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"Rather cut a little"

Teachers' Rating:
  5 ratings

Measure for Measure

November 2010
Barbara Austin teaches English at Cheektowaga Central High School, Cheektowaga, NY

Plays/Scenes Covered
Measure for Measure
What's On for Today and Why

Through a series of lessons, students will create podcasts of each Act of Measure for Measure. While engaged in a close reading of the text, students will cut away some of the language, working to retain the focus on actions and motivations of major characters, and determine the importance of each scene to the Act.

These lessons also allow opportunities for students to work on small groups of lines, practice reading aloud, and interact more closely with the text. This in turn helps build comprehension not just of lines read, but of the way
Shakespeare uses language, and how characters are developed.


The value of creating podcasts with Shakespeare comes when students, as they become familiar with the language, find themselves developing a close relationship with the words, their meanings, and their sound.


The first part of this activity will take 3 x forty minute class periods; subsequent cutting of Acts to create podcasts scripts (after each Act has been read) will take 1-2 class periods.

What You Need

Measure for Measure, Folger New Edition

Print outs of individual scenes

Cutting guidelines handout


Access to computer and recording software.

Cutting guide
What To Do

Day 1

1. After reading Act 1, as a class review 1.1.1-25. Initiate a discussion using the following questions:

  • What is at stake in this scene?
  • What is the outcome?
  • Where do we see this spelled out?
  • What are the really important lines?
  • How can we shorten this scene while keeping the really important lines?

2. Have students suggest cuts and discuss the effect of these omissions. Does everyone agree? Why/Why not?


3. Advise students that they will applying the same editing process to subsequent scenes in Act 1.


4. Divide students into group of 3 or 4.


5. Provide each group with a handout of a scene and a handout to guide their cuts.


6. Have students silently read the scene, jot down notes on what is happening, and then circle the important lines.


7. Have students read the complete scene aloud in their groups, time the reading and discuss the scene.


8. Have one member of the group compile responses on the handout, then as a group discuss and determine cuts.


9. Advise the students that the goal is to cut the scene by at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the original reading time. Have students refer to famous lines at the back of the Folger edition of the play, as well as any personal favorite lines, and determine if these lines should be retained. Use the handout to help with these decisions.


10. Assign portions of scenes as follows:










These breaks allow for 9 groups of 3 but can be rearranged to suit class size.


11. After revisions are complete, have students create a clean copy of the revised text, in class if time allows, or as homework.


Day 2


1. Have students work with their new script to rehearse a dramatic reading and prepare a podcast of their section using Audacity/Garageband or similar software.


2. Allow ample time for students to practice their reading, and listen to the playback.


3. Have students add music, soundtrack, sound effects as time allows.


Day 3


1. Give students the opportunity to hear the complete shortened version of Act 1.


2. Share responses.


3. Listen a second time and have each group introduce their scene by discussing the cuts made and their justification for these. 


4. Listen to each portion individually and allow discussion to consider cuts, whether the scene holds up, whether revision/additional cuts or the restoration of lines is needed.


After completing podcasts for Act 1, continue to create podcasts for subsequent acts.


How Did It Go?

Did making scene cuts help the students interact with the text? Did their understanding of each scene develop as a result of their focus on the text? What difficulties emerged with the close textual reading? What additional help was needed? Did the shortened versions of each scene hold up? Were the students able to offer and justify their suggestions for additions or further deletions?

Rubric included in documents.


As a final activity have small groups create "selected shorts" or podcasts that focus on a particular theme or character, and create an original script from the text. This technique could be applied to any other play,poem or piece of literature.


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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