Writing & Library Research Methods Lesson Plan: Reading Shakespeare

Lesson objective(s): Give students some tools with which to absorb the reading materials so that they won’t be overwhelmed and turn to poorly-written rephrasings of the text.

Additional outcome(s): Students may learn good reading habits in general, especially about using notes in scholarly editions.

Course work or assignment underway:

            This is very early on in the class, but students will be about to begin reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Work and/or reading completed before class:

            None.

Sequence of Classroom Activities:

Give students a copy of part of the first scene (I.1.20-45—from Egeus’s entrance to the end of his first speech). For this first excerpt, the notes won’t be visible. Have them read through it and ask them to identify the person to whom Egeus is speaking throughout (to do this, they will have to see when he changes from speaking to one person to another).

Assign each student to read one sentence of Egeus’s speech. For each sentence, we will identify the parts that are either different from standard spoken language and talk about which parts you can infer from context and which parts you have to study over and possibly look up.

Then, we’ll go back to the earlier exchange between Theseus and Hippolyta, which is slightly more difficult. In this case, I will make some notes available from the edition we are using.  Students should read through and mark which parts they needed the notes to understand.

I’ll use this to start a discussion on the value of notes, when to use them and how students can make sure they aren’t spending too much time going back and forth between the text and the gloss.

Reflection on the lesson’s success or alternative approaches:

One advantage of this exercise is that it shows students that they can benefit from good editions with good glosses!

Posted in Critical Reading

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