Adapted from a lesson by
Lucy Tyson, Director of Education,
The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
This lesson can be used as a pre-reading activity for any of Shakespeare's plays.
Covers Common Core Standards for Speaking and Listening in grades 3-5
What's On for Today and Why
In this lesson students will explore and understand the plot outline of one of Shakespeare’s plays using tableaux and making a storyboard. By exploring actions of the characters in dynamic points of the play, students will have an increased understanding of the events of the play. They will also be introduced to some of the language of the text.
This lesson will take 2-3 sessions to complete.
What You Need
Plot Cards for your Selected Play (example attached)
Abridged Shakespeare Play
Cardboard or Poster Board
Macbeth Example Plot Cards
What To Do
Preparation: Have at least 10 dynamic plot chunks from your selected play written out or typed on separate cards. (For an example, see attached documents). Do not number the cards. Using a line of text from the play that correlates to each story chunk, create caption strips for the storyboard. Make name tags for each character represented.
1. Tell students the title of the play and have them guess what the play is about. What genre of play it might be? Comedy, Tragedy, Historical? Describe to your students the characters of the play, personality, background, etc.
2. Break students into groups. Give each group 1-2 story chunk cards, or whatever number is necessary to cover the play.
3. Assign characters to students within each group, or have students decide who will represent each character. If it is a large class there may be several students representing the same character in the various groups. Distribute the name tags of the characters for the students to wear during their presentation.
4. Have students create and rehearse a tableau or frozen dramatic image of their story chunk. Once rehearsed, have students create the tableau and take a photo. Do not have the students show their tableau in the actual plot sequence.
5. Print out the pictures and spread them out, out of sequence, but with text caption underneath the appropriate picture. Allow the class to decide which order they believe the pictures fit into to tell the story of the play. Students may act out their predicted story sequence in brief scenes, each ending in a tableau.
6. Read the play with your students. We recommend using an abridged text (that uses Shakespeare's language) with elementary students.
7. After reading the play students should be able to confirm or correct the plot sequence for the storyboard. Mount the pictures and captions in sequence on cardboard or poster board. Have students decorate their new storyboard.
Adaptations and Extensions:
For a smaller group, assign one role to each student. Create a character board by taking their pictures wearing the character name tags in a pose that represents that character.
Or, in place of name tags, try having students where a scarf, or hat ,or another simple costume piece to represent their characters.
Try presenting your storyboard in a PowerPoint presentation. Have the students record voice-overs for the lines that caption each scene. Coach the students to add expression and inflection in their voice work wherever necessary. You may also use comic book or story board software such as Comic Life or Photo Story to create your storyboard.
How Did It Go?
Were students able to connect with the characters and make predictions about the plot?
Did students engage with the story by creating images of the plot?
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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