Linda G. Wolford, School District 5, Columbia, South Carolina.
This lesson plan can be used with any of Shakespeare's plays.
What's On for Today and Why
In this lesson students will create life boxes based on the text of any Shakespeare play and present these boxes to the class. A life box is a container with everyday items that relate to a character. Choosing items to represent elements of a character will necessitate careful reading of the text. Using details from the text to explain their choices will require students to use critical thinking. Sharing their creations will expand all of the students' understanding of the characters.
This lesson plan will take two class periods.
What You Need
The text of the play (for example, the New Folger edition of Hamlet), or a storybook version of the play
What To Do
Preparation: students will have read at least halfway through the play. For younger elementary students, a storybook version of the play works well.
1. Explain the concept of a character life box. A life box is a container of carefully chosen items that represent a particular character in a play. The box must contain six to eight things the character might use daily or have as a keepsake. (For younger students, four to six items may be a more manageable number!) A line from the play or an event in the story must be cited to justify each item. The lines can be either spoken by the character or by another character in the play. No photos—items only. For example, for Hamlet, the students might choose a bookbag with "W" for Wittenberg (1.1.117) and a black armband because he is in mourning (1.2.92). A shoe box is a good container, but other appropriate containers are okay (pillowcase, cigar box, purse, etc.), particularly if they support character analysis.
2. Assign students to work in pairs. The students pick a character—often, providing a list of suggested characters is helpful, especially for younger students— and gather items to put in their box. They find text or examples to support each item choice and record a description of the item, an explanation of why it was chosen, and a corresponding phrase or sentence from the play. This list will be handed in.
3. The students bring in the finished projects and present them to the class. They share their items and explanations by holding up and describing each item and reading or telling what lines of text support their choice.
How Did It Go?
Did the students find six to eight items? Did the items represent the character appropriately? Could the students support their choices with text?
A discussion of which items clearly defined each character helps students differentiate and understand character motivation and development. If you choose to start this project when the students are only halfway through a play, you could extend the project by having them add more items to the box as they finish the play.
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.
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