

    • The opening of the 2011 Globe version is accessible on YouTube and will be clearly different from the Branagh version.
    • Remind students to take notes; they will be doing a Quick Write after this, explaining which version they like best.

    Work Time

    You will now be shown a clip from another version of this part of the play. Again, be sure to pay attention to both what is similar to what you’ve already seen and read and what is different.

    • Take notes on what you notice.

    Open Notebook

    Version One Versus Version Two

    • Establish a time limit for writing to the Quick Write prompt.

    Work Time

    Now that you’ve seen the opening of two different film versions of Much Ado About Nothing , which version did you enjoy more?

    • Do a Quick Write to explain your opinion.

    Open Notebook

    When you’ve finished, share your Quick Write response with a partner.

    Together, be sure to also consider what you have learned about the characters from seeing the performances. Did anything surprise you?

    The Action So Far

    • This should be a brief Whole Group Discussion to give you the opportunity to check for understanding.
      • ELL: Explain that the term "melodrama" refers to plots that use exaggerated situations and unrealistic stereotypes to create strong emotional effects. You can also ask students if they can come up with any other examples of melodrama, whether in English or in their primary language.

    Work Time

    What is happening so far in the play? You should be caught up through act 1, scene 3. Answer the following questions with the class.

    • By what qualities are the characters judging each other? What seems to be important to them?
    • How realistic are these values?
    • How are women seen in this act? Can you identify them from the profiles you saw in The Good and the Badde ?
    • By today’s standards, how would you judge each of the main characters? Would you have the same opinions that they do?
    • Note the final scene in act 1, where Don John shows how devious he is. Is this melodramatic or realistic?

    Act 2, Scene 1 Introduction

    • Review the scene summary for act 2, scene 1. Explain that this is another long scene. While you will also read the scene as a class in the next lesson, with students playing the roles, their reading at home is critical.
    • Remind them that the second act often functions as a time of increasing complications and tensions in the arc of a five-act play.


    Listen as your teacher introduces act 2, scene 1 and describes where it will fit on this five-act play’s arc.

    • Next, begin reading act 2, scene 1 on your own.
    • Note your questions and challenges.

    Act 2, Scene 1

    • Encourage students to keep notes of both the questions they have and where in the text those questions occurred.
    • Remind students to record text location by act, scene, and line numbers.


    • Read through act 2, scene 1 on your own.
    • Make sure to annotate the text and work on your Dialectical Journal entries.