Joseph R. Scotese, Whitney Young Magnet School, Chicago, Illinois.
The Tempest 1.1
What's On for Today and Why
Today students will be introduced to The Tempest. They will act out the opening shipwreck scene, or watch and direct others doing it. By doing this activity, students will use the text to understand the plot, see that what seemed daunting is not quite so difficult, and have fun and embarass themselves in the name of Shakespeare.
This activity will take one class period.
What You Need
Folger edition of The Tempest
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
Kids who aren't afraid of getting a wee bit embarassed
A copy of the shipwreck scene that has had all of the stage directions, line numbers, and glosses taken out
What To Do
1. Preparation (reading the night before): Students will have read the opening shipwreck scene before coming in to class today. Expect (didn't they teach you never to have any "prejudgments" about students?) students to grumble that they didn't "get it."
2. Getting Started: Before you can say "Jack Robinson" rush the students out to some public place that has lots of movable objects like desks and chairs. Lunchrooms and study halls are ideal. Break the students up into groups of seven to ten.
3. Students on Their Feet and Rehearsing the Scene: Give the students scripts of the scene from which you've removed any stage directions, line numbers, or glosses. Have the students divide the parts for the opening scene. Make sure they include all the sailors, crashing waves, etc. Then they are first to pantomime the entire scene, so they must plan and act out every important action that occurs in the scene. Give the groups a good ten minutes to do this.
4. The Finished Product: Have all the groups present their pantomimes. After each scene ask students (the ones not performing) to quietly write down what the performing group did well and what they might have missed. When all of the scenes have been performed, have the students read their comments.
5. Directing the Spoken Scene: Randomly choose one of the groups and have the students perform the scene complete with words. Give them five minutes or so to prepare and tell them to make sure they include the students suggestions for all of the scenes. If time permits, allow the other students to make comments that direct the group's performance.
How Did It Go?
You can check how the students did based on their pantomimes, their comments, their final production, and the inclusion of any comments such as "that wasn't as hard as it seemed last night . . ."
More specifically, after you are finished, ask the students to contrast their understanding of the scene before and after the exercise. (You may wish to have them write down their understanding of the scene before you begin, then have them write it again after they finish.)
Their understanding of this scene will also be revealed in later discussion of The Tempest for which this exposition is vital.
If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.